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Duluth hardboard plant closed; 140 out of work

Bad news in Duluth: Georgia-Pacific is closing its Duluth hardboard plant at the end of the month. The move will put 140 employees out of work, according to a report by the Duluth News Tribune staff. Employees were notified Tuesday morning after weeks of rumors. They will receive benefits for 60 days from today’s date. The plant will close Aug. 31, with manufacturing ending the day before. The plant makes a thin hardboard product called Superwood. Georgia-Pacific will shift the manufacturing of Superwood to other facilities.

The Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont is facing a penalty under the federal Affordable Care Act for readmission of Medicare hospital patients, writes Meg Alexander of the Fairmont Sentinel. After examining hospital records from June 2008 through June 2011, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is penalizing health-care facilities that readmitted too many Medicare patients with health failure, heart attacks and pneumonia within 30 days of their discharge. The issue is education. Hospitals have to make sure individuals understand their disease, complications, medication side effects, and the importance of follow-up, said Dr. Marie Morris, chief medical officer. Penalized hospitals’ readmission rates were not made public, but Bob Bartingale, administrator for the local Mayo site, said that since 2010, Fairmont’s numbers have improved from 17 percent to 13 percent this year. The hospital will lose 0.81 percent of its payments for Medicare discharges starting Oct. 1. “It’s not huge, but in this environment, every dollar does count,” Bartingale said. He estimates about 60 percent of the hospital’s patients are on Medicare.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development says that there were more people working last month in the St. Cloud area than ever before, writes Kevin Allenspach of the St. Cloud Daily Times. In addition, the number of unemployed also jumped and, as a result, the unemployment rate ticked up one-tenth of a percentage point. While the unemployment rate in July for the St. Cloud metropolitan statistical area was 5.8 percent, the number of workers available rose to 110,710 people, higher than any monthly records on hand since before 1990. Employment also rose to 104,202. The previous highs in those categories were a labor force of 108,876 in January, and employment of 102,883 in November. The state’s unemployment rate for July was 5.9 percent, significantly lower than the 8.6 percent national figure. St. Cloud’s unemployment rate fell in the middle of the state’s other metropolitan statistical areas. Rochester (4.9 percent) and Mankato (5.3 percent) were better, while Minneapolis-St. Paul (5.9 percent) and Duluth (7.1 percent) were worse.

A former Janesville police officer has received a $400,000 lawsuit settlement, writes Brian Ojanpa of the Mankato Free Press. Betty Price and the city of Janesville reached an agreement calling for the financial settlement and a public statement, although in the statement the city did not admit liability and stated it settled the matter to avoid the uncertainty and expense of litigation. The city also stated it never made any claim that Price had any disciplinary issues, and that she was “an excellent and devoted officer.” The statement noted the lawsuit claimed Janesville’s former mayor, Al Grams, defamed her, though the statement didn’t detail that claim. Recordings from a 2009 City Council meeting revealed Grams, in speaking about the police budget, said, “I’d sure like to cut Betty … she’s a pain in the ass.” Grams subsequently said he stood by his words, saying they were spurred by townspeople’s complaints about the officer’s allegedly overly officious manner. Price is no longer working in law enforcement and no longer lives in the area. She and her lawyer could not be reached for comment.

Last week, Lori Hart’s 900-pound quarter horse mare, Molly, was mauled by a cat that a Pierz veterinarian confirmed was either a mountain lion or a cougar, writes Mike O’Rourke of the Brainerd Dispatch. The veterinarian’s report said the laceration was about 9 inches long. Hart said Molly is doing well, although she’s experiencing some swelling. She’s being kept in a stall for the next three or four months. “The hide is gone,” said Hart, of rural Aitkin County, who is attempting to spread the word so livestock owners can be on the alert.

Roque Rossetti’s business is going so well, he plans to break ground within the month for a new plant in Rothsay, writes Ryan Howard of the Fergus Falls Journal. Rossetti left Sao Paulo, Brazil, and moved to Rothsay in 1999 after visiting the area on a work-exchange program when he was younger. He took a job with Excel Plastics in Fergus Falls and began manufacturing parts for Shoremaster in his free time in 2002. A few years later he turned his hobby into a full-time job and now he has a shop and four employees. His business, Galaxy Enterprises, makes parts out of aluminum, plastic, steel and composite materials for the marine, aerospace, food and oil industries. Rossetti made the move to Rothsay with the hope that the U.S. could bring success and prosperity to a hardworking entrepreneur with big dreams.”It’s the drive to live the American dream and make a better life for yourself,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate and happy to be in this community. It was exactly what I wanted.”

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