Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.
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WILLMAR — It was 35 years ago on February 18 that Ludvig Olson drove to his brother's home across from the Crow River Lutheran Church south of Belgrade to deliver some bad news about the death of a sister-in-law. The news waiting for him there was far worse. He discovered that his brother had been brutally murdered.
BENSON — Kevin Bausman believes he is seeing the first signs of the economic losses Benson will experience if the Benson Power plant ceases operations later this year as expected. Some of the power plant employees have listed their homes for sale, and that has slowed the real estate market, said Bausman, owner of Swift County Real Estate. He can't say that house prices have decreased significantly as a result, but he points out that they "definitely haven't gone up in the last year or so'' since news of the possible closing became public.
BENSON — The city of Benson is to receive $20 million over the course of four years as part of the legislation allowing the closure and dismantling of the Benson Power biomass facility. Along with the legislation, there is a recent order from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approving the closure. Benson's mayor and the CEO of Xcel Energy have also signed an agreement for it, according to Rob Wolfington, Benson city manager. He said the city is now watching as the closure is challenged by the affected suppliers.
ST. PAUL — Cuts to Local Government Aid have been costly to communities in Greater Minnesota in ways many would not have necessarily expected. In Granite Falls, city officials say it forced them to delay the purchase of a needed fire truck to the point that the city had to go out and lease one, to the tune of over $50,000. "We had no choice. We didn't have the resources to buy outright the fire truck that we needed,'' said Mayor Dave Smiglewski.
WILLMAR — A hearing on whether there is probable cause for drug, firearm and gang charges against an identified gang member with a prior conviction for attempted murder was held Monday in Kandiyohi County District Court in Willmar. Hugo Rene Guajardo, 40, currently in the Kandiyohi County Jail, is challenging felony charges of possession of ammunition and firearms, committing a crime to benefit a gang, and fifth-degree sale and possession of marijuana along with misdemeanor charges for possession of brass knuckles and drug paraphernalia.
GRANITE FALLS — Bail was set at $20,000 for a defendant accused of leading police on a high-speed chase that ended with his being airlifted for medical care after he suffered a suspected drug overdose. Bail was set and an arrest warrant issued Monday for Forrestt Duwayne LaBatte, 29, of Granite Falls, in Yellow Medicine County District Court in Granite Falls. He faces felony charges of fleeing a police officer, fifth-degree controlled substance possession, a gross misdemeanor charge of driving while impaired, and a misdemeanor charge of driving after revocation.
CLARA CITY — A newly unified MACCRAY School Board will be returning a bond issue to voters, but this time they will be asked to maintain a three-campus district. School board members voted unanimously Monday to support a plan that calls for developing the MACCRAY West and East Elementary Schools in Maynard and Raymond into schools serving prekindergarten through grade 4, rather than their current roles as pre-K through grade 6.
MONTEVIDEO — Chippewa County voters approved making the county auditor/treasurer and recorder positions appointed rather than elected, but in a close vote. Voters supported the change by a 1,192 to 1,094 vote, according to an unofficial tally of the ballots Tuesday night in the mail-in election. Voters had until 8 p.m. Tuesday to deliver their ballots to the courthouse in Montevideo. The county's first ever mail-in balloting proved successful in attracting an election turnout of 33 percent, considered good for a special election of this type.
LITCHFIELD - Meeker County authorities are investigating the death of a 40-year-old man after his body was found other than where he was believed to have died. Shawn Jacob Medley, of Waverly, was found at a rural Ellsworth Township location at 2:15 p.m. on Sunday, according to Meeker County Sheriff Brian Cruze. The Sheriff reported that officers found the man’s body after acting on a report of an unresponsive male at the location, which is withheld at this time due to the ongoing investigation.
OLIVIA — The city of Olivia will soon have prime residential property ready for development, just steps away from a golf course and yet smack-dab in the heart of its residential core. The Renville County Hospital and Clinics board of directors recently voted to convey its former hospital property back to the city of Olivia, Nate Blad, CEO of the county-owned hospital, told the Renville County Board of Commissioners Tuesday. The commissioners are expected to formally act on the transfer at their meeting Tuesday.