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Gas falls below $3 a gallon in Duluth; city sees high number of songbird deaths

ALSO: Mower County crops look good; Bemidji student appears in U.N. video; Brainerd family searches for missing teen daughter; and more.

Drivers are seeing the lowest gas prices since 2010.

The price of unleaded gas has dropped below $3 a gallon at several stations in Duluth, the News Tribune reports. “If everything goes smoothly, buying gas for less than $3 per gallon should be refreshingly common in many parts of the country this winter,” Avery Ash, AAA director of federal relations, told the newspaper. AAA says the national average was $3.29 a gallon on Monday but prices of less than $3 could be found in at least 26 states. Generally, drivers are seeing the lowest gas prices since 2010, the organization said. Plus, fracking the guts out of North Dakota and Texas, combined with the lack of a major hurricane last season and so far this season, has helped keep prices down.

So you think everything is peaches and cream? You’re WRONG! Sam Cook up in Duluth reports that high winds are causing a high mortality rate among migrating songbirds. That’s right – “at least 68 songbirds have been killed after flying into windows in the Duluth area recently, including nearly 50 at the Duluth International Airport,” Cook writes, ghoulishly adding that “many more migrating birds probably have been killed in collisions with cars in Duluth and along Minnesota Highway 61. … Why are so many in Duluth? “Counters at Duluth’s Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory reported counting more than 65,000 migrating nonraptors — most of them songbirds such as robins, warblers and sparrows — from Friday through Sunday. The birds were pushed toward Lake Superior by strong northwesterly winds. To avoid flying over the lake, the birds follow the North Shore toward Duluth before continuing their migrations to Mexico, Central America and South America.”

Mower County farmers are expecting to begin harvesting a bumper crop this week, writes Eric Johnson of the Austin Daily Herald. “We’re looking at a pretty good crop coming in. … Overall, it looks like as good a crop as the last three to four years,” said Lyle area farmer Ron Frank, who has corn and soybeans. The crop may be good, but prices are down thanks to what will likely be a record harvest in some other states. “It’s going to hammer us,” Grand Meadow farmer Marlin Fay said.

A two-minute video shown to world leaders at a recent United Nations summit in New York featured a cameo from Bemidji State University student Rachel Munson, writes Maggi Stivers of the Bemidji Pioneer. The video asked people to submit their answers to the question, “What kind of world do you want to live in by 2030?” The video project was conducted by ONE, which Stivers describes as a global organization of activists and advocates working to raise awareness of poverty and preventable diseases. Munson is president of the ONE Campus Challenge on the BSU campus and she wants to focus attention on poverty in Beltrami County. 

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Speaking of the homeless in Bemidji, the City Council took up the issue Monday after two homeless people died recently, reports Zach Kayser of the Pioneer. The city hopes to work with Mike Bredon, the chair of the Nameless Coalition for the Homeless, and may build an emergency shelter at the west end of the rail corridor.  “We can do a lot more than we’re doing,” Bredon said.

About 10 days ago, Brandie Joel, 17, left her home in Brainerd en route to a friend’s house where she planned to spend the night. Now she is missing, reports Renee Richardson of the Brainerd Dispatch. Her friends say instead of going to the girlfriend’s house, Brandie got into a white car with two other girls. She reportedly stayed at a different friend’s house and then was dropped off at Brainerd Cub Foods the next day where she was seen at about 4 p.m. Her last Snapchat post was that same day, in which she wrote “I majorly (expletive) up and I don’t know what to do.” Her family says Brandie’s mood was upbeat despite going through a break-up, recently being fired from her job, learning she has to undergo another surgery to her injured knee and having started ADHD medication earlier that week. They said she had goals for school and was meeting them. Brandie Joel has blue eyes and long medium blond hair. She is 5-feet-10, 160 pounds and wears glasses. She may be walking with a limp. Anyone with information can call the Brainerd Police Department at 218-829-2805.

North Mankato needs to triple its road maintenance budget, city officials learned Monday. Dan Linehan of the Mankato Free Press writes that city engineer Dan Sarff recommends about $3 million in new spending on road maintenance over the next five or seven years.  The seven-year plan would call for increasing the streets maintenance from this year’s budgeted amount of $152,000 to $564,000. The higher amount could begin in 2016 and run through 2022. After that, spending would level out at $386,000 a year through 2027. Much of the money would be spent on mill and overlay. The council did not address where it would get the money for the road works.