The current government shut-down is likely to have long-term effects other than those already being felt in the economy. University of Minnesota, Morris Professor, Dr. Roland Guyotte (GUY-aught), says the shut-down will likely have psychological effects, as well. Guyotte says the current legislature is so polarized that people are likely to lose hope in the government's ability to provide consistent service. That is an unfortunate consequence of the shut-down, Guyotte says, noting the people of the United States do better when they talk to each other.
Veterans in Pope and Stevens County are invited to a "Veterans Benefits Expo" this week.On Friday, Veterans Services Organizations and vendors will gather to assess veterans and their families for eligible services. There will be free wellness exams, education assistance, counseling and housing information, and legal consultations. The expo will be held from 10 to 2 at the Morris National Guard Armory.
The University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities is running an experiment using 800 high school students in 16 rural Minnesota school districts, feeding students breakfast. Project BreakFAST is described as an "intervention study" to test the impact of breakfast "on student participation rates, overall student caloric intake and diet quality, and body mass index." The Morris Area High School was selected to participate. Principal Craig Peterson says the project will track the types of food the schools serve for breakfast. The program will also examine what students eat, when they eat it, and "positive interactions that encourage eating school breakfast with social support from peers and school personnel."
The American Red Cross will be in West Central Minnesota this week. Donors can give at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Glenwood on Tuesday, October 8th, from 12:30- 6:30. The Red Cross is accepting double red cell donations as well as blood donations. The Pope County Blood Drive continues on Wednesday, October 9, at the Minnewaska Area High School from 10:00-4:00. On Thursday, October 10, the bloodmobile will be in Osakis at the Community Center from noon to six.
The Minnesota Project and West Central Clean Energy Resource Team is presenting a poultry energy efficiency educational program on Friday from ten to noon at the Mid-Central Research and Outreach Center in Willmar. Fritz Ebinger, energy program manager, says this event is for turkey producers and ag producers regarding LED lighting and barn ventilation. The idea is to help facilitate producers lower their energy cost and increase their profitability. They’ll have presentations from an agriculture energy management specialist, and the agricultural lighting company, ONCE Innovations. Their executives will present on the technology and the different features of the LED lighting.
Ten state and federal agencies have combined forces to develop a statewide strategy to reduce the amount of nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrogen, in Minnesota waters. Nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen are common pollutants in water bodies. They pose a substantial threat to Minnesota's lakes, rivers, groundwater, and aquatic life, as well as to downstream waters. A statewide plan now in development aims to get various agencies and groups working together to be more efficient and effective. Comments and ideas from all corners are needed to help make it the best plan possible and put it to work. For more information on the strategy development process and opportunities to provide feedback, go to the MPCA website and search for “nutrient strategy.”
The former Goodwill Store on South First Street in Willmar has been purchased by Habitat for Humanity of West Central Minnesota. With this move the ReStore can expand its retail store, which sells items that have been donated, items such as cabinets, windows, furniture and more. The store will begin remodeling this week, and expect to officially open March 1stat the new location.
Matt Entenza with Minnesota 2020 says they’ve released a new study showing that there will be property tax decreases across West Central Minnesota, on the average of nine percent for homeowners. He says due to Governor Dayton’s leadership they’re seeing increases in local government aid for the Willmar area. He’s making a swing through the area today (Tuesday), stopping at newspapers and radio stations in Montevideo, Granite Falls and Willmar. Entenza says Willmar has had substantial cuts, over two and a half million dollars over the last ten years in local government aid, money that pays for police, fire and other services. That has resulted in substantial property tax increases. Under legislation passed this year, the new analysis by Minnesota 2020 shows that property taxes will go down but most importantly for homeowners they should see about a nine percent drop in property taxes.
Representative Mary Sawatzky says they instituted a lot of changes this year with teacher licensing, graduation tests, looking at those pieces that seemed to be controversial, and areas they need to continue to look at. This year they’re studying the Minnesota testing licensing for educators. She says they heard a lot of testimony on that coming from the frustrations and interesting ways its being interpreted and delivered for the teachers. She also says for the first time in several years they’ve funded schools with $40 million going to Early Childhood, and $40 million to special education. For a long time, she say, they’ve taken from the general pot of money. Part of that is because of the unfunded mandates from the federal government. They said they were going to reimburse schools 40 percent. That has never happened, Sawatzke said noting she believes the best has been 17 percent and they’re down to nine percent reimbursement from the federal government.
Tomorrow (Wednesday) is International Walk to School Day. More than 55 schools statewide are participating and MnDOT is encouraging students, parents, teachers, community members and organizations to get out on sidewalks and trails. This event is an opportunity for families with children who typically ride a school bus and who live in areas with bike friendly paths to school, to walk and bike to school. Parents and community members are asked to help schools conduct a walkability assessment of their neighborhoods.
Representative Paul Anderson of Starbuck says he met with nursing home representatives from District 12B recently, and they told him they’re forced to turn away applicants for admission because of a worker shortage, apparently caused by years of underfunding by the state. Anderson says this situation could become worse if the legislative majority is successful in raising the minimum wage in the upcoming session. He says the nursing home people he spoke with told him their employees currently make more than minimum wage. But nursing homes would lose that workforce advantage if the minimum wage increases and they cannot afford to enact raises of their own to retain that incentive.