Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.
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WILLMAR - A winter storm that arrived Thursday afternoon and continued into the early morning hours Friday delivered 4 to 8 inches of snow across west central Minnesota, according to the National Weather Service in Chanhassen. The snow that began falling Thursday represents round one. A winter storm watch is in effect from Saturday afternoon through Saturday night for the region. Round two brings the possibility of 6 to 9 inches of new snow in a narrow swath that could include west central Minnesota.
MONTEVIDEO — Employees of the Chippewa County-Montevideo Hospital represented by the Service Employees International Union Healthcare Minnesota overwhelmingly voted to remain part of the bargaining unit. In a decertification vote held Tuesday, the employees voted 54 to 19 in favor of maintaining the union representation and their membership, according to information from the SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. The vote for decertification had been requested by some of the union members.
BENSON — The city of Benson has offered its voice in support of closing the Benson Power biomass plant operating in the community. The city filed a statement Wednesday with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission in support of the plant's closing. Its closing will mean the loss of 45 jobs at the plant. The city's statement was made in response to action by suppliers to the 50-megawatt power plant. They have appealed a decision by the Public Utilities Commission allowing Xcel Energy to acquire and close the plant this year.
OLIVIA — The BOLD School District is notifying district residents, students and staff that there was no threat to safety despite stories circulating that someone intended to bring a gun to school Tuesday. The district sent a recorded phone message Wednesday from Superintendent John Dotson to parents of students, informing them that students and staff were not in danger, and that the school has hired an attorney to investigate the matter.
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.