The Dutch-flagged Albanyborg passed beneath Duluth’s Aerial Lift Bridge at 7:41 p.m. Sunday, marking the arrival of the first ocean-going vessel – or saltie – of the season. Peter Passi of the Duluth News-Tribune reports that the arrival is a little early — the earliest arrival of a saltie was March 30 and the latest was May 7. After the 472-foot ship dropped off wind turbine components from Emden, Germany, to Port Colborne, Ontario, it zipped on to Duluth to pick up a load of grain. The locals marked the event with a ceremony Monday where they gave some gifts to the ship’s captain, Igor Bunenkov. Bunenkov hails from Ukraine, one of his officers is Vietnamese, the ship’s 12-man crew is from the Philippines and the ship was built in China. “The flag is the only thing on this vessel that is Dutch,” Bunenkov said.
Jack Nordgaard of Red Wing and the Veterans for Peace are looking for soldiers who received less-than-honorable discharges for conduct that might now be seen as related to post-traumatic stress disorder or a traumatic brain injury. Brian Todd of the Rochester Post-Bulletin writes that before much was known of PTSD, vets would get into trouble and then receive a less-than-honorable discharge. If they can prove a connection between PTSD and their actions, they may be able to change their discharge status. U.S. Rep. Tim Walz has introduced the Fairness for Veterans Act, a bill that mirrors many of the goals of the Veterans for Peace. “We’re not condoning the behavior, but saying if what they did was a result of PTSD or a traumatic brain injury, it means we need to help them,” Walz told the newspaper. “You want these people in the mental health system, not the criminal justice system.”
If it’s good enough to mark westward expansion in St. Louis, then why not in Bemidji as well? Matthew Liedke of the Bemidji Pioneer reports that Bemidji is considering a gateway arch over Third Street across from the Paul and Babe statues. The Bemidji Downtown Alliance says the project will cost $75,000 — $32,750 from fundraising and an equal amount from the city along with a grant. The BDA anticipates construction to take place in 2017. Apparently, the arch will incorporate “the look and the history of Bemidji’s downtown.” Hmmmm.
Construction on the new Spam Museum in downtown Austin is continuing apace. Jordan Gerard of the Austin Daily Herald reports that the Austin City Council awarded two bids for concrete and landscaping work. The project costs will be covered by a Hormel Foundation grant. In case you were wondering, the building is squat, square and has an exterior of tin and brick, obviously reflecting the design aesthetic of its inspiration.
The district and teachers union in Fergus Falls have agreed on a new two-year contract that brings a 6.51 percent salary and benefit increase. Take out the benefit increase and the salary bump will be – wait for it — a 0.8 percent increase for the first year and 0.9 percent for the second year, reports Jeff Meier of the Fergus Falls Journal. The union has OK’d the contract; the district will vote on it today.
Speaking of cost-of-living increases, the West Central Association of Realtors reports a 50.6 percent increase in closed home sales in February 2016 over February 2015, according to the West Central Tribune in Willmar. The stats, which include 21 counties in west central Minnesota, show that the average length of time a house stayed on the market dropped from 156 days in February 2015 to 112 days last February. The housing stock tightened as well — 1,112 were for sale in February, down from 1,383 last year. The median sale price, however, dropped from $107,500 to $101,000 and the average sale price slid from $129,677 to $116,912.
The College of St. Scholastica has named Colette McCarrick Geary its 12th president. Jana Hollingsworth of the Duluth News Tribune notes that Geary is the first laywoman president in the school’s 100-year history, and the first female president since 1975. She replaces Larry Goodwin, who is leaving after 18 years at the helm. Geary, 55, is leaving her post as senior vice president for strategic initiatives at the College of New Rochelle in New Rochelle, N.Y. Per Hollingsworth: “She has a doctoral degree in psychology from Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, N.Y., and is earning a master’s degree in theology from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. She has been a vice president for student services, dean of students, an instructor of graduate studies, a psychologist for a veterans’ affairs hospital and has had a private practice treating psychological disorders. Her husband, Michael, is a criminal justice professor. They have three daughters, ages 26, 22 and 17.”
The Huisken Market and Department Store in Edgerton is closing after 82 years in business, but don’t weep for 72-year-old Fred Huisken – he’s put in his time. Alex Chhith of the Worthington Daily Globe quotes Huisken: “I started working at the age of 2. Back then, potatoes came in sacks, and my dad would pay me a penny a bag to put potatoes in those bags with handles sticking up.” Huisken’s father started the business with Adrian Hartog. They sold the store to Fred and his brother-in-law, Albert “Ap” Schelhass, in 1969. When Schelhass died five years later, Fred’s brother Jim became a co-owner. Betty came to Edgerton in 1973 to teach, started working at the store, married Fred and the couple bought Jim’s portion of the business in 1983. Since then, Fred and Betty have opened the store at 7:30 a.m. every morning and closed the store every evening except for Sundays, working 14- to 16-hour shifts. “We enjoyed the people and the business. It’s not like it was a drag,” Betty said. “I would have liked it to pass on to my sons, but they all have jobs,” Fred said.
Did they stop at McDonald’s for coffee? Cops pursued a driver in a high-speed chase that went on for 70 miles. Gretchen Brown of the West Central Tribune reports that speeds hit 110 mph before Jacob Kelly Leith, 21, allegedly overturned in a drainage ditch. Leith has been charged in Renville County with fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle and reckless driving. He has pleaded not guilty. The criminal complaint says the vehicle “accelerated aggressively” on Renville County Road 1 at U.S. Highway 212. When the Renville County sergeant saw a broken taillight on the vehicle, he hit his lights and siren and the chase was on. Eventually the vehicle being chased lost traction on a gravel road and drove into a drainage ditch, submerging the front of the vehicle. The driver and a female passenger were taken from the car.
The first sign of spring isn’t the arrival of robins. It’s this: 23 people were cited for underage drinking Friday at a residence outside Blooming Prairie. Sam Wilmes of the Albert Lea Tribune said the bust included officers from the Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office, Albert Lea Police Department and Blooming Prairie Police Department. One juvenile was also cited for social host violation and one woman was cited for possession of drug paraphernalia.