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City Council committee sets street work hearing Feb. 19

WILLMAR — The Willmar City Council’s Public Works/Safety Committee is recommending the council set Feb. 19 as the date for the hearing on the 2013 street improvement report. The council will receive the recommendation at the regular meeting Monday.

The committee received the report this week from interim city engineer Jared Voge and voted to recommend the council set the date. The council had earlier ordered Voge to prepare the report.

The four categories of improvements in the report are reconstruction, overlay, new construction and miscellaneous work such as trails, quiet zone and sidewalks.

Total cost of the improvements is estimated by the city engineering department at $5,288,021. Sources of funding are Willmar Municipal Utilities, local option sales tax revenue, assessments against benefited property owners and bond proceeds.

In other business, the committee recommended the council introduce an ordinance for a public hearing March 4 to increase the fire department charge from $250 to $500 per false alarm for responding to more than five false alarms per year.

The current ordinance charges $250 for false alarms, with five false alarms allowed per year without charge. The proposed ordinance would increase the charge to $500 per false alarm after five or more false alarms in a year. The increase was recommended by Fire Chief Gary Hendrickson.

The ordinance would require fire alarms to be registered. Charges would be waived for owners providing evidence of servicing and repairing their system. Also, the proposed ordinance would give the fire chief discretion in assessing the charges.

— David Little

Law asks fans to keep Super Bowl streak alive

ST. PAUL — The State Patrol is reminding football fans planning to drink at Super Bowl parties this Sunday to plan ahead for a sober ride home or call a last-second audible before getting behind the wheel.

State troopers and other law enforcement agencies around the state will step up enforcement patrols for driving while impaired to sack drunken drivers as Minnesota tries to make it five years running without a drunk driving death on Super Bowl Sunday, according to the Minnesota Department Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety.

In the last five years, from 2008 to 2012, there have been nine traffic deaths on Super Bowl Sunday, one of which was alcohol-related in 2008. During that time, 1,101 motorists were arrested for drunken driving.

“In order to keep this Super Bowl streak going for a fifth consecutive year, we need everyone to plan for a sober ride home,” said Donna Berger, Office of Traffic Safety director. “Planning for a sober ride and making it a habit goes a long way toward stopping preventable traffic deaths.”

The Patrol offers these keys to a safe Super Bowl Sunday: plan for a safe ride from a sober friend or stay at the party. If you are available, offer friends a safe ride home.

The best defense against a drunken driver is buckling up and, remember, if you see impaired driving behavior, call 911 and report the location, license plate number and the dangerous behavior.

—Staff reports

Obama to talk at police facility with no public access

 ST. PAUL — President Barack Obama’s Minneapolis appearance Monday will be at a Minneapolis Police Department facility, and not open to the public.

The president will talk about his plan to curtail gun violence with local political and law enforcement leaders, the White House says. No public events are planned.

“Minneapolis is a city that has taken important steps to reduce gun violence and foster a conversation in the community about what further action is needed,” a White House statement said. “President Obama will visit with members of the community about their experiences and discuss additional steps that can be taken at the federal level to reduce gun violence. “

Monday’s trip will be the president’s first outside Washington to promote his gun program. The president’s 35-point plan includes actions he can take and provisions Congress would have to approve.

U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said he expects gun bills to begin in the Senate later this year, but senators likely will not go for the most restrictive provisions. “I don’t think much is going to happen.”

— Don Davis

Ward 4 special election candidate forum Feb. 5

WILLMAR — The Willmar League of Women Voters will host a candidate forum at 7 p.m.

Feb. 5 at the Municipal Utilities Building for Jay Lawton and Audrey Nelsen who are candidates in the Ward 4 special election Feb. 12.

Lawton and Nelsen are candidates for the unexpired term of former council member Doug Reese, who was elected to the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners in the November general election. Reese was elected to the County Board seat that had been held by Richard Larson of Willmar who did not seek re-election.

The forum will be televised on WRAC-8. The public is invited to attend. Questions may be sent to before and/or during the event, or by calling 320-212-2285.

— Staff reports