May has been designated as National Community Action Month to recognize Community Action Agencies’ work fighting poverty on the local level. Each year, Community Action Agencies help over 20 million Americans achieve financial stability through programs such as Head Start, weatherization, housing, financial education, energy assistance and transportation. Joan Macik, executive director of the Heartland Community Action office in Willmar, says Heartland’s services are needed now more than ever in order to help people escape poverty. Last year, Heartland provided services to 11,512 unduplicated persons in Kandiyohi, Meeker, McLeod and Renville Counties.
U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar says the Farm Bill passed the Senate Agriculture Committee with strong bipartisan support. The bill reduces the deficit by $24 billion and includes her provisions to make it easier for beginning farmers and ranchers to access crop insurance and land for cattle grazing, address captive shipping issues, and help pork and poultry producers reduce catastrophic losses. The bill also includes an amendment led by Klobuchar to support conservation efforts, agricultural research, rural development, and energy programs.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation is asking for your input at a 20-year State Highway Investment Plan that will be presented on Thursday afternoon, June 6th from 1-3 at the Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services Building in Willmar. The meeting will include a description of MnDOT’s planned investments for capital improvements over the next 20 years. MnDOT officials will share what was heard at the fall outreach, and share information and facilitate discussion related to the upcoming draft plan.
A majority of the Litchfield School Board meeting this week was spent with a representative of the Eide-Bailey Business Advisors Accounting Firm. Supt. Dan Frazier says they presented the board with the Federal Affordable Care Act known as the ObamaCare. Frazier says this is going to have a significant effect on the finances of the school district. The original estimate revealed this could cost the district an extra $120,000, and they’re still vague on what the cost will be. He says there will be some costs just for fees. They’re looking at $8,000-$10,000 in tax the school district is going to have to pay to the federal government. Right now, he says, there is a broad range of what the cost could be. It could be as low as $33 or as high as $168,000. Frazier said this comes at an inopportune time as the state is unable to fully fund education right now and they’re seeing sequestration cuts in federal funding and this on top of a long and dry spell in terms of funding education makes for a very tough time for them to take on the additional financial burden of the Federal Affordable Care Act. They must do so, he said, but they’re going to have to make cuts in order to accommodate the federal law.
The federal cuts, known as sequestration, have trickled down to the local level, causing some area agencies to cut back. The Morris Housing and Redevelopment Authority is funded in part by the federal government through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Director Melanie Fohl says the Morris HRA has seen $12,000 in cuts in 2013. That number represents about 4% of the agency's budget. The Morris HRA manages Grandview Apartments in Morris and assists the city in managing housing and rental ordinances and compliance.
An area theatre troupe will be headed to North Carolina on tour this summer, following several local performances. New Wine Dinner Theatre will performed "The Rock Slinger...and His Greatest Hits" yesterday (Wednesday), and will perform again on Sunday andWednesday. Theatre member Elizabeth Schneider says being in the troupe is a great experience, with the cast becoming like a family. The play tells the Biblical story of David and Goliath.
According to the Kandiyohi County Public Works Department office in Willmar, work will begin Tuesday, on County Highway 9 from County Highway 90 to 0.4 miles south of State Highway 23. Through traffic will be diverted west on County Highway 90 and north on State Highway 23. The construction zone is closed to through traffic. The work will consist of grading operations, gravel base and bituminous surfacing. Construction on the County Road 9 project is scheduled to be complete in 2013. Duininck Inc of Prinsburg is the prime contractor for the project.
The Kandiyohi County Commissioners will be meeting in a joint session with the Willmar City Council and Willmar Public School officials at 4:30 on Tuesday afternoon, May 28th. The meeting is in the Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services Multi-purpose Room. The purpose of the community meeting will be to discuss plans for the Willmar 2040 project.
Two people suffered non-life threatening injuries in a broadside crash yesterday (Wednesday) at the Highway 7/County Road 5 intersection in Montevideo. 89 year old Burnette Larson of Milan was traveling north on County Road 15 and 70 year old Roger Lien of Dawson was traveling west on Highway 7. The two collided in the intersection. Lien was not injured, but Larson and a passenger in the Lien car, 67 year old Marlys Lien, were injured. Assisting at the scene was the Montevideo Police Department.
