A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.
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WILLMAR -- A cool, wet start to the spring has meant late planting, late crop emergence and a delay in cutting alfalfa for hay. The good news is ground moisture is finally adequate after a two- to three-year dry spell. "Concerns about the drought are getting washed away," said Wes Nelson, director of the Farm Service Agency in Kandiyohi County, on Friday, following a dose of heavy rains the day before. "It looks more like a normal June this year," said Nelson.
The ambulance ride from Willmar to the Twin Cities took longer than it should have. A winter storm Dec. 4 made it impossible for a helicopter transport and roads were icy. So Carmen Clementson found herself in the back of an ambulance for about five hours, wondering what was in her future. The 52-year-old mother, with a high-responsibility supervisory job in Kandiyohi County's Family Services Department and a love of biking and running in marathons, really didn't want her life to change.
As he leans forward in a deck chair, there is no hesitancy in Jacob Kieft's words as he talks about all the things he's done in the last two years and what he wants to do with the rest of his life. The checklist of accomplishments includes re-learning how to walk and feed himself after being in a coma and undergoing several surgeries to relieve the pressure on his brain following the accident and traumatic brain injury two years ago this month. He recalls the sweat and exertion it took to sit up in bed for the first time.
Kristina Scholl was just three days into her junior year at New London-Spicer High School when her car collided with a gravel truck in an accident on state Highway 23 at the entrance to New London. Her head crashed against the car windows, jolting and tearing her brain. "She could be in a wheelchair," said her father, Rick Scholl Jr., during an interview this spring, a year and a half after doctors couldn't guarantee whether his daughter would live or die.
Kristina Scholl went to prom this year. On Sunday afternoon she'll graduate from New London-Spicer High School and then take center stage at a graduation open house celebration at her home. Pretty normal activities for a young Minnesota woman, but absolutely astounding for someone who wasn't expected to live -- let alone walk, talk, laugh, dance, hold down a job, receive a high school diploma and go to college next fall. "That's why we call her our miracle child," said Penni Scholl, Kristina's stepmom, when retelling the story of a Sept.
WILLMAR -- Delaying a one-mile road reconstruction project in Spicer until 2009 will likely increase county costs for an already expensive project. The cost of bituminous for the project increased $100,000 in one month, said Gary Danielson, county public works director, during the Kandiyohi County Board meeting Tuesday. There's concern the price could go even higher next year because of increasing fuel prices. As the lead agency, the city of Spicer had planned to award bids for the $3.6 million Lake Avenue South project this spring, with construction to take place this summer.
WILLMAR -- Gov. Tim Pawlenty has the skills and abilities to make an "excellent vice president," but the likelihood of that happening may be getting less, said Sen. Joe Gimse, R-Willmar. Gimse made the comments Thursday during a legislative update with the Willmar Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce in response to a question about Pawlenty's chances of being Sen. John McCain's running mate. While the Legislature was in session, Gimse said the odds were four out of five that Pawlenty would be selected.
WILLMAR -- Communication and lobbying efforts from the folks back home helped shape legislation at the Capitol this year, including a gas tax increase. Support from the local and state Chamber of Commerce groups helped get the transportation bill approved and a "backlog" of road projects under construction, said Rep Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, during a legislative update given Thursday morning to members of the Willmar Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce.
WILLMAR -- A 16-bed psychiatric hospital is on budget and on target to be completed in July. Clients are expected to begin arriving in August at the new Community Behavioral Health Hospital in Willmar. The facility will provide short-term, inpatient care for adults with acute mental illness.
WILLMAR -- Kandiyohi Area Transit received a larger-than-expected state grant for the construction of its bus transfer station. Instead of the $75,000 grant that had been earmarked for the project by the Minnesota Department of Transportation's transit division, KAT officials were informed the total grant -- including a local match -- is $130,000. "We were hopeful it was going to be more," said John Groothuis, KAT transit director.