Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.
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NEW LONDON — Here's the path Siama Matuzungidi took to get from stardom to obscurity. He started in the Democractic Republic of Congo, where he left his home at age 17 in 1971, and made his way to Uganda, Kenya, Japan, and Dubai. He played for large audiences who celebrated him as one of the masters of soukous music, a joyous music that he learned in the Congo. Marriage led him to Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1995 and with the move came instant obscurity.
MADISON — Flood damages in Lac qui Parle County have surpassed $1 million. Preliminary damage assessments provided earlier this month to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and state Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division revealed more damage than previously projected, particularly to the ditch systems and the cities of Boyd and Dawson, according to Blain Johnson, emergency management director for the county.
OLIVIA — Renville County recently got a sense of how national financial analysts are viewing the agricultural economy as the county made its case to retain its favorable bond rating. The analysts scrutinized what are typically considered economic strengths in rural economies, certainly in this one. County staff recently participated in a bond rating presentation via teleconference with Moody's Investors Service in Chicago and with the county's financial adviser, Public Finance Management.
OLIVIA — From rusted plumbing and cracked plaster to windows taped to cover air leaks, the needs at the BOLD School District's facilities in Bird Island and Olivia are large. It would cost an estimated $37 million to address all of the needs without making any sort of improvements in how education is delivered, according to an analysis by ICS Consulting of Blaine. BOLD School Board members are looking at how best to address them.
GRANITE FALLS — A scribe once pointed out that musician and songwriter Jerry Ostensoe blends country, blues and folk styles as easily as wildflowers make their own bouquet, but neglected one point. He does so with a voice as pure as the prairie wind. So it hit Ostensoe like a thunderclap when that voice began to falter. It was slight at first. Singing partner Malena Handeen called it to his attention before he even realized it. He continued to perform and tell the stories of western Minnesota in song, or "just east of west" as he describes his home turf.
CLARA CITY — MACCRAY School Board members are bringing a fourth bond referendum for new facilities. This time around, voters will decide on a single-campus proposal. At their meeting on Monday, board members approved a motion to put an approximate $39 million bond proposal on the ballot in November. The motion also calls for asking voters to renew a $1,103.03 per-pupil operating levy.
CLARA CITY — The Clara City Economic Development Authority has offered to finance the construction of a 500-seat auditorium for the MACCRAY School District if voters approve a single-campus proposal. Windy Block, Clara City administrator and EDA member, presented the proposal Monday to MACCRAY School Board members. He emphasized that it was a possible tool for the district. "In this particular case, we see an opportunity to at least give you another tool that you may want to consider using," Block said. "You certainly don't have to."
UPPER SIOUX AGENCY — Looking as if an earthquake had struck, a jagged, lightning-bolt shaped fissure rips through the center of state Highway 67 just a short distance east of the main entrance to the Upper Sioux Agency State Park south of Granite Falls. This portion of the highway has been closed since sometime in March, and will certainly remain closed for many weeks. Instead of a two minute drive from the state park office to the main campground on the Yellow Medicine River, park workers have to make a 20-minute ride on a 16-mile detour route including gravel roads.
UPPER SIOUX AGENCY STATE PARK — If you're looking for a place to stand your ground, don't pick this portion of Minnesota Highway 67 near the Upper Sioux Agency State Park, southeast of Granite Falls. The ground is moving, with costly implications for the Minnesota Department of Transportation and possibly the state park. Movement that is occurring many feet below the road surface has caused the pavement to fracture, with jagged fissures and as much as two-feet of grade separation. "Like an earthquake zone," one observer described it.
MILAN — Work begins Monday to remove one of the region's best-known icons, the Milan Bridge crossing Lac qui Parle Lake on state Highway 40.