Madelians support town’s destroyed businesses

Support is pouring in to businesses destroyed in last week’s fire in Madelia. Nancy Madsen of the Mankato Free Press reports that the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation had raised more than $60,000, four GoFundMe pages have raised about $20,000, and Pioneer Bank will contribute $50,000 to relief efforts, $4,000 to specific relief efforts and make $35,000 available in interest-free loans for new or reopening businesses in Madelia. The Madelia Hotel said any business harmed by the fire that needs Internet access can use a business room at the hotel.

Meanwhile, one of the businesses lost in last week’s fire won’t have to miss one of its busiest days of the year. Hope and Faith Floral and Gift will open across the street in time for Valentine’s Day weekend. Lisa Visher said suppliers Len Busch Roses of Plymouth and Syndicate Sales of Kokomo, Indiana, will donate everything needed to be open Feb. 12-14. “It’s unbelievable,” she told Madsen in the Free Press.

Dan Volbert of Chaska won the big prize after pulling up a 5.33-pound walleye at the Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza Saturday on Gull Lake’s Hole-in-the-Day Bay near Nisswa. Michael Johnson of the Brainerd Dispatch reports that Volbert was using a Rattlin’ Rapala ice fishing lure in 5.8 feet of water. Volbert won a GMC truck from Mills Automotive Group. More than 9,000 anglers from as far away as Italy registered 980 fish through the three-hour contest. The event offers $200,000 in prizes and all proceeds go to charities in the Brainerd lakes area.

Hormel Foods may donate Ramsey Dam to the city of Austin, a move that fits in neatly with the city’s plans to improve recreational opportunities around Ramsey Mill Pond. The Austin Daily Herald reports that the city council gave Public Works Director Steve Lang approval to move forward on the project. Hormel bought the dam in the 1970s to bring water to its plant, but now the company buys water from Austin Utilities. A recent study by Hormel said the dam needs structural improvements, although Lang told the council it’s in good condition for its age.

Even though Concordia College of Moorhead won’t offer majors in Garman or French any more, those languages will still be featured at the Concordia Language Villages. Grace Lyden in the Bemidji Pioneer reports that even though interest for the languages is down at the college, demand remains high at the complex north of Bemidji. Enrollment is on pace to hit 4,500 at the summer immersion program with French, German and Spanish as the three most popular languages. Christine Schulze, executive director of the Concordia-run language education program, said that while some at Concordia of Moorhead may lose their jobs, the cuts won’t affect the language camps because they are run as separate entities.

A traffic stop by Dilworth police netted a man allegedly carrying more than 2 gallons of liquid methamphetamine. Emily Welker of the Fargo Forum reports that an officer pulled over a car driven by Coltt West Decoteau at about 3 p.m. Sunday. The man allegedly tried to hide drug paraphernalia during the stop and, after receiving a search warrant, officers found several containers – including 2-gallon antifreeze jugs – filled with a liquid that tested positive for methamphetamines. Dilworth Police Chief Ty Sharpe said liquid meth is gaining in popularity because it’s easy to transport, Sharpe said.

Louis Industries in Paynesville installed an acre of solar panels last summer and company execs are anxious to see the results when the sun becomes stronger this summer. Carolyn Lange of the West Central Tribune said Leo Louis, CEO of the family owned steel processing facility, worked with Xcel Energy and Innovative Power Systems of St. Paul to install 1,200 solar panels on an acre of rooftop that will generate 625,000 kilowatt-hours of energy per year. “Oh, gosh. This is going to be fun,” Louis said, who anticipates an investment payback in seven years. “This could be the best business decision I ever made,” he said, adding that incentives including federal tax credits, the Made in Minnesota program and Xcel Energy’s capacity credit joined with the decrease in price of solar panels to make the project financially attractive. Louis said he considered wind power as an alternative energy source, but said the incentives, decreased cost of solar arrays and lack of maintenance costs compared to wind turbines pushed him to solar energy.

The Willmar Police Department saw a 1 percent rise in calls during 2015; 1,493 more calls than in 2014, or four more calls per day. Gretchen Brown of the West Central Tribune reports that the hike is in numbers that had been falling: 2015’s number of calls is the highest in four years. Willmar Police Chief Jim Felt says the increase is likely to rise as well in 2016. Felt added that the increase isn’t a bad thing. “We want our public to utilize us and not be afraid to call us,” he said. The highest categorical increase was with traffic stops. Police completed 1,044 more traffic stops in 2015 than the year before — a 25 percent increase. Felt attributes that change to an effort to reduce crashes, although there were 13 more calls regarding crashes in 2015 than in 2014. Reports of suspicious activity jumped 77 percent in 2015. Thirteen categories saw a decrease, including motorist assists, which had 123, or 44 percent, fewer calls than the year before. Other decreases were in alcohol offenses, drugs and animal service calls.

Waseca County needs a new assessor and it’s having a difficult time finding one. Jacob Stark of the Waseca County News says the problem is not unique to Waseca County. Other counties are having trouble finding qualified candidates for the state-mandated position. Waseca has had three applicants and two don’t meet the minimum requirements. The assessor is responsible for examining the properties for taxation purposes. The county may share n assessor with a neighboring county until a suitable candidate emerges. The position offers a starting pay of $27.41 per hour with an upper range of $36.02. The salary for nearby Steele County’s assessor is a range of $32.89 to $46.05 per hour.

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