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Most of 259 Sartell paper-mill employees let go

ALSO: Hill City bank robbed; Duluth fires 29 teachers; Freeborn County warns of scam; Schell’s Brewery adds fermentation tanks; and more.

Officials at the Verso Paper mill in Sartell acknowledged they have issued layoff notices to most of their 259 employees in the wake of the Memorial Day fire that rendered the plant inoperable., writes Kevin Allenspach and Mark Sommerhauser of the St. Cloud Daily Times. A fraction of the staff at the mill is finishing an investigation into how to reopen the mill, said Bill Cohen, Verso’s spokesman. It’s likely the mill will remain idle into the fall. Much of the warehouse has been dismantled. More than 5,000 tons of inventory were destroyed. About 175 employees at the Sartell mill were laid off last December after Verso idled two of its three papermaking machines.

Meanwhile, Senate President Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, said Sartell should be discussed in any special session centered on Duluth flood relief. He said there may be ways the state could assist in the Verso recovery that wouldn’t require legislation.

Over in Hill City, authorities are looking for a suspect who held up the Woodland Bank on Monday, according to a report in the Brainerd DispatchAt 12:07 p.m., a man with a handgun held up the bank and fled with an undisclosed amount of cash northbound on Highway 169 in a blue Chevrolet Cavalier with Minnesota License Plate XAT113, a vehicle police say was stolen from Itasca County on Monday. The suspect is described as a 6-foot-1 white man wearing a white long-sleeve shirt, tan pants and black shoes. He also was wearing white gloves, an American flag bandanna on his face, sunglasses and a black baseball cap with what appeared to be a batman logo within a yellow colored oval. The suspect displayed brown or reddish collar-length hair, which may have been a wig, and possibly had facial hair.

The Duluth School Board voted Tuesday to lay off 29 full- and part-time teachers, writes John Lundy of the Duluth News-Tribune. The teacher cuts will help the district close a $3.8 million budget gap. The cuts include eight non-tenured teachers and 21 tenured teachers. Another six non-tenured teachers were cut in May. In addition to the cuts, 31 teachers retired this year, said Tim Sworsky, the school system’s human resources manager. Some of those positions will be filled, he said. The cuts run the gamut of subjects: art, business education, English, family consumer science, German language, industrial arts, math, music, physical education and health, science, social studies, Spanish language and vocational education. There also are cuts in elementary teachers, guidance counseling and special services.

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Tim Engstrom of the Albert Lea Tribune writes that organizers of the Freeborn County Relay for Life are concerned about a possible telephone scam being done in its name. Vicki Manges, a chairwoman with the local Relay for Life, said there are two reports of a man calling people Monday and asking for $50 donation to Relay for Life. She said Relay for Life discourages solicitations over the telephone. Relay for Life raises money for the American Cancer Society by asking friends and relatives for donations and in exchange the participants walk or run around a track. She didn’t know if the calls came in or out of the Albert Lea area. She said if anyone receives a scam call to contact the Albert Lea Police Department at 377-5205.

Ah, the sweet smell of fermentation. Fritz Busch of the New Ulm Journal writes that the August Schell Brewery took delivery Monday, through the roof, of two 750-barrel fermentation tanks. “We’re just trying to keep ahead of demand and increase efficiency,” said Schell’s owner Ted Marti. “This will get us through this year and maybe next year.” Marti said the 50-foot, 19,000-pound tanks, which will weigh 220,000 pounds each when filled with beer, will be used primarily to produce Grain Belt Premium and Nordeast beer. The brewery has added other fermentation tanks in recent years since it began making Grain Belt beer. It has also increased production of seasonal and craft beers.

The Moorhead City Council voted Monday to keep city elections on odd-numbered years instead of moving them to even-numbered years, reports Erik Burgess of the Fargo ForumWhile the move could have saved the city an average of $16,000 per election year, council members believed moving the city elections to the same years as state and federal elections would lessen the focus on matters important to the city. “I don’t really want to water down the importance of our local issues by combining it with state and national elections,” Councilwoman Nancy Otto said Monday. “I think they’re in the proper place where they are.”

Four Bemidji men did what few have done: ascended Washington’s Mount Rainer. Monte Draper of the Bemidji Pioneer writes that Robert Saxton, Jeremy Fayette, Luke Rutten and Mark Morrissey reached their goal last week of climbing Washington’s Mount Rainier. As planned, they departed last Tuesday, and seven hours later, reached the summit, Columbia Crest, around 8:30 a.m. for a grand photo op. Saxton summed up the effort succinctly: tremendous, exhausting, affirming and ecstatic. “For four rookies, we couldn’t have been better prepared,” Saxton said. “Our bodies, our legs were spent but we felt very secure. Being spent, we had to raise the game coming down.”