Transportation funding gap looms, Zelle says in Marshall

MinnPost file photo by James Nord
Zelle says that during the next 20 years, there will be a $50 billion gap between available funding and what is needed to grow, improve and maintain transportation infrastructure.

Charles Zelle, the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Transportation, was in Marshall to stump for more money for state roads. Deb Gau of the Marshall Independent writes that the presentation was in front of businesspeople, members of the Marshall Area Transportation Group, and local lawmakers, including a GOP and a DFL senator. The gist: The “Transportation Finance Advisory Committee estimates that during the next 20 years, there will be a $50 billion gap between available funding and what is needed to grow, improve and maintain transportation infrastructure,” Gau wrote. That’s a lot, but it includes all transportation like air traffic and railroads. What if you just want to drive your car? “For roads and bridges alone, the gap would be closer to $12 billion. Of that $12 billion, [Zelle] said, $5 billion would represent the cost to maintain and repair existing roads and bridges,” she wrote. Zelle said there have been some positive developments, like last session’s allocation of $300 million for the Corridors of Commerce program, which helps keep open the roads that are vital to economic growth. Zelle added, somewhat unnecessarily, that for a state to maintain a decent return on transportation investment, “it has to be more than one corridor.”

A science teacher at St. Peter High School is in trouble. Here’s a distillation of Dan Nienaber’s article in the Mankato Free Press: Robert Shoemaker was presenting a slide show in his ecology class several weeks ago. A student, identified as K.B.M. and who was 17 at the time, was tired and ill so he put his head on his desk. Shoemaker hit the kid in the head with a backpack (high school staff later weighed the backpack and it came in at 11 pounds). Shoemaker then yelled at the student, asking him if he was a leader in football and wrestling, why wasn’t he a leader in the classroom? After class, Shoemaker apologized to the student. K.B.M. later went to the hospital emergency room with a headache and a fever. He was treated for a bruise on his neck and released. Shoemaker is charged with gross misdemeanor malicious punishment of a child and misdemeanor fifth-degree assault, and is scheduled to make his first court appearance Nov. 19. Some details on Shoemaker, 53: He’s been at St. Peter since 1993. The superintendent said he doesn’t remember any disciplinary actions against Shoemaker, who received the Science Teacher of the Year award from the Minnesota Science Teachers Association in 2005. He has a master’s degree in biology from Bemidji State University and also teaches education classes at Gustavus Adolphus College, according to his biography on the St. Peter High School website.

Over in Red Wing, some parents are angry that the school has suspended 14 students for defacing the high school, writes Brett Boese of the Rochester Post-Bulletin. Here’s what happened: Fearing a reprise of the embarrassing debacle of 2010’s “Wangster Wednesday” dress-up day (the event carried racial overtones; the district was sued and settled in 2012 for $90,000), Red Wing High School first put the kibosh on a Sept. 11 commemoration, then on a “’Merica Monday” dress-up day. The administration instead approved a National Pride Day for Oct. 7. According to Boese, before Oct. 7, “students ‘decorated’ the high school building by writing patriotic words with chalk on the sidewalk; planting mini American flags in the grass near the main doors; filling nearby trees with red, white and blue streamers; and writing ‘Merica,’ ‘9/11 Never Forget’ and other similar sayings on the building’s doors and windows with washable chalk. Almost everything was cleaned up by district staff before students arrived for class. However, some of the writing that was done on the doors was unable to be removed. The district has sought repair estimates from professionals and Red Wing Superintendent Karsten Anderson said Friday that it’s expected to cost around $1,400.” The 14 students were suspended. Now their parents are asking the school board to reverse the suspensions because it’s the first suspension for the students, many of whom are National Honor Society members, active in school groups, and are athletes who missed homecoming competitions. Here’s the response from Heidi Jones, Red Wing School Board’s president: “We’re parents, many of us ourselves, and we understand the difficulty, but our job here tonight is to receive your concerns and put them back in the administration’s hands.” Anderson, the superintendent, said he would review the information and may adjust the punishments. 

American Crystal Sugar is having a tough time paying its bills, writes Dave Olson of the Fargo Forum. The company, which locked out union workers in 2011 and hired “replacement workers” to work in their factories in their stead, now is telling growers the checks they will get for the crop just harvested will be much smaller than the checks they received after last year’s harvest – specifically, $38 per ton compared to the $68.41 per ton last year, CEO Dave Berg said in a phone interview Monday. Berg says there’s an oversupply of sugar on the market, and he places the blame squarely at the feet of the North American Free Trade Agreement. 

It’s a big deal when a new bishop is installed, and folks in the St. Cloud area have been working for more than a year to prepare for Thursday’s installation of Donald Kettler as the ninth bishop of the diocese. The invitation-only Mass will be at 2 p.m. Thursday at the Cathedral of St. Mary in St. Cloud, writes Frank Lee of the St. Cloud Daily Times. Kettler replaces Bishop John F. Kinney, who announced his retirement last year. Kettler is a Minneapolis native who graduated from St. John’s University and Seminary. Cardinals, archbishops and as many as 20 bishops have been invited, along with his family, friends and parishioners from the dioceses of Fairbanks, Alaska, and Sioux Falls, S.D., where Kettler served. Preparations involve staging plans, refurbishing the Cathedral, designing and sewing garments for the event and writing special music. 

Winona’s venerable watering hole Cheater’s Bar, home of the Fish Bowl – a drink served in a fish bowl – has a new manager and a new name that hopefully will draw a new clientele, writes Tesla Rodriguez of the Winona Daily News. Now known as the Mason Jar, “we’re moving onto a slightly older crowd,” new manager Jacob Warner told the Winona City Council after they gave the OK to change the name on their liquor license. The new place will have a change in lighting and seating and, in this unfortunately worded phrase, “have added new restrooms on top of different beer.” They’re getting rid of the Fish Bowl drinks so as not to encourage binge drinking, putting a different focus on the back-room dance floor so it’s not seen as simply a night club, and removing one of the two private corner booths which features a metal pole placed in the middle.

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