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Cryptic report released on Worthington Police Department

In a heavily redacted workplace assessment, a minority of employees at the Worthington Police Department said they feel excluded, dissatisfied and bullied, and that they are exposed to too much religion and influence from elected officials. Reported complaints also included “unnecessary drama, lack of face-to-face communications and people who grumble and enjoy conflict,” writes Aaron Hagen of the Worthington Daily Globe.   He writes that city officials became aware of the dissatisfaction among a group of police employees and hired a Buffalo, Minn., firm to conduct a workplace assessment. Large parts of the report were redacted to protect the identities of the respondents, but from what Hagen could read, a majority of department employees are happy with their jobs and the department while a minority cited “bullying and yelling,” elected officials undermining department activities, too much exposure to religious practices and a lack of face-to-face communication. The city will use the report to change practices within the department, Hagan writes.

There’s one key ingredient to pheasant hunting that is currently under siege: land. John Weiss of the Rochester Post-Bulletin writes that because of high crop prices, farmers are not re-enrolling their land in the CRP program that pays them to plant grass and let the land idle. Also, high crop prices are driving up the cost of land, making it more difficult for groups like Pheasants Forever to use Legacy Amendment funds to buy land for hunting. As a result, pheasant numbers are dropping.  “The August roadside count by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources showed pheasant numbers are down 29 percent statewide from last year, 64 percent below the 10-year average and 72 percent below the long-term average,” he writes. “Hunters are expected to kill about 246,000 roosters this fall, down 44,000 from last year’s estimate … The record harvest was 1.5 million pheasants about 50 years ago.” While the situation might seem gloomy, experts say the Legacy Amendment puts Minnesota in excellent shape to weather this downturn and keep the pheasant portion of the state’s $121 million hunting business intact.

In an unusual move, the Willmar School Board split its vote 4-3 when it decided to offer Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard a new two-year contract, writes Linda Vanderwerf of the West Central Tribune. Usually, these votes are slam-dunks either to approve or remove the superintendent. Before the vote, board chair Nathan Streed, who voted in favor of Kjergaard’s renewal, released a report that listed Kjergaard’s accomplishments, “including changes in the elementary schools, and adoption of broad iPad use in the district. The report listed several strengths including his knowledge and experience, as well as the strength of his administrative team. The report he released did not list anything labeled a weakness.” Kjergaard had received unanimous votes upon his hiring in 2008 and at his subsequent three-year contract renewal. Two of the members who voted against the renewal cited low employee morale and lack of staff appreciation. The third said simply it was time for new blood who could work within a diverse district and raise test scores.

A kayaker who has been missing after friends watched him go under water in the swollen Minnesota River in May has been declared legally dead, reports Fritz Busch of the New Ulm Journal. “According to court documents, Stephen Fritze struck a tree in the river and fell into the water while kayaking with two other Watertown, S.D., men. The other kayakers tried to reach Fritze, getting close enough for him to grab their kayak before it hit a tree, causing Fritze to lose his grip. He was last seen reaching for a tree branch in the rushing river,” Busch writes. A petition was filed last month to have Stephen Fritze legally declared dead from drowning. He taught world history for 27 years at a Watertown, S.D., Lutheran school while acting as the school’s athletic director and boy’s basketball coach.

Winona may be the first city in the state to monitor frac sand levels in the air, writes Mary Juhl of the Winona Daily News. “The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has offered to set up one air-quality monitoring station with the goal of learning more about frac sand that may be present in the ambient air near truck routes,” she wrote. The MPCA will pay for the equipment, its operation and the analysis of the data, with city staff overseeing routine maintenance. According to the MPCA, the single air-quality monitoring station will cost about $60,000. “We’ve been trying for a couple years to get this,” Winona resident Margaret Walsh said. “If it’s not a hazard, that’s great, but people need to know if it’s a hazard or not,” she added.

The Marshall Independent is reporting that former Nestle executive Dimitrios Smyrnios is the new chief executive officer of the Schwan Food Co., replacing Gregory Flack. Smyrnios started his career in sales and marketing with the Frito-Lay division at PepsiCo. He joined Nestle in 1993 and was eventually named executive vice president and general manager of the Nestle Waters Home & Office Division and the Retail Division. He spent the last year with Nestle Dryer’s Ice Cream Division as president.

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