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Locked-out Crystal Sugar workers get ready for fifth contract vote

ALSO: Moorhead mom caught packing heat at La Guardia; suicide threats, pot use are up in Mankato schools; Marshall looks to supplement water supply; and more.

For the fifth time, locked-out American Crystal Sugar union workers will vote on the company’s contract offerreports Dave Olson of the Grand Forks Herald. The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Local 372G in Hillsboro will vote again on April 13. About 1,300 American Crystal workers were locked out in August 2011 after they rejected the company’s contract offer. American Crystal’s plants have been running with “replacement” workers since then. Company officials say the contract raises pay 17 percent over five years. The union says the contract wrecks health coverage and compromises worker safety. The first vote on the contract offer was rejected by 96 percent of union members. Three months later, 90 percent rejected the contract. Last June, 63 percent rejected the contract and in December, 55 percent rejected the contract.

A Moorhead woman who is six-months pregnant and traveling with her six-year-old daughter was surprised when Port Authority police at New York’s La Guardia Airport took a dim view of her packing an unloaded handgun and ammunition in a locked case in her checked luggagewrites Mike Nowatzki of the Fargo Forum. Beth Arneson Ferrizzi, 29, thought she did everything right when she called Delta Air Lines and was told the policy for carrying a gun and ammunition to her husband, Joe, who is an Air Force master sergeant serving a tour in Honduras. He was on leave and wanted to show her the sketchy Philadelphia neighborhood where he grew up and he felt better if he could carry his gun, for which he has a concealed weapon permit in North Dakota. Ferrizzi had no trouble boarding the plane in Fargo, nor getting off the plane in New York. The troubles came when she was ready to leave and Port Authority officials found the gun. Now she is charged in Queens Criminal Court with a felony count of criminal possession of a loaded firearm – punishable by up to 15 years in prison. She was released on her own recognizance and her next court date is May 20, but she plans to seek a continuance because she will be nine months pregnant. She’s been told she should have known better, and in hindsight, that’s easy to say, she said. “I contacted Delta, and I was told that I was doing everything right. I never even considered calling the police in New York and asking them what their laws were, because I’m not familiar with guns. I’m not a gun person. I didn’t think of it at all,” she said. 

Dave Aeikins at the St. Cloud Daily Times drew weather story duty this week. He reports that March was the ninth coldest and the ninth snowiest in the more than 100 years weather records have been kept. In St. Cloud, March brought 16.6 inches of snow. Normal is about 8. The average high temperature was 21.9 degrees, while normal is 29.4 degrees.  The number of days in which at least 1 inch of snow covered the ground has stretched to 118. In an average year, the snow is gone by March 10. The record is 146 days, Aeikins reports.

Mankato public school resource officers say suicide threats and marijuana usage are up this yearreports Amanda Dyslin of the Mankato Free Press. Since September, East Junior and Senior High had 11 reported suicide threats, and West High had five. East’s higher numbers are likely due to its larger student body as a seventh through 12th-grade school, as opposed to West’s ninth through 12-grade student body, Officer Tom Rother said. Most of the suicide threats were made by female students, and most were reported by friends. Todd Miller, director of Mankato Public Safety, said that although he doesn’t have data to back up the claim, he thinks cyber-bullying and social media are having an effect on students, adding that the police department is forming partnerships with the school district and mental-health community to create community-wide training to better prepare to address youth having these crises.

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Meanwhile, although the number of arrests are small, pot use at Mankato schools has been on the rise, says Rother, who is assigned to West High, and Officer Keith Mortensen, who is assigned to East. East had just four narcotics reports and West three. (Marijuana is reported in that category, which also includes prescription drugs.) But both said most students using the drug are not being caught. They say they learn this by being immersed in the schools, overhearing conversations and talking with students.

Marshall city leaders know that water is a precious resource, especially in typically dry southwest Minnesota, reports Deb Gau of the Marshall IndependentThat’s why Marshall Municipal Utilities is developing a new well field in Yellow Medicine County. While MMU General Manager Brad Roos said this will help ensure a steady supply for the city, “finding water sources in southwest Minnesota is a challenging proposition.” Most water from underground aquifers can be of poor quality and require treatment before it can be used. MMU has two well fields with 11 active wells supplying water and Roos said MMU had been searching for a third water source for the past 17 years. The third well field, located in Sandnes Township in Yellow Medicine County, should be on line by 2015. Both of the current fields are meeting local water needs, but higher demands and current drought conditions put them under increased stress, Roos said. Marshall produces about 1.1 billion gallons of water a year. In addition, MMU buys 100 million gallons a year from Lincoln Pipestone Rural Water. That water is sold to the Archer Daniels Midland plant in Marshall.

John Hageman, intrepid city reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer, did a double take when he saw signs around town Monday proclaiming a new spelling for Bemidji – Bamidgee. Also, Nymore and South Lake Irving would change their names to “South Bamidgee.” When Glenn Seibel came to work at Orion Financial Group on Monday, April 1, he called the police to find out if the sign’s message was real. Police told him the name is not changing and a handful of signs had been placed around the city. City crews came by and removed it later. “I’ve never seen it spelled that way,” Seibel said.

Minnesota soy bean growers got a firsthand look at how one of their biggest buyers, China, uses their productwrites Julie Buntjer of the Worthington Daily Globe. A group of 27 Minnesota farmers took a 10-day trip to China to tour production agriculture facilities, visit the Shenzhen port and learn how demand for U.S. soybeans will continue to grow to feed China’s expanding population. China buys roughly 25 percent of the U.S. soybeans exported each year, said Jim Willers, a rural Beaver Creek farmer. While in Beijing, the group met with the U.S. Embassy counsel for agriculture in China and the U.S. Soybean Export Federation. Then they toured a 3,500-head dairy east of Beijing and toured a small soy ingredient plant in Yantia where lecithin and soy powder are manufactured. From Yantia, the group traveled to fast-growing Shenzhen. Willers said they learned of plans by the Chinese to build three new large soybean crushing plants in Shenzhen within the next three years. 

Two barbecue recipes from New Ulm have landed in a German cookbook, Fritz Busch of the New Ulm Journal reports. Terry Sveine, manager of the New Ulm Convention and Visitors Bureau, was contacted last November by Stefanie Mller of Ulm, Germany, who worked for Feuer (Fire) & Flamme (Flame), a magazine that was doing a special feature on barbecue cooking that would appear in a major daily newspaper in Ulm. He submitted his mother Lois Sveine’s recipe for ground beef barbecue and a barbecue sauce recipe from Kate Tohal, who got the recipe from a friend, the late Elaine Schwecke, of rural Winthrop. The recipes were sent in English and translated into German by the magazine. Sveine and Tohal were pictured with their recipes in the April edition of Feuer & Flamme.

Here are the recipes: Sveine’s barbecue: Brown 1 pound ground beef in pan on stove, drain fat. Add two small chopped onions, a bit of salt and black pepper, 1 cup ketchup, 1/2 cup mustard, 1/2 cup brown sugar and one can of Campbell’s Chicken Gumbo soup to the mix in pan. Simmer for 15 to 25 minutes. Serve on buns. Schwecke’s barbecue sauce: Mix 1 cup brown sugar, 1 tsp. chili powder, curry powder and one can tomato soup. After mixing ingredients, add 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce, 20 to 30 drops Tabasco sauce, 1/4 cup onion flakes, 1 1/2 cups ketchup, 1/2 to 3/4 cup Heinz 57 Sauce, 1 pint Catalina (french) dressing, 1 quart Western dressing, 1 quart regular flavor Open Pit barbecue sauce.