Ice-out day for fishing houses is usually March 21 in the northern half of Minnesota and March 7 in the southern half, so anglers need to spend some quality time with their augers and lines. Kyle Farris of the Bemidji Pioneer writes that a warm couple of weeks has made ice fishing a bit troublesome this winter, but the ice is still thick enough, according to Gary Barnard, Bemidji-area fishery supervisor for the Minnesota DNR. “There’s still some pretty good ice conditions. Snow depth is pretty good yet. Sometimes you get a lot of snow and a lot of flooding, but this year has been good.”
The Brainerd Dispatch did a quick look at local gun carry permits. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety reported last month that 221,712 gun carry permits have been issued in the state. DPS saw a surge of applications after the San Bernardino, California, killings, although one guns rights activist says there’s a surge any time there’s a call for firearms restrictions. The top five counties for permits issued were the logical ones: Hennepin, Anoka, Dakota, Ramsey and St. Louis. In the Brainerd area, the county numbers look like this: Aitkin, 205 permits issued; Cass, 452; Crow Wing, 953; Mille Lacs, 284; Morrison, 359; Todd, 303; Wadena, 145.
When the Dodge County courthouse in Mantorville was remodeled, it gave officials the chance to bring the courthouse weapons screening program up to snuff. Hannah Yang of the Rochester Post-Bulletin writes that 13 years ago, Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lori Gildea issued standards for court security – standards that Dodge County couldn’t afford to meet. Counties were to provide a written court security plan, create a court security committee and implement weapons screening. “Here in Dodge County, we had none of these,” Dodge County Sheriff Scott Rose said. But with the courthouse remodel, the weapons screening program has come into effect along with the other two requirements. The sheriff’s office even added one full-time sergeant to supervise the screening area along with a handful of part-time deputies. Rose said a small community like Dodge County is just as susceptible to violence as a populated county like Hennepin. “The threats are still here, and with a growing anti-law enforcement movement throughout the country, court security has increasingly become a bigger concern,” Rose said.
High school graduation rates rose for the third straight year in the St. Cloud area. That’s good news, writes Kevin Allenspach of the St. Cloud Daily Times. According to the state, 72.03 percent of the 2015 graduating class in St. Cloud graduated, up from 71.58 percent in 2014 and 70.4 percent in 2013. At Apollo, 86 percent of students graduated. The state average is 81.9 percent. In Central Minnesota, Upsala graduated all 38 members of its class last year, while Sartell-St. Stephen graduated 257 of 259 students. While the statewide graduation gap between white and non-hite students has narrowed, it still stands at 87 percent of white students graduated compared to 68 percent for students of color.
The graduation stats were similar in Duluth. Jana Hollingsworth of the Duluth News-Tribune writes that the Duluth school district’s graduation rate increased slightly to 77.5 percent in 2015. The graduation rate for black students rose slightly to 47 percent, although the gap between black and white students grew because more white students graduated as well. The Native American graduation rate fell from nearly 49 percent to 32 percent, back to where it was in 2013. “We have more work to do,” said Amy Starzecki, district assistant superintendent. Duluth East has a 2015 graduation rate of 94.5 percent; Denfeld was at 75 percent. Meanwhile, Hermantown was at 95.8 percent; Proctor at 89.8 percent; Lake Superior was 93.5 percent; Cloquet was at 92 percent and Esko was at 96.2 percent.
So you’ve just spent $700 million for a peanut butter brand. What do you do next? Find new ways to sell peanut butter, of course, and that’s exactly what Hormel is doing. Jason Schoonover of the Austin Daily Herald reports that, after having been given marching orders to find ways to “take peanut butter out of the jar,” a new ad campaign for Skippy P.B. Bites has been launched. Hormel Foods bought Skippy in 2013 for about $700 million. Almost immediately, Hormel CEO Jeffrey Ettinger challenged Skippy to find new ways to sell the product and officials “very quickly came up with the idea of portable peanut butter,” said Skippy brand manager Mike Guanella. P.B. Bites come in pretzel and double peanut butter flavors. “We recognize the growing demand for single-portion, portable snacks and the role that peanut butter plays in the snacking world,” Guanella said in a press release. “As a convenient, fun and nutritious snack option, Skippy P.B. Bites were created to meet this demand and satisfy the snacking needs of peanut butter-loving consumers, anywhere, anytime.” Suggested retail price: $2.89 to $3.19.
Bald Eagle Appreciation Days will be this weekend in Prairie du Chien, reports Mike Tighe of the Winona Daily News. But the stars of the show might be hard to spot. The warm winter has allowed eagles to spread farther afield to find prey and not be forced to congregate around open water on the Mississippi River, eagle experts say. “We haven’t seen as big of numbers, because it’s such an off kind of winter, and they weren’t forced to migrate here,” said Anna Christenson, a naturalist at the National Eagle Center in Wabasha. In past years, staffers saw so many eagles that they quit counting. There are still plenty of eagles, just not as many, she said.
If you’re in the Brainerd/Baxter area, be aware of an injured wolf, experts say. The Brainerd Dispatch says police are not tracking the wolf, but the DNR has been advised that there is an injured wolf in the area. “I would advise the public to stay away from it, and call police if they see it,” Baxter Assistant Police Chief Russ Wicklund said. Sixth-grader Lexi McElfresh took photographs after she saw the wolf around 8 a.m. Monday on her way to school. She said it was limping and injured.
Willmar students did their best to help 14-year-old Mackanzie Chan before she died after a two-year battle with cancer. Linda Vanderwerf of the West Central Tribune reports that Mackanzie said her only regrets were not graduating from high school and going to prom. Before the Willmar Middle School eighth-grader died Feb. 14, the district presented her with a Willmar Senior High School diploma to certify she had completed the requirements of eighth grade. And although she was too weak to try them on, her friends rounded up prom dresses and brought them to her house. Last year, her classmates had helped her check off another wish — Mackanzie and her family met Carrie Underwood at her State Fair concert.
Moorhead’s Human Rights Commission is having some personnel problems – specifically, not enough people want to serve on the commission. Adrian Glass-Moore of the Moorhead Forum reports that the commission has only four of its 11 seats filled. Former member Heidi Uecker quit last year after a black business owner claimed discrimination when the city denied him a tobacco license, but the city said the license was denied because his hookah shop drew an unruly crowd. Commission member Nate Aalgaard said the problem is a lack of committed members and focus on the commission. The city council is considering removing the commission’s ability to resolve discrimination allegations; reducing membership from 11 to seven; offering training on open meetings law; specifying four annual activities for the commission to lead; and removing the requirement that the commission represent people from various protected classes.
No one was injured when fire ripped through Rollingstone Saturday morning, but the popular Legends Sports Bar and Grill was a total loss. Glen Olson of the Winona Daily News wrote that the popular watering hole has been the center of Rollingstone for decades. The bar was built as a hotel and bank in the late 1800s. The building was a total loss, and the owners, Andy and Jessica Kreidermacher, said Monday they haven’t had a chance yet to even fully process the loss. “It’s way too soon to know what we’re going to do there,” Kreidermacher said. There was also significant damage to the side of the carwash next door. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.