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Bur oak blight moves into Stearns County

ALSO: Zombie film director struggles with details; MSU website was pranked, not hacked; PM Beef in Windom will close; and more.

Burr oak blight doesn’t directly kill the tree; it insidiously weakens the host until it is susceptible to stressors.

BOB has arrived in Stearns County. Bur oak blight is a native disease, and Ann Wessel of the St. Cloud Daily Times writes that while it doesn’t directly kill the tree, it insidiously weakens the host until it is susceptible to stressors like two-lined chestnut borer attacks. Brian Schwingle with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says St. Cloud and Albert Lea are the most heavily affected areas in the state. He said BOB-infected trees are noticeable this time of year because once trees drop their leaves, BOB-affected oaks retain dead leaves that hang on into winter.

The message out of Owatonna is simple: If you’re going to film zombies, you have to provide some details. Local filmmaker Hamid Torabpour went to the cty council for permission to shoot several scenes for his movie “Zombies” in and around Central Park on Saturday and Sunday. William Morris of the Owatonna People’s Press reports that Torabpour initially planned to bring 500 cast and crew downtown and block off five streets for the weekend. The filmmaker, however, couldn’t provide the city with adequate proof of insurance, especially regarding prop vehicles (he wasn’t sure how many cars would be used) and prop weapons (he planned to fire off about 20 blanks). After several meetings with Torabpour, the city council said he has to provide answers to their specific questions or shoot his zombie movie somewhere else.

Screenshots circulated across social media Monday showing Minnesota State University-Mankato’s website was taken over by hackers, but the university says it was just a gag created via screenshots and Photoshop and the website was secure, reports the Mankato Free Press. Apparently, the pranksters suggested MSU students “bond over bottles of subpar liquor and awful hangovers.”

The last beef processing plant in southwestern Minnesota is closing. Windom’s PM Beef, with 262 employees, will stop operations on Dec. 11, reports Julie Buntjer of the Worthington Daily Globe. In addition to losing employee income, Windom City Administrator Steve Nasby said PM Beef accounted for 39 percent of the city’s wastewater revenues and 23 percent of its sewer revenues. While it paid $92,000 in 2013 property taxes, it was under a Tax Increment Financing district which rebated $80,000. In 2013, the processing plant accounted for approximately 4.6 percent of the city’s net tax capacity.

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Former Minnesota Twins stalwart Al Newman is joining the coaching staff of the St. Cloud Rox, the team announced Monday. Mitchell Hansen of the St. Cloud Times writes that Newman will be joining Rox manager Augie Rodriguez and assistant coach Phil Imholte. Newman, 55, played for the Montreal Expos (1985-86), the Twins (1985-91, including the Twins’ 1987 and 1991 World Series Championship teams) and the Texas Rangers (1992). After retiring as a player, Newman managed the New Britain Rock Cats and was bench coach for the Salt Lake City Buzz. From 2002 to 2005, Newman was third base coach for the Twins. He most recently managed the Alexandria Blue Anchors in the Northwoods League from 2013 to 2015.

Success breeds success, unless there’s too much success, which then breeds failure. Or so goes the equation for the Rice County Fair, which had a fantastic year in 2014 in which it made a profit of $25,000. After years of financial losses, the windfall last year couldn’t be sustained, reports Kevin Krein of the Faribault Daily News. Rice County Fair Executive Director John Dvorak says that this year’s fair will break even or lose money by several thousand dollars. He said part of the reason for the deficit is that the fair reinvested in the grounds, including running a sewer line for the hand washing station by the petting zoo and new flooring in the bathrooms in the commercial building, and purchased several new computers.

Parents in Faribault are upset about lunch times at the middle school, reports Brittney Neset of the Daily News. Lunch at Faribault Middle School starts as early as 10 a.m. The school has six lunch periods, which requires students to eat as early as 10 a.m. or as late as 12:25 p.m. FMS Assistant Principal Angi McAndrews said the school used to have three lunch periods, but that meant 300 students were crammed into the lunchroom at one time, so they spread the lunch schedule out. Parents are angry: Karen Blackstad says her daughter would come home and “eat a whole meal after school,” said Blackstad. Athletes don’t like it either. Seventh-grade football player John Palmer says there’s no time between the end of school and the beginning of practice to eat. “We eat so early, and then we’re hungry for the rest of the day,” he said.