While in St. Paul Tuesday, Kandiyohi County Board Chair Harlan Madsen had the opportunity to discuss some transportation issues. A bill was presented that’s similar to a bill that passed in 2008, but is substantially less in terms of impact. But, Madsen says, it does look at a balance, at transit, roads and bridges. It addresses the deficiency in bridges and substandard roads, he says, and they have to address freight, public safety, the economic development that Minnesota needs to move with. Madsen said it’s not unlike almost every other state in our country that we have been negligent, we have been lacking and created a significant funding gap with the transportation issues. “All of our aspects, our entire quality of life, and the very thread that draws us together is our transportation and it is absolutely imperative that we invest in our infrastructure.”
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources soon will seek citizen input on creating limited opportunities for open-water hunting for waterfowl as well as a number of other topics at annual public input meetings. Aside from open-water duck hunting, the DNR is seeking input on a number of proposals. they include allowing Canada goose hunting in August to alleviate depredation of agricultural fields in west central Minnesota; opening the second portion of the state’s 124-day crow season later in the year; opening prairie chicken hunting season earlier in October than the current season; allowing youth age 17 and younger to hunt during all spring turkey seasons with a limit of one; and youth would not be required to select a permit area. Several meetings are scheduled and one is at the Alexandria Community and Technical College on Wednesday night, March 13th from 7-9.
As the Minnesota Legislature works out the details of the Health Insurance Exchange, local municipalities are trying to predict the impact the Affordable Care Act will have on future budgets. The Stevens County government, who offers employees a $750 cafeteria benefit, is waiting to see if their employee plan will lead to penalties for not offering a group insurance plan. Human Resources Director Janet Raguse says, in 2014, insurance companies are likely to raise their rates to compensate for changes in the marketplace. Those increases could push more employees to seek coverage on the Exchange. The county could face up to $170,000 in fines each year if employees qualify for subsidized care on the exchange.
Residents of the Morris Area and Cyrus school districts will have to wait a little longer to learn the fate of a bill at the Minnesota Legislature designed to pave the way for consolidation. A bill to allow Cyrus residents to bond for demolition of their school building has passed through the necessary committees in both the Senate and House. Co-sponsor in the House, Jay McNamar, says he had hoped the bill would move right to the house floor for debate and passage, but the bill will now be added to an end-of-session omnibus bill. The schools plan to consolidate at the start of the next school year.
Student musicians at the University of Minnesota Morris performed last night (Wednesday) in a joint concert of the symphonic winds, chamber orchestra, chamber choir. Professor Wes Flinn says several of the selections featured student conductors. The variety of conductors allowed listeners to see just how much a conductor can influence the performance of a piece.
A Morris resident is facing 5th degree criminal sexual conduct charges following an alleged incident of nonconsensual sexual contact. Eighty-two year old John Calvin Inman (in-mun) is accused of inviting a neighbor into his apartment where video pornography was visible and, after making verbal advances, touched the alleged victim in the groin area. Inman faces charges that carry a sentence of one year in jail and/or a $3,000 fine. Inman made his Initial Appearance in court on Monday (March 4).
An elected Stevens County Official is still waiting for his day in court, after filing an appeal of his salary and budget on January 14. Auditor-Treasurer Neil Wiese is appealing his 2013 salary, established by the Stevens County Board of Commissioners, and the budget set by that board for the Office of the Auditor-Treasurer. The appeal alleges the board acted in an "arbitrary, capricious, oppressive…" manner when setting the salary and budget. Wiese will appear in Swift County District Court today (Thursday) for a scheduling conference. If Wiese's appeal is successful, the court could order the Stevens County board to review his budget and salary and reconsider their previous decision.
41 year old Aaron Phipps of Atwater appeared in Kandiyohi County District Court Tuesday where he was sentenced on a felony third degree criminal sexual conduct charge. He was sentenced to 90 months in prison, was given credit for serving 155 days, ten year conditional release, pay fines and fees of $2,090, and register as a predatory offender. In the plea agreement, a felony first degree criminal sexual conduct charge, a felony terroristic threats charge, and a gross misdemeanor fifth degree assault charge were dismissed.
Dean Johnson of Willmar has been re-elected as an at-large member of the University of Minnesota Board of Regents. This will be his second six-year term. The former State Senator, spent 28 years as a legislator. He started as a Republican and left as a Democrat. He is not paid for his regent position.
Elizabeth VanDerBill has been named Ridgewater College’s new Director of Communications and Marketing. She replaces Sam Bowen, who had been the director since 2004. He is now the new Ridgewater Dean of Customized Training and Continuing Education. VanDerBill also serves on the board for the United Way of West Central Minnesota.
More than 30 students from New London-Spicer, Yellow Medicine East, Lac qui Parle and Litchfield attended the Milan Youth Energy Summit (YES) winter workshop, held in February. They learned about passive solar design, toured a new passive solar greenhouse, practiced holistic management of a garden, and learned about the promotion of local foods through education and creation of a distribution hub. Through this workshop they had the opportunity to see firsthand the value of having the freshest greens possible and being able to plant a seed in the ground and, in a relatively short time, have great tasting and health food.
Registrations for the Willmar Lakes Area Chamber’s annual business day at the Capitol is Friday. The cost for the day is $75 and that includes a continental breakfast, lunch, meeting materials and transportation to and from the Capitol. The Leadership Perspectives Class will be traveling with the group, and after the luncheon, at with the governor has been invited to speak, there will be a guided tour of the Capitol followed by a meeting with Senator Lyle Koenen and Representative Mary Sawatzky. The bus to the Capitol will leave the Chamber office parking lot at 7:30 on March 13th and return at 5:30.
Representative Mary Sawatzky says this week they heard a bill that would invest over $3 billion for needed highway and transit improvements over the next four years. The bill proposes a five cent per gallon gas tax increase for this year, a move that would increase the fuel charge by 1.5 cents per gallon each year for three years. Sawatzky says this is an aggressive and progressive move, but one that is needed. She is also bringing a couple bills tonight, one to look at the wheelage tax for Kandiyohi County so the county can use those funds within the county for roads and bridges. She said this $3 billion of new spending would create 84,000 jobs. “We could talk about this being a jobs bill, 84,000 is lot and that’s something people can start talking about and that’s something I would like to have you all weight in on.”