Municipal liquor stores making good money, keeping cities in the black
Liquor Hutch in Hutchinson, Minn.

Municipal liquor stores are keeping local communities well-stocked with both cash and booze. John Myers of the Duluth News Tribune localizes the Minnesota Auditor’s Office report on city-owned liquor operations. “Of the 207 city-owned operations statewide, 25 lost money in 2012. In the Northland, Winton (population 170, just outside Ely) saw the only loss, listed at $21,537. Annual sales ranged from as little as $92,000 in the small community of Canton to $15.2 million in suburban Lakeville. … Grand Marais showed a $274,635 profit from its off-sale liquor operations in 2012, with $200,000 of that going to help pay for city services and needs. Hinckley showed a $207,000 profit, Two Harbors $146,000. Cromwell saw a $58,000 profit, with $50,000 of that going into other city funds.”

Myers isolated how Cook handles profits from its muni: In past years they have banked profits and decided to use some of that money. “Cook saw a profit of $147,000 on its liquor store operation. But it transferred $591,000 out of its growing liquor store account to help pay for other city efforts in 2012. Theresa Martinson, Cook’s clerk, treasurer and administrator, said Cook had allowed its liquor fund to build up, and city leaders elected to use it in 2012 to help offset other projects, especially the city’s utility fund, which had drifted into the red. Cook, a city of 574 people about 25 miles north of Virginia, is struggling to keep municipal services up as population sags and costs increase, Martinson said. One of the few bright spots has been profits from the liquor store, located along the busy U.S. Highway 53 corridor for anglers, snowmobilers and tourists to Lake Vermilion and points north. ‘Cook survives because of the revenue we get off that liquor store,’ Martinson told the News Tribune. ‘On one hand, you don’t want to encourage a lot of drinking. But that (liquor) fund really helps keep us providing services without constantly raising taxes on our residents.’ ”

Speaking of localizing a larger issue, Matt Peterson of the Albert Lea Tribune took a look at the dearth of propane in southern Minnesota. “The shortage of propane in the Midwest has driven prices to astonishing record highs, and the price keeps climbing. A week ago, as the price neared $2 per gallon, there was cause for concern. However, when the price went well above $2, it was higher than some had ever seen. ‘I was at $2.54 this morning, which is an ungodly price,’ said Randy Stephenson, manager of Dexter Elevator in Dexter. Later that day, the price had risen again, to $2.79. Wednesday, it reached $3.98. Thursday: past $4. Friday: $5.09. … Steve Jones, who delivers propane for Dexter Elevator, said customers don’t have much for options. It’s either get propane, or freeze. 

Meanwhile, Nathan Hansen of the Winona Daily News took the long view. In addition to offering information about energy assistance, Minnesota Propane Association Executive Director Roger Leider gave him an overview of why the shortage has occurred: “Supplies have been low since spring, as a cold and wet start to the year kept drawing on reserves. And additional demand spikes, from this fall’s crop-drying season to the abnormally cold winter, have kept those reserves from building up, as has the closure of a major pipeline that supplies propane to Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa from Nov. 28 to Dec. 18.  

Down in Worthington, Julie Buntjer of the Worthington Daily Globe sought out tips on how to care for animals in the cold. Calves at the Christy Enterprises dairy farm south of Worthington are wearing Thinsulate coats snapped around the calf’s chest, stomach and legs, and are adjustable so, as the calf grows, the coat can be loosened. DiDi Christopherson said the dairy has “added extra bedding and extra feedings to keep their energy levels up. We had 50-below windchill and they’d jump up and run outside to eat.” Sara Barber, a large animal veterinarian at the Veterinary Medical Center in Worthington, said she hasn’t seen many sick animals – yet.

As far as small-animal care, Buntjer talked to Sara Hooge, a vet at the Veterinary Medical Center in Worthington. She said “the biggest issue with pets this winter has been foot pad dryness or damage in dogs that spend either part or all of their time outdoors. Salt sprinkled on sidewalks and scattered on streets can also compromise a pet’s feet. ‘Most dogs that are out regularly will gradually get used to the colder temperatures. But if they’re not used to the cold weather they will be more susceptible to hypothermia and foot pad damage. … If you put a chihuahua out with below zero temperatures, it would not do well. But a husky used to being outside might be playing happily,” Hooge said. … She also encourages pet owners to provide their animals with good quality feed (fat, protein and carbohydrate content) and plenty of fresh water.”

St. Cloud police are generally happy with the year-end data on calls for 2013, writes David Unze of the St. Cloud Daily Times. However, there was a spike in suicide calls. “Calls for someone threatening to kill themselves rose to 508, up from 443 in 2012 and 373 in 2011. ‘That one jumps out at me,’ said Police Chief Blair Anderson … ‘When I read my logs, several times a week we are placing people on 72-hour holds or taking calls of suicidal people threatening to harm themselves.” Unze writes, “Medical emergency calls to police continue to decline. Police responded to 759 such calls in 2013, down from 863 a year earlier and 1,024 in 2011. That drop is because firefighters are responding to more medical calls, Anderson said. Calls reporting sexual assaults fell from 131 in 2012 to 105 last year. Calls reporting shoplifting rose significantly, from 358 a year ago to 602 in 2013.”

The Bemidji Pioneer compiled a list of who’s going to the State of the Union speech as guests of Minnesota’s Congressional delegation. Rep. Rick Nolan has invited Carri Jones, chairwoman of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. In an unusual move, Rep. Collin Peterson gave his guest spot to Nolan, who will also be taking Melanie Benjamin, chief executive of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. “Sen. Al Franken will host Erick Ajax, vice president and co-owner of E.J. Ajax and Sons, a Minneapolis-based metal-stamping company. Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s guest is Mayo Clinic CEO Dr. John Noseworthy,” says the article, which includes several other guests of the delegation.  

About 800 students competed in last weekend’s Schwan Speech Spectacular in Marshall. They represented 34 schools from five states, writes Karin Elton of the Marshall Independent. Students such as Becca Klein, a junior at Marshall High, compete to gain self-confidence. She is performing a dramatic duo titled “Criminal Hearts” with her friend, Jessica Blanchard, who is participating for the third year. Blanchard said speech helps build confidence. “It’s a lot easier to get up to talk in class,” she said. The young women were not enthralled with the high heels they needed to wear during the competition. “My feet are numb,” Klein said. “I could never wear these full time.”

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