David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
- Member for
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WILLMAR -- Michael Zoughbi, a Palestinian, proudly traces his Christian heritage back 1,000 years. He was born and raised in Bethlehem but considers the Holy Land his home. At one time, Christians accounted for more than 45 percent of the population there. Now, the percentage is about 1.7 percent. Zoughbi says Christians are leaving the area to escape bad economic conditions and travel restrictions brought on by decades of Israeli occupation. Zoughbi and his wife, Carmen, are in Willmar this week for speaking engagements and will discuss Middle Eastern Christianity.
WILLMAR -- The Willmar City Council voted Monday night to authorize Fire Chief Marv Calvin to advertise and hire up to six firefighters. Calvin had requested the additional firefighters, saying the increase is necessary to continue safe and efficient service by the fire department. The department currently has 31 firefighters but is authorized to have up to 35 on call. A total of 18 firefighters respond to a fire, but the preferred turnout number is 21.
WILLMAR -- The Willmar Ambulance Service and the Willmar Fire Department have for years each wanted a piece of equipment called a utility task vehicle. Ambulance and fire officials say such a vehicle can be equipped with tracks that allow personnel to drive on debris-strewn surfaces, through fields and over snowdrifts where a wheeled vehicle might get a punctured tire or become stuck.
WILLMAR -- Area zombie fans, wearing creepy makeup and dressed in torn and ''bloody'' clothing, walked along South First Street Friday afternoon from the Kandi Mall parking lot to Robbins Island, waving to motorists and having a good time. Organizers said this was the third year for the Willmar zombie walk. They were hoping about 50 people would participate. At Robbins Island, they danced to a zombie-themed band and had a meal.
DANUBE -- Renville-Sibley Cooperative Power Association, headquartered in Danube, has received an $8.6 million USDA Rural Development loan to improve the reliability and efficiency of Renville-Sibley's distribution system. Renville-Sibley is among 27 rural electric cooperative utilities in that will receive funding for generation and transmission projects, distribution facilities and smart grid technologies, according to U.S.
WILLMAR -- The Willmar City Council has tabled assessments for reconstructing the street and cul-de-sac on 19th Street Northwest after a property owner repeated his belief that the policy of assessing cul-de-sac lots on a per-unit basis rather than a linear front footage basis is unfair. The council voted this week to table adoption of the 19th Street Northwest assessments and sent the cul-de-sac assessment policy back to the Public Works/Safety Committee for more discussion. The committee meets next on Tuesday. 19th Street Northwest has eight lots on a roadway that ends in a cul-de-sac.
WILLMAR -- Willmar city officials are getting closer to an agreement under which the Federal Aviation Administration will release the old airport land in phases to the city for industrial development purposes. City staff is working with FAA to draft a memorandum of agreement that would include milestones for the releases.
WILLMAR -- The Willmar Area Food Shelf has begun a $290,000 project designed to replace the entrance, remodel the lobby area, shopping area and rear area, and finish the exterior with added insulation and siding. "Our plans are really just to make the food shelf more efficient,'' says Christy Kurth, food shelf executive director. On average, the food shelf is distributing about 50,000 pounds of food a month.
LAKE LILLIAN -- You can get the Mexican or meat-lovers omelet, barbecued pork ribs, or burgers and fries but not an oil change at The Food Garage, a new restaurant located in the former Ford garage in downtown Lake Lillian. "I know we get a lot of people that love it and they'll make comments: 'Where do I get an oil change?
WILLMAR -- A plan to guide development of bicycle and pedestrian trails in Willmar is now an official part of the city's comprehensive land use plan. The comprehensive land use plan, updated in 2009, cites the need for work in the areas of trails and pedestrian uses and that's what the bicycle and pedestrian plan accomplishes, says Bruce Peterson, the city's director of planning and development services. The plan addresses the needs of pedestrians and bicyclists, and calls for a local transportation system that complements development and provides for bicycle and pedestrian access to places