Last night (Wednesday), the House of Representatives passed the conference committee report on the Omnibus, Jobs, Energy, Commerce and Housing Finance Bill. The bill includes the largest business tax cut in the state’s history through a reduction in the rate that employers pay on unemployment insurance; an $11 million increase in funding for Explore Minnesota Tourism advertising campaign; $30 million to the Minnesota Investment Fund; $24 million for a job creation fund; and $1.5 million to expand the Minnesota Trade Office. Representative Mary Sawatzky of Willmar said the Minnesota Trade Office work came to fruition, and knowing that $1.5 is going toward the Trade Office and improving our offices overseas from one up to three more is an exciting time for Minnesota.
The New London Spicer School Board reviewed its Proud Off list and had a number of accomplishments they wanted to recognize their students for when meeting this week. Supt. Paul Carlson says those accomplishments included a state speech competition and visual arts regional competition. 5A was hosted at New London Spicer and they had a number of students who received Superior and Excellent scores, Best of Shows, and Spotlights of the Arts. Their awards will be displayed at the Perpich Center. Carlson says they’re proud of the accomplishments of their students, and also their volunteers, such as the Parent-Teacher organization.
The New London Spicer School Board has opted to go with a new auditing service: Abdu, Ike and Meyers, rather than Conway, Dueth and Schmeising, which has been the board’s auditing service for a number of years. The board also approved a partnership agreement with United Way of West Central Minnesota as a result of a grant to secure scholarships for parents to be involved in the Early Childhood Family Education program. This program helps to offset some of the fees and transportation to make it affordable for families in need to be a part of our Early Childhood Family Education and Parent Education programs. Supt. Paul Carlson says the board also adopted the Notice of Non Renewal resolution that impacts staff members, allowing for flexibility for the district in terms of realignments of assignments due to budget reductions and to qualify for waiver requirements for licensures.
Monday night, the Kerkhoven City Council heard a report from a couple council members that attended a business meeting regarding trying to keep and attract businesses in Kerkhoven. Mayor Brian Thompson says they’re not looking to the council for answers but they want the city’s support, which the council gave them. They also suggested the city should look into the housing situation. There isn’t enough two and three bedroom houses for people to move into and there isn’t property available to build on. They were kind of the three main points he had, Thompson said, noting the council as talked about those issues for years and is always open to anyone who wants to come up and brainstorm with them. Mike Poggy-Weaver, the new county administrator, was at the meeting. Thompson is hopeful he may have some ideas.
Last night (Wednesday) the Meeker County Sheriff's Office was called to a fire in a turkey barn near Grove City, in Swede Grove Township. The fire was called in by an employee of the farm. Meeker County Deputies and the Grove City Fire Department were dispatched to the scene. The 64’ by 450’ barn was under construction and was not finished. The fire was caused by a spark while the construction crew was cutting metal that was on the barn. A six foot section of an exterior wall was damaged. The barn is owned by Jennie-O Turkey Store. There were no turkeys in the barn at the time of the fire, and nobody was injured as a result of the fire.
Yesterday (Wednesday), the Willmar City Council heard a preliminary report from organizational assessment consultants Brimeyer-Fursman out of Maple Wood. City Administrator Charlene Stevens says Richard Fursman talked about some of the challenges and opportunities the city has. He also noted there are some credibility gaps in the city council, there is a lack of a clear mission and vision which probably leads to some low morale of employees or some confusion about direction. The consultants also pointed out some of the positives. The city has a committed city council and each individual wants to do what they think is best for the city, the employees are very dedicated, but there are some opportunities for the city to work harder, establish an overall mission and vision and move forward in a constructive direction. There were a lot of different perspectives from council members, she said, there wasn’t really a clear consensus from the council on how to move forward from here. The consultant also discussed some possible changes of structure realignment with public works planning and engineering. The council heard those but didn’t make any decisions.