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Bridge repair done; I-35 in Duluth to reopen

ALSO: Bemidji man remembers Pearl Harbor; holiday train is coming to Winona; Lyon County to opt out of library cooperative; and more.

Southbound Interstate 35 will reopen in Duluth by Wednesday morning.

After having been closed since Nov. 18 because of a deteriorated bridge support, southbound Interstate 35 will reopen in Duluth by Wednesday morning, writes Nolan Peterson of the Duluth News Tribune. The work on the low bridge from Mesaba Avenue to near 21st Avenue West is ahead of schedule “in part because of overestimating the contractor’s work schedule, and because of the contractor’s quick work,” Peterson writes. The corroded steel on the bridge support was reinforced with a concrete collar to transfer the weight of the road more effectively. Peterson adds, “The corroded support might have been only the tip of the iceberg. With about 1,300 pilings on this section of Interstate 35, the possibility of other degraded supports is something that will be addressed in the warmer months, said Duane Hill, chief district engineer for the Minnesota Department of Transportation.”

Zach Kayser of the Bemidji Pioneer spent some time with Bruce Atwater, a local who was at Pearl Harbor on that fateful Dec. 7, 1941. A Coast Guardsman, Atwater was sweeping out an officer’s recreation hall when he heard the roar of Japanese planes overhead. He ran outside and watched the U.S.S. Oklahoma overturn and the U.S.S. Arizona explode. All servicemen were ordered to remain at their posts, so Atwater could do nothing but watch. That night, fearing the Japanese would follow with a land invasion, Atwater and other Guardsmen were handed rifles and ammunition to fend off the troops that never came. The next day, they discovered their weapons were still covered in cosmoline rust-preventive gel. “If you’d have fired them, you’d have blown your head off,” Atwater said. 

The annual, adorable Canadian Pacific Holiday Train is arriving in Winona this week, writes Tesla Rodriguez of the Winona Daily News.  At each stop, the train accepts donations of cash and food for food shelves in the U.S. and Canada and in return offers a half-hour free music show. Since 1999, the Holiday Train has collected about 3 million pounds of food and $7.4 million in donations. In 2011, the Winona Food Shelf provided food to about 963 local families, said Winona Volunteer Services Director Sandra Burke. In 2001, the number was 300. “Demand is still at what I would call our record levels,” Burke said.

In an unusual move, Lyon County is leaving the Plum Creek regional library system, writes Deb Gau of the Marshall Independent. Plum Creek provides interlibrary loans and computer catalog systems to 24 public libraries in a nine-county area. Lyon County Commissioner Mark Goodenow, longtime Lyon County representative on the Plum Creek governing board, said issues have been brewing for years. In July, Plum Creek voted to halt interlibrary loan services to the Marshall-Lyon County Library over how long the Marshall-Lyon County Library was allowed to keep new library materials before sharing them. Goodenow said other issues include the lack of independence for individual libraries, “excessive” spending on Plum Creek administrative overhead, dissatisfaction with the computerized automation system and Plum Creek’s setting fees for services based on a library’s ability to pay instead of the actual cost. If Marshall-Lyon County is no longer a part of the regional library system, it would lose interlibrary loan services and computer catalog services provided by Plum Creek. The Plum Creek system would also lose the state funding that goes along with Lyon County’s membership. The commissioners’ decision affects not only the Marshall-Lyon County Library in Marshall but also the Minneota and Tracy libraries.

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When Jesse Thorstad, a technology specialist at Fergus Falls High, came across a computer program that helps children learn how to build a computer program, he thought it would be a good idea to offer it as a club at Cleveland Elementary, writes Chris Reinoos of the Fergus Falls Journal. He just wasn’t sure how many students would show up. He was overwhelmed when 60 students showed up. The program, Tynker, allows students to drag and drop blocks of code to make characters on the screen talk or move. Thorstad said the students took to the program quickly, which has encouraged Thorstad about the future of computing programming in the city’s school system. He knows that getting students involved in programming this early will help them in the long run, but he is also confident there are more students already doing this kind of work than might be known. “I think there is a segment of our student population that is super tech-savvy and into this kind of thing,” Thorstad said.

Thanks to increased dividends from Hormel Foods Corp., The Hormel Foundation will give more than $6.1 million to about 28 Austin-area organizations in 2014, writes Trey Mewes of the Austin Daily Herald. Part of the money will go to a $27 million expansion of the Hormel Institute that will add 15 labs and about 100 jobs to Austin. Other area organizations that have received money from the Hormel Foundation include the Austin Area Foundation; Austin Community Scholarship Committee; Austin Public Schools, Cedar Valley Services Inc.; City of Austin; Mayo Clinic Health System — Austin; the Salvation Army; The Hormel Institute; United Way of Mower County; and MCA of Austin. Through 2013, the Foundation has given $98 million to the Austin area since 1941, and doesn’t include the $16.7 million given to the Hormel Institute’s 2008 expansion/renovation project nor the $3 million, 17,000-square-foot child-care center next to Riverland Community College’s west campus facility, which opened in June.