NEWS-May 24
News Director: Bev Alquist Call with news at 320-235-2900 or email

News Archive

A fundraiser to repair the old Lebanon Lutheran Church in New London, which houses the Monongalia Museum, will be part of the annual Memorial Day community picnic. This event runs from 11 to three at the Lebanon Church. Art Norby, who is spearheading the fundraiser, says major repairs are needed on the church building, and they’re hopeful people will come to the community event and ‘give until it feels good.’ They hope to raise $150,000, the money to be used to repair the roof, the foundation, install a heating system, and clean up the mold problem in the basement.  The church was built in 1873 and has been used as a museum for about 40 years. If repairs aren’t made they’re in jeopardy of losing the building, hence the fundraiser. Norby said they’re looking for some large donors. Once they get on the National Register there will be some legacy funds available. At this point they haven’t found any major organizational contributors but they’re working in that direction. Their goal over the next year is to raise $150,000 which doesn’t do any cosmetics, doesn’t paint it or repair broken glass, just takes care of the structure itself.

At this week’s Montevideo City Council meeting the council reviewed a number of items that had to do with a possible expansion of a business in Montevideo in the rail yard. City Administrator Steve Jones says one of the things associated with that is the council did not have on file a TIF or abatement policy. Both of those policies were drafted and the council did approve a tax abatement policy that they would use in the future if people did request TIFs or abatements. Jones says associated with that was a project the city has been working on about the possible expansion of a rail yard facility. Jones said after discussion the developer did pull that project from that rail yard. There is an existing lease with the Milwaukee Road Heritage Society on that and in the end the developer didn’t want to cause a problem for the city trying to cancel that lease to work with him. The city staff will continue to work with the developer about possibly still trying to do that project in Montevideo.  

The Stearns County Sheriff’s Office was called to a two vehicle crash Wednesday at the County Roads 19 and 18 intersection in Crow Lake Township. 27 year old Derrick Bloedel of Sunburg  and 21 year old Daniel Guetter of Brooten were the drivers. Guetter failed to stop for the stop sign at the intersection, striking Bloedel’s vehicle on the rear passenger side. Bloedel was taken to Rice Hospital in Willmar with minor injuries. Guetter was not injured and neither was his passenger, 59 year old Helen Ellingson of Brooten. Guetter was issued a citation for failing to stop for a stop sign.

The Stearns County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a drive off at the Rockville Gas and Bait in Rockville where an individual pumped over $150 in gas and drove off without paying. The suspect is believed to be a younger white male about 22 years old. The vehicle is a mid 1990s black Dodge Ram, single cab with a large sticker in the back window. It also has chrome step bars and bed rails, and the bottom portion of the body panels have been spray painted grey. This vehicle is similar to one that has been used in numerous other drive offs in the area. You’re asked to watch for a similar vehicle fueling at local gas stations, and if you see the vehicle, jot down the license plate, vehicle description and driver’s description. Also, if other thefts regarding this vehicle are known call your local law enforcement agency.

The Minnesota Legislature will be distributing more money to cities across the state in the next two years, through Local Government Aid. As part of the increased aid, the state has "frozen" levy increases at 3%, less the additional funds. The change applies to cities with populations of 2,500 or greater. Morris City Manager Blaine Hill says for the City of Morris, that means 2013's levy will be repeated in 2014, at a total of $1.288 million. Hill notes that raising the levy for debt service is an exception to the new legislation. Hill says the LGA changes mean there will be no levy increases to the general fund or the library fund.

The Stevens County Board of Commissioners has voted in a waste-reducing initiative: a single-sort recycling program. County residents will transition to the program in July. At a meeting with the board, Environmental Services Director Bill Kleindl notes waste management company Engelbretson & Sons will issue 64 gallon recycling bins to residents of the county's five cities and will schedule twice-monthly pick-ups. Engelbretson will continue to operate recycling trailers at rural locations as they have in the past. The program will come with a $20 increase to residents' annual solid waste fees.

The Minnesota Legislature has increased the age of compulsory education from 16 to 17 years of age. The additional year of mandatory education in the state could increase the work loads of Human Services Departments, says Stevens County Human Services Director Joanie Murphy. Murphy expects truancy reports to increase, particularly in Minnesota counties with low graduation rates.

Teachers, students, and staff gathered in the Morris Area High School this week to dole out a number of awards to the graduating class. FFA Advisor Natasha Mortenson split an FFA Award between two seniors. The first recipient was Brooke Wente, who was recently elected secretary of the state FFA Officer Board. The second recipient was Hailey Kotts. Other award winners included top science honors for Marcus Cannon and Michael Anderson. Elizabeth Schneider won the Choral Music Award. Eighty-four (84) seniors will graduate on Friday night, May 31st at 7 in the Elementary Gymnasium.

