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Mayo Clinic maintenance workers picket in Albert Lea

ALSO: SJU to revamp library; Watson Mile Tree gets a reprieve; Eyota gets some good ideas; group takes a dim view of priest’s prospects; and more. 

The Mayo Clinic facility in Albert Lea.

Dozens of maintenance workers were joined by members of other unions Monday as they picketed in front of Mayo Clinic-Albert Lea. Brett Boese of the Rochester Post-Bulletin reports that members of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota have been in negotiations with Mayo for seven months with the sticking point that the clinic wants to have the ability to alter benefits. One maintenance worker said the “proposed language takes away the voice of longtime workers,” while the clinic says the language is part of contracts for “virtually all other allied health employees across Mayo Clinic Health System.” Joining the SEIU members on the picket line were members from the Minnesota Nurses Association, AFSCME Council 65, Albert Lea Education Association, Southeast Area Labor Center and the Minnesota AFL-CIO.

Up in Collegeville, the Marcel Breuer-designed Alcuin Library at St. John’s University is closing in early May to undergo a $25 million reconstruction and expansion project that will add 22,000 feet to the facility. Mitch LeClair of the St. Cloud Daily Times reports that the addition will be named after former university president Dietrich Reinhart and will give students access to emerging technologies such as a 3-D printer, media studio and virtual reality devices as well as accommodating collaborative teaching and learning styles. Kathleen Parker, director of library services at St. John’s and the College of St. Benedict, said the facility will include a home for the university’s physical collection and a new St. John’s Bible gallery. To see the floor plans, click here.

The Watson Mile Tree – which is about one mile outside of Watson – has been granted a one-week reprieve from its death sentence through the good offices of Rep. Collin Peterson. Tom Cherveny of the West Central Tribune writes that the tree, along Minnesota Highway 7/U.S. Highway 59 in Chippewa County and reportedly nearly 100 years old, underwent a MnDOT assessment in January where it earned a failure risk of 11 on a scale of 12. But despite trunk decay and dead branches, Kylene Olson and other Watson Mile Tree supporters say there’s life left in the centenarian. When she learned of the plan to fell the tree this Monday, she asked Peterson’s office to negotiate the one-week reprieve so they could collect seeds from the tree. She also hopes the reprieve will give her time to persuade MnDOT to leave the tree alone. This isn’t the first time the tree has cheated death – in 2010, it was threatened by a utility project, but Peterson’s office helped stave off the cold breath of the inevitable.

Speaking of regeneration and renewal, a gaggle of city planners and architects are in Eyota eyeballing the city to develop a plan to revitalize downtown. Brian Todd of the Post-Bulletin writes that the city was one of two chosen to receive expert advice from the Minnesota Design Team, a committee of nine from the American Institute of Architects Minnesota. After much study, the nine each offered a vision of the future of Eyota that included a new lake, repurposing of downtown, connected bike and hiking trails, an event center and plans for existing open spaces in the city. Some ideas were simple, including having a downtown movie night where a movie would be projected on the side of the grain elevator. Other ideas included an area designated for new commercial development. One architect suggested an 11-acre man-made lake on newly purchased wetlands near highways and bike trails that would serve as a new point of entry into the city. “It’s up to us to make a strategic plan to take advantage of what they give us,” said Eyota Mayor Tyrel Clark. 

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Folks in Crookston are working to keep a priest who has been convicted of sex abuse from returning to the ministry. Dave Olson of the Fargo-Moorhead Forum writes that Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul was convicted of sexually abusing a 16-year-old girl while serving as a priest in the Crookston area more than a decade ago. The possibility now exists that the Catholic Church in India may lift his suspension. This is a prospect that members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, are working to avoid. Jeyapaul, who had returned to India, was extradited to the United States where he was convicted in June of sexual abuse, sentenced to time served and was sent back to India. On Monday, they distributed fliers in the Fargo and Crookston diocese asking other victims to come forward. A new criminal case could serve to take children in India out of harm’s way, SNAP says.

Law enforcement officials say they were very impressed with the help from hundreds of volunteers over the weekend to find two missing boys. Matthew Liedke of the Bemidji Pioneer writes that the search began Saturday for two boys, ages 7 and 8, who were last seen riding a four-wheeler on family property in a heavily wooded area a few miles north of Puposky in Beltrami County. Neighbors and law enforcement immediately rallied and searched through the night. A full search started at 8:30 a.m. with people on four-wheelers and volunteers being bused to search locations. The boys were found at about 10 a.m. in a cabin about 10 miles north of the staging area where the boys stayed for shelter through the night. By the end of the search, more than 340 people had signed up to help along with the 50 professionals helping in the search.

A reality TV show was looking for something for its titular family to do while they were in Duluth, so they went on a dog-sledding trip. Christa Lawler of the Duluth News Tribune writes that while attending the Duluth Boat, Sports, Travel and RV Show in mid-February, the Willis family, featured in the TLC show “The Willis Family,” spent a day at Endurance Kennels, a sprint-racing kennel in Normanna Township. “They wanted to do something fun while they were on tour in Duluth,” said kennel owner Tone Coughlin. The dog sledding trip will be featured on Tuesday’s episode of the show. The Willises are a Tennessee-based family of musicians who incorporate their Irish roots into their songs and dance.