Willmar Jennie-O plant gets the once-over from OSHA

Wikimedia Commons/Bobak Ha'Eri
Willmar Jennie-O plant

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is visiting Willmar’s Jennie-O Turkey Store processing plant this week after 24 workers began coughing and vomiting last Friday, reports Nicole Hovatter of the West Central Tribune. The employees were taken to Rice Memorial Hospital in seven ambulances and a bus. Wendy Ulferts, chief nursing officer at Rice, said only one of the 24 was admitted overnight. Work at the plant restarted after no presence of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide or ammonia was found. The incident is classified as a catastrophe by OSHA because it involved the hospitalization of more than three employees. OSHA plans to close the inspection within a few months.

Riley Louis Swearingen, 24, of Goldsboro, North Carolina — on leave from the Air Force to attend a friend’s wedding in Mankato — saw a police officer talking to the driver of the “drunk bus” at 2:20 a.m. Saturday and thought it would be hilarious to put one saliva-drenched index finger in each of the officer’s ears in a maneuver commonly known as a “Double Wet Willie.” The story, by Dan Nienaber in the Mankato Free Press, indicates that the police sergeant (who was not identified) turned around and heard Swearingen tell friends “I just gave the cop a wet Willy.” This led to his arrest on felony charges of assaulting a police officer with bodily fluids, as well as fifth-degree assault and disruptive intoxication. Alcohol might have been a factor. Police records show Swearingen’s blood alcohol level was .18, more than twice the legal limit of .08 for driving. Before a judge Monday, an apologetic Swearingen quickly agreed to a deal that would drop the felony charges if he agreed to the misdemeanor charge of disruptive intoxication so he could return to his duties as an air traffic controller at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, North Carolina.

This year’s deer harvest is going to be smaller than previous years, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says in a story picked up by the Brainerd Dispatch. Firearms deer season opens Saturday, Nov. 8, but because hunters can only harvest bucks in some places and fewer antlerless permits were offered, the 2014 harvest will fall significantly from the 170,000 deer harvested in 2013. Leslie McInenly, big game program leader, said the deer harvest may be about 120,000, “a level not reported since the early 1980s.” A one-deer bag limit is in effect over most of the state. The lower harvest reflects not only last year’s rough winter, but also the effectiveness of previous harvests. The DNR says that “with a return of more moderate winter weather, future seasons will not be similarly lean.”

Bemidji State University saw a minor drop in enrollment this year – down 46 students, or .9 percent, reports the Bemidji Pioneer. In 2013, BSU had 4,952 total students. There are 4,906 this year. Enrollment at Northern Technical College dropped by 9.6 percent, from 1,203 to 1,088. Enrollment in MnSCU institutions has dropped by 3.6 percent. The only university experiencing higher enrollment is Southwest State, which grew by 41 total students, or .6 percent.

After a negative cash flow last year, the Rice County Fair made a $25,000 profit this year, reports Camey Thibodeau of the Faribault Daily News. First-year executive director John Dvorak said good weather played a big part, as did splitting up the midway into adult rides on the west end and more kid-friendly rides on the east end. He was pleased with the take from grandstand shows featuring bull riding, enduro races and demolition derby, while lawnmower racing didn’t bring in as many fans.

The Carlton and Wrenshall school districts are considering consolidation, reports Candace Renalls of the Duluth News Tribune. Both school districts face declining enrollments. Carlton currently has a high school and an elementary school building with about 470 students last school year; Wrenshall has one school complex for its elementary and secondary students, with 325 students. 

Mankato Marathon participants didn’t let a thing like a bomb threat stop them from racing, writes Josh Moniz of the Mankato Free Press. Brian Mechler was arrested Saturday on charges of making terroristic threats. Police said Mechler, 56, told dispatchers four bombs had been placed along the marathon route. Mankato police called on the expertise of the drug and explosive sniffing dogs from the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport and swept the marathon route. No threat was found. Even so, organizers added public safety officers as an extra precaution.

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