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Schools 200 miles apart join to lobby lawmakers for funds

The Rushford-Peterson and Moose Lake school districts hope to do together what they couldn’t do apart — repair their crumbling schools. Elizabeth Baier of the Rochester Post-Bulletin notes that the Rushford-Peterson school was built before the Titanic and was severely damaged when the city flooded, sending raw sewage into the school in 2007. Now the pipes are rusted and the drywall is crumbling. False ceilings keep plaster from falling on kindergartners, and yet in December, Rushford and Peterson voters rejected a $15 million bond to repair the school. Moose Lake, 200 miles to the north of Rushford and Peterson, endured a flood last June. Repairs to the 78-year-old building cost $800,000 just to make it useable again. Voters there will be asked this spring to pay $33 million for a new building. Baier quotes Moose Lake School Superintendent Bob Indihar: “The thing we always hear is, 'If we do it for you, we have to do it for everybody. There are 500 other buildings that need to be fixed.' All we can do is give our case, and ours is unique, I think. We've been through floods. And there are not too many other schools in the state that can say that." Grace Keliher, director of governmental relations for the Minnesota School Board Association, told Baier that in some cases it’s too much to ask a community that has endured a natural disaster to come to the financial aid of the ruined schoolhouses. "I think it's irrational to assume every community can absorb that kind of financial knock-out punch. And that's where the state steps in. There is a line between what you can reasonably ask your community to do and when you need the state's help.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar has invited St. Cloud State University President Earl Potter to be her guest at the State of the Union speech Tuesday night, reports Dave Aeikens of the St. Cloud Daily Times. Klobuchar is advancing a bill to make it easier for international students who attend American universities to get U.S. work visas, and SCSU has about 1,300 international students among its 16,400 students, Aeikens reports. Klobuchar introduced the bill last week with the backing of several Republican senators. Other Minnesotans will also attend the speech. Sen. Al Franken has invited Larry Lundblad, president of Central Lakes College in Brainerd. The StarTribune reports that Abby Schanfield will be first lady Michelle Obama’s guest. Schanfield was born with toxoplasmosis and says that without the Affordable Care Act, she would have little chance of buying medical insurance on her own.

This has nothing to do with Minnesota, but it’s too good to ignore. The Associated Press via the Fargo Forum reports that hackers interrupted the regular programming of a Great Falls, Mont., television station to report an imminent zombie apocalypse. Hackers broke into the Emergency Alert System of CBS affiliate KRTV and broadcast that “dead bodies are rising from their graves.” The alert warned people not to “approach or apprehend these bodies as they are extremely dangerous.” After the affiliate regained its broadcast, it reported that there is no zombie emergency and engineers are investigating, the AP reported.

Solving one of the great urban-rural problems of the day, the Fairmont City Council has Solomonaically determined that chickens and other domesticated fowl can be kept within city limits under certain circumstances, reports Meg Alexander of the Fairmont SentinelOwners can have no more than five on a lot, and roosters are strictly banned. No license is required, but the city requires a permit for structures such as coops. The structures must be 35 feet away from any residence other than the residence occupied by the chickens' owners. City administrator Mike Humpal was quoted thusly: "It's an issue that seems somewhat silly to some, but I just got a call from Marshall asking us for a copy of our ordinance. They're going through the same thing."

Willmar Municipal Utilities has been reimbursed by the federal government for its share of the cost of sending two linemen to help restore power after Hurricane Sandy, reports David Little of the West Central Tribune. Willmar crew chief Dick Thynes and lineman Casey Jenny joined utility workers from around the country to repair Long Island Power Authority lines and poles damaged by the Oct. 29 hurricane. The Federal Emergency Management Administration has reimbursed Willmar Municipal Utilities $31,000. The remaining $10,600 will be paid by Long Island Power.

The Fargo Forum reports that strippers and exotic dancers in Moorhead will now be required to undergo background checks and be licensed by the city. The City Council voted unanimously Monday to approve the city ordinance which requires adult entertainers and the businesses that provide such services to pay a $250 licensing fee and have a background check by Moorhead police. Operating without a license would be a misdemeanor. The city could deny an applicant if he or she has been convicted of a crime involving violence, drugs or prostitution in the past 10 years. Police Chief David Ebinger hopes licensing will help curb prostitution and child trafficking.

New Ulm’s Bockfest and Fasching festivals were a success last weekend, reports Josh Moniz of the New Ulm Journal. Thousands came to the gates of the Schell Brewery to enjoy Bockfest, which featured reasonably warm weather, food, music and lots of beer. Revelers were encouraged to wear costumes, and some of the weekend’s included deer antler helmets, keg hats and a full body costume of the TV character Alf, Moniz reports. All but one of the cardboard Bocks was found in the annual Bock Hunt. Last year, none of the Bock cutouts hidden in the woods around Schell's was found. At the same time, the "German Mardi Gras" celebration of Fasching was equally well-attended. Gerald Boyle as "Ein Stein" was the winner of the Fasching costume contest. Moniz writes: “The (festivals) boosted the local economy by packing motel and hotel rooms full of guests, drowning the town's bars in patrons and giving the stores located near Schell's entrance one of their busiest days of the year. There was even a small fleet of clever minded locals who turned their personal cars into impromptu taxi services that shuttled people leaving Schell's around town, each being able to rake in as much as $500 in one day.”

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