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Lowest voter turnout in ’14: Winona and Blue Earth counties

Blue Earth County and Winona County regularly see poor voting totals in non-presidential election years due to college voter apathy.

Minnesota’s voter turnout in November was a record-low 51 percent, and Josh Moniz at the Mankato Free Press puts a local spin on the low voter turnout. Blue Earth County had the second lowest participation rate of all of Minnesota’s 87 counties, according to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office. Patty O’Connor, director of Blue Earth County Taxpayer Services, said Blue Earth County and Winona County, which was the lowest ranked county in 2014, regularly see poor voting totals in non-presidential election years due to college voter apathy. In fact, Blue Earth County’s non-student precincts actually saw improved voting totals compared to 2010. Students just don’t care about local elections, she said. The students who do vote in non-presidential years tend to vote absentee in their hometowns.

A rendering barn in Newry Township caught fire Monday morning, causing the deaths of hundreds of hogs, reports Sarah Stultz of the Austin Daily Herald. Dennis Magnuson had 6,000 hogs in three barns. While only one barn caught fire, the best estimate of the number dead is well into the hundreds, said Glen Strom, chief deputy with the Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office.

Over in the Albert Lea Tribune,  Stultz has a story about a tractor-trailer that was leaking anhydrous ammonia in Clarks Grove, forcing the evacuation of 15 homes Monday. The chemical was being delivered to Clarks Grove Fertilizer. No one was injured by the extremely poisonous chemical and residents were allowed back in their homes about two hours later. Ray Hanson, who lives on Second Street near the fertilizer plant and grain elevator, said he was exposed to a whiff of the fumes several years ago when he was working at the plant. After breathing in just a bit of the gas, he “was on the ground gasping for air.”

Dogs and cats in Duluth are an especially illegal lot, according to Peter Passi of the Duluth News Tribune. Duluth requires all dogs and cats within city limits be licensed, and for the past three years the number of pet licenses issued in Duluth has hovered around the 3,000 mark. For a city of Duluth’s size, the American Veterinary Medical Association says there should be about 19,350 pet dogs and 21,130 pet cats. In 2013, the Duluth City Council changed pet-licensing fees and practices to help increase compliance, but that hasn’t happened. Amanda Bruce, a veterinarian and founder of PetCare of Duluth, said “I think people honestly see no reward for licensing a pet in Duluth. It’s viewed as an added expense and a cumbersome process.” The cost of a dog or cat license is $10 for animals that are up to date on shots and either spayed or neutered, versus $25 for noncompliant animals. Pet owners with noncompliant, unlicensed animals that end up in the animal shelter face a recovery fee of $350. The new fee schedule was to pay for physical improvements to the city’s animal shelter, as well as more staffing that would benefit animals. But so far, the city has seen only about $5,000 in additional funds.

Maybe Mothers Against Drunk Driving doesn’t have a lake bureau, but that didn’t stop a 54-year-old Brainerd man from being arrested for DWI while driving on Mille Lacs Lake Sunday, writes the Brainerd Dispatch. Apparently, the man drove on to the ice shortly after midnight and soon was in open water. The Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office said the man was rescued, treated, released and then arrested for DWI and test refusal.

The Northfield School Board is stumped as it tries to find the perpetrators of vandalism to a classroom and office space last weekend at Northfield High School, writes Jerry Smith of the Northfield News. Superintendent Chris Richardson said none of the usual avenues of discovering the vandals have panned out, so the Northfield Police Department recommended the district offer a reward for information about the vandalism. However, for the district to offer a reward, the school board has to adopt a policy allowing rewards to be offered. So that’s what they did Monday night, putting a $500 bounty out for information. The person to call to deliver your information is NPD investigator P.T. Haider at 507-663-9485.

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