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Sewage spill closes Beaver Lake in Steele County

ALSO: Primary voting looks light in central Minnesota; lots of spots open on ballots in rural Minnesota; Glyndon-Felton Elementary School principal put on leave; and more.

A sewage spill on Saturday forced state officials to close Beaver Lake in Ellendale. Sam Wilmes of the Albert Lea Tribune reports that about 5,000 gallons had been spilled and the cause remains under investigation. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Department of Natural Resources have assisted Steele County, said Chris Gannon, Steele County’s deputy emergency management director. Officials will know more after test results come back in the middle of the week, Gannon said.

Today is primary election day, and Kirsti Marohn at the St. Cloud Daily Times reports that officials are predicting a low voter turnout in central Minnesota. She reports that in Stearns County, about 12 percent of registered voters cast ballots in the 2014 primary election and 6 percent voted in the 2012 primary. County officials say there have been few requests for absentee ballots. In the 6th District, which includes much of central Minnesota, incumbent Rep. Tom Emmer faces AJ Kern and Patrick Munro in the GOP primary, while Bob Helland and Judy Adams face DFL-endorsed David Snyder.

Meanwhile, in more southerly central Minnesota, Mark Fischenich at the Mankato Free Press looks ahead to the election in November and notes that many elections remain unfilled. He notes that while “voters in Eagle Lake, Waseca and Montgomery will have a choice when voting for their mayor on Nov. 8, (competition) for city council seats in other area towns was harder to find at the end of the first week of candidate filing for the vast majority of municipal elections in Minnesota.” Most cities use the two-week August filing period to generate names for the general election ballot, Fischenich reports, while cities including Mankato, New Ulm, Lake Crystal, Amboy and Mapleton use the Aug. 9 primary to determine the general election finalists. The deadline to file to run for municipal offices is 5 p.m. on Aug. 16.

Up in Clay County, the principal at Glyndon-Felton Elementary School — Shannon Jean Dahlberg, 45, of Moorhead — has been placed on administrative leave after she was charged Monday with felony theft and felony theft by swindle. Helmut Schmidt of the Fargo Forum reports that Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton School District Superintendent Bryan Thygeson said Dahlberg will be on leave until the county’s investigation is over, adding that the case has nothing to do with the school district.

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The Mower County board may raise a half-cent sales tax to fund road and bridge projects over the next 10 years. Jason Schoonover of the Austin Daily Herald reports that while the sales tax is targeted at more than 40 specific road and bridge improvements, business leaders spoke out against the plan. “A local option sales tax on local goods and services is not fair,” Austin Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sandy Forstner said, calling instead for a statewide funding plan from the Legislature. Current and former public works engineers said the state’s gas tax doesn’t fund the county’s transportation needs along with new additions such as pedestrian walkways and street lights. “We have to increase funding to provide that,” said Jon Erichson, a former city of Austin engineer.

Speaking of the need for extra funds, the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota is putting out the call against a scam in which people are swindled out of iTunes gift cards. In the Brainerd Dispatch, the BBB says that in a twist on the classic phone scam in which a victim is convinced to pay someone claiming to be from the IRS for imaginary penalties or back taxes, now the fraudsters are coercing people to pay in iTunes gift cards. Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota, said the gift cards “are virtually untraceable. If the intended victim gives away the 16-digit code on the back of these gift cards — or any other — they will lose whatever money has been loaded onto them.” The BBB encourages people to be wary of callers who say they are from a government agency.

Thanks to a bequest of $35,000, Computer Commuter will continue to serve internet surfers in Lac qui Parle County. Tom Cherveny of the West Central Tribune writes about Mary Quick, who for the past six years has manned the Computer Commuter, a mobile internet and computer-equipped bus that makes regular stops to provide computers and high-speed internet for residents in the rural county. Quick saw the program was running out of money and was ready to shut it down when, in April, Marie Kittelson of Madison bequeathed $35,000 to the program provided the funds could be matched. A combination of communities, organizations and the Blandin Foundation matched the bequest. Quick believes her program is worthy: “You can’t just put technology in front of people. You have to give them time and you have to help them.”

Not a Minnesota story, but interesting still: The Winona Daily News reports that construction workers in Galesville, Wisconsin, dug up a live artillery round more than a century old. The workers were digging on South Main Street when they uncovered what appeared to be an artillery round. The 934th Airlift Wing from Minneapolis was called in and determined the round to be a 75mm American-made artillery round from 1907. The round was still live but significantly deteriorated; it was excavated, taken to a remote area, and safely detonated. They don’t know where the round came from.