Agralite Electric Cooperative will be issuing half a million dollars in capital credit checks this year. Members who had active accounts in 1979 or 1980 will receive all of their capital credits for those years. Members during 2009 will receive 15% of their capitol credits. Agralite will host their annual meeting, as well as issuing credit checks, on June 3rd at the Benson High School.

21 year old Esequiel Gomez Jr. of Willmar pled guilty yesterday (Thursday) to an amended felony second degree criminal sexual conduct charge. He will be sentenced in Kandiyohi County District Court on July 24th. He has been held in the Kandiyohi County Jail on a million bail since last October. The case involves a sexual assault on a 14 year old girl near the walking bridge near High Avenue Northeast in Willmar last July. Gomez is linked to other crimes as well, a murder of a woman in Texas, and an assault on an elderly man in Texas.

Senator Lyle Koenen of Clara City says with the close of the 2013 legislative session, they can look back at the hard work done and remember there is still hard work to do. He says the fair and structurally balanced budget they came up with will keep the state economically prosperous while also providing for education, job creation and property tax relief.  He says the budget is stable and doesn’t rely on the gimmicks of the past. They included smart budget cuts and cost-saving reforms, as well as new revenue to invest in our priorities. Koenen says the budget is balanced through 2017 and puts us on the path for long term economic stability.

Alexis Strong, daughter of Pete and Jennifer Nelson of Sauk Centre, won the Minnesota Farmer’s Union FFA essay contest. She was awarded $1,000 for the Sauk Centre Area FFA Chapter and a trip to Washington, D.C. in September. MFU asked FFA students statewide to write a 500-750 word essay on the question ‘How can farmers and rural communities work toward implementing a national food security policy to combat hunger on a regional and national level? Strong, in her essay, says she believes pushing for a Farm Bill, Country of Origin, Immigration Bill and community gardens are all terrific ways on implementing national food security.

The Paynesville City Council met Wednesday night. They received their periodic debt management study from Northland Securities. Mayor Jeff Thompson says the city continues to be in fairly good position as far as their debt and debt limit. He says all their funds maintain a positive balance. Thompson says they hired lifeguards for the beach at Veterans Park on Lake Koronis, which is a joint effort with Paynesville Township and the Lake Koronis Association. They also hired another part time liquor store clerk and established an on-call list for other potential hires there. The council also approved spending roughly $18,000 on installing a splash pad play area for the little kids in the community. It will be installed in Gasebo Park right in the middle of Paynesville.

A jobs-focused bill that passed the Minnesota Legislature last week is waiting on Governor Mark Dayton's desk. The Omnibus Jobs, Energy, Commerce, and Housing Finance Bill contains a reduction in the rate that employers pay on unemployment insurance. This reduction will save businesses almost $350 million in the next two years and the average Minnesota employer will save $150 per employee. Elbow Lake Representative Jay McNamar says he is happy with the bill. Among the Commerce provisions in the bill is an $11 million increase in funding for the Explore Minnesota Tourism advertising campaign. Tourism is an $11.9 billion industry in Minnesota, supporting 240,000 leisure and hospitality jobs, which represents 11 percent of private-sector employment.

The Minnesota Legislature did not pass an anti-bullying bill this session, but local educators see the issue returning. Morris Elementary School Principal Ken Gagner says whatever lawmakers decide, the Morris School District is ahead of the game, with a comprehensive anti-bullying program and respectful behavior a core part of school culture. Minnesota's rules about bullying only require school districts to have a program to deal with the issue.

The Stevens County Board of Commissioners has directed the county's department heads to begin preparing the budget for next year, with a focus on several key areas. County Coordinator Brian Giese says one budget goal is to bring budget needs within the 3% increase, as mandated by the Minnesota Legislature. The other two budget goals are to create a Capitol Improvement Fund and to work with outside agencies--such as Stevens Forward! and the County Museum--in preparing and presenting their budgets. A preliminary budget and levy must be approved by the end of September.

A motorcycle worth $150,000 is up for raffle, with proceeds benefiting Hospice Care in the region. The Lakeland Hospice Foundation has teamed up with the family of the late National Baseball Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew and the Minnesota Twins to create the Harmon Killebrew Hospice Day at Target Field on Saturday, August 17. The motorcycle is traveling around the region as area businesses sell raffle tickets. Erv Krosch is hosting the motorcycle at Northern Impressions in Morris. The bike has Harmon Killebrew's signature, retired number, and the Minnesota Twins logo on it. The motorcycle will next appear at Willie's SuperValu in Morris from May 27-30 before traveling to Brainerd.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation urges motorists to use extra caution while driving through highway work zones this Memorial Day weekend. Mike Barnes, MnDOT's Operations Director, says with hundreds of construction projects going on around the state, work zone safety is crucial during this busy weekend. Memorial Day weekend is traditionally one of the deadliest on Minnesota roads during the spring and summer months. Safe driving during the long weekend ranks as a paramount concern for the departments of Transportation and Public Safety and law enforcement agencies statewide.

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