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201 of 233 Willmar grads heading to college

ALSO: Kiester enjoys a moment in the sun; metal detector finds lost class ring; Brainerd man stabbed last weekend; and more.

Here’s some good news: More than four-fifths of this year’s Willmar High School grads will pursue some type of post-secondary education next year. Linda Vanderwerf of the West Central Tribune reports that the school conducts an annual survey of graduates, and this year 201 of the 233 graduates plan to attend either community/technical colleges or four-year colleges in the fall. Four students plan to enter the military, 16 plan to go to work full time while three foreign exchange students, four special education students and five who listed other plans round out the survey. Of the 201 seeking further education, 41 plan to attend private colleges, 63 will attend four-year colleges or universities and nearly 100 plan to attend community and technical colleges.

Brainerd police are investigating a stabbing that occurred Friday night. The Brainerd Dispatch reports that a 24-year-old man is in critical condition after being stabbed in downtown Brainerd. Officers found the man outside the Iron Rail Saloon with a serious single puncture wound to the abdomen. Officers later learned the man was stabbed by a male suspect inside the bar. A 44-year-old Brainerd man was arrested and taken into custody without incident. He is charged with first- and second-degree assault.

Louisiana Pacific Corp. is eyeballing a new $440 million home siding manufacturing plant in Hoyt Lakes. John Myers of the Duluth News Tribune said the plant would employ 250 people and use about 800,000 cords of wood per year, or about 200 logging trucks per day. The proposal is being examined by the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board. Of the $440 million cost, the IRRRB is being asked for $16 million and $20 million from the state’s 21st Century Minerals Fund, while lawmakers have already approved $3 million in cash incentives each year for 10 years based on production at the new plant and a $6 million tax rebate is involved in the tax bill that was vetoed over a technicality. That leaves the company to find $400 million in private equity for the plant while the county will be asked to upgrade roads around the plant and Minnesota Power will be asked for a competitive electric rate for the energy-gobbling siding plant. Lawmakers said jobs will pay an average of $27 per hour and that Hoyt Lakes is competing with sites in Canada and Michigan.

Kiester is enjoying a moment in the spotlight as the setting for a Preparation H commercial. The Associated Press reports that the 15-second commercial features a woman impressed by the town as she bicycles past its grocery store, movie theater and fire hall. Preparation H official Kelly Sherer told The AP that town residents were open to the commercial once they were reassured that that they weren’t being mocked. The town is named after Jacob Armel Kiester, a late 19th-century Faribault County judge and lawmaker. “We’ve been joked about for a long time and yet we all know the background and where the real name came from,” Mayor Doug Trytten said.

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Here’s some more good news: Up in Bemidji, residents should experience only a 0.5 percent property tax increase in 2017. The Bemidji Pioneer writes that after calculating expenses and adjustments, the city’s 2017 budget creates a levy increase of 8.7 percent or $418,952 that will be mitigated by new construction, increased property value and the additional tax base through annexation. Bemidji Finance Director Ron Eischens said if the state approves a tax bill in a special session, an increase in local government aid would result in a 2 percent reduction in the tax levy. Therefore, the city tax on an average home of $115,000 would increase by $21.

Unaware of the problem with bees? An exhibit with more than 2.5 million dead bees began a cross-country tour with stops in Minnesota to raise awareness on the collapse of bee colonies and the role that pesticides have played in the decline. The Associated Press writes that a federal report on honeybees showed a jump in the winter colony loss rate. The exhibit truck, supported by Friends of the Earth and other groups, will stop throughout the country until a July rally in Washington at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. James Cook, a Barrett beekeeper, said he volunteered to drive the display after he witnessed a massive bee die-off in 2013. “I want to be part of the next generation of beekeepers, but if I don’t start talking about it and fostering discussions about it, I feel like nothing is really going to change.”  

You dig around in the silt and you never know what you’ll find. Julie Buntjer of the Worthington Daily Globe tells this story: On June 5, Worthington resident Matt Gaudian was walking through waist-deep water at Chautauqua Park when his metal detector signaled something on the lake bottom. He scooped up the material with his shovel and found a Worthington High School class ring with a red gemstone and the name “Jeff” etched in it. Then a wave hit him and he dropped the ring. But the fact that someone named “Jeff” had lost his ring bothered Gaudian so he continued to search for the ring and found it about 20 minutes later. The 1986 ring was inscribed with “Jeff Powers” and a symbol for bowling on one side. He had a Facebook friend who was a friend of Brian Powers, who is Jeff Powers’ brother. Messages were exchanged that led Jeff Powers to Worthington on Saturday afternoon to reclaim his lost ring.