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Steady nature of near-record rain keeps Austin from flooding

ALSO: Albert Lea school board supports chair; shooter in Farmington was aiming only at squirrels; lightning blamed for barn fire near Mapleton; and more.

Austin is close to breaking its precipitation record – the city has seen 36.83 inches of rain to date and the record is 40.87 inches in 1993, according to The National Weather Service. Jason Schoonover of the Austin Daily Herald writes that Public Works Director Steven Lang credits the lack of floods more to timeliness than to recent flood mitigation efforts. “Our rain events haven’t been what I would call big bucket-buster rain events. They’ve been 2 inches of really hard rain, which has caused a lot of street flooding and localized flooding, but that doesn’t cause the huge rises to the river like a 6-, 7-, 9-inch rain will,” Lang said. Austin has been actively fighting future floods via a new flood wall and buying property in the floodplain, among other actions.

Albert Lea School Board Member Jill Marin asked for Board Chair Mark Ciota’s immediate resignation Monday. When he refused, the board put the matter up for a vote and supported Ciota 5-1. Sam Wilmes of the Albert Lea Tribune reports that Marin says she had been treated unequally, bullied and abused. She added that while she has called for his resignation, she was not aware of any resolution to be put before the board and said it was a sign of double standards and unequal treatment. “This looks very messy and very inappropriate,” she said. Other members of the board thought the matter should be settled and put to rest.

Police in Farmington got a report of an active shooter Monday morning, initiating a strong response from law enforcement and the modified lockdown of four schools. However, the shooter was only actively shooting squirrels. Deanna Weninger of Forum News writes “the man, described by police as ‘an older man in his sixties,’ alarmed neighbors on the 300 block of Walnut Street when, fed up with the squirrels on his property, he took out his pellet gun and started shooting. After that, he packed up his fishing gear and left. ‘He felt pretty bad about it,’ said Sgt. Bob Sauter of the Farmington Police Department.”

Dr. Dale Lauer is looking forward to making use of his new digs. Lauer supervises the Minnesota Poultry Testing Laboratory in Willmar, which has just finished a serious upgrade. Carolyn Lange with the West Central Tribune reports that the lab — a collaboration between the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine, Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and the Minnesota Board of Animal Health – just finished an $8.5-million reconstruction. The new facility increases the space from the previous 3,665 square feet to 11,900 square feet and adds new equipment to diagnose highly pathogenic avian influenza. The expansion was launched after the 2015 avian influenza that wiped out millions of birds in the state’s turkey and chicken flocks. A grand re-opening will be Thursday.

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Speaking of poultry, lightning is being blamed for a barn fire that killed about 25,000 chickens Thursday near Mapleton. The Associated Press reports that firefighters were able to keep the fire from spreading, and that no injuries were reported.

Two people involved in the Sept. 28, 2015, melee at Austin High School have accepted plea agreements. Jason Schoonover of the Austin Daily Herald reports that Angel Alicia McCullough, 31, and Willie J.M. Brunt, 28, both pleaded guilty in Mower County District Court to felony second-degree riot with a dangerous weapon. Brunt also pleaded guilty to felony fifth-degree drug possession. A third adult, Odell Dorrea McCullough, 28, was sentenced to five years supervised probation in March. The fight, which may have started as a prior fight between high school girls, took place after school outside school doors and continued into the gym lobby. It involved dozens of brawlers and more people who recorded the fight and urged the fighters on. The adults were related to or friends of one of the students involved. Odell McCullough was recorded striking people with nunchuks while Angel McCullough was shown punching and dragging a student by the hair, and Brunt was seen punching several students.

Stearns County authorities are asking for help to find Alexis Marie Odenbreit, 17, who has been missing since Sept. 12 and was last seen near Willmar. The West Central Tribune reports that she could be in danger. She is 5 feet 4 inches tall, 118 pounds and has slightly red brunette hair and hazel eyes. The sheriff’s office says Odenbreit has a double piercing above her right eye and multiple tattoos on her wrists and hands.

Vic Fergen, former owner of Vic’s Lounge in the Moorhead Center Mall, died Friday at 91. Robin Huebner of the Fargo Forum writes that Fergen had a hard time leaving work every day because people would want to chat or buy him a drink.  “He’d run into 10 or 15 people and keep telling them, ‘I’m outta here,’ ” said his son, Scott Fergen of Detroit Lakes. Fergen was born in Parkston, S.D., married and moved to Fargo, where he and his wife had five children. He served in the U.S. Army in World War II and on the Moorhead City Council for 10 years. In the late 1950s, he ran Vic’s Southside Superette near the Minnesota State University Moorhead campus. In 1983, he and son Doug bought the former La Casa Lounge and named it Vic’s Lounge. He turned it over to Doug in 1993, who sold the lounge in 2007. Vic Fergen still owned the building. “I am sure all of us plan on going over (to Vic’s) to have a drink in his honor,” Scott Fergen said.

Goldfish are just another aquatic invasive species that corrupts the ecosystem. That’s why instead of dumping unwanted pet fish, reptiles and other aquarium denizens into area lakes and streams, several groups are offering a humane “surrender” event where the pets can find good homes and stay out of trouble. Jana Hollingsworth of the Duluth News Tribune reports that, in the style of many non-native species, pets and aquarium plants can choke out native animals and plants. The most common aquarium-raised, non-native species released into the Great Lakes region are Brazilian waterweed, water hyacinth, parrot feather, hydrilla, goldfish, koi, pacu, piranha, Oriental weatherloach, water lettuce, water chestnut, yellow floating heart and lesser naiad. “While release may seem kind-hearted, these actions are inappropriate, and we want to provide better solutions,” said Amy Miller of Animal Allies. Working under the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Sea Grant program, Animal Allies, the Snake Pit and World of Fish joining forces for the “Habitattitude Surrender’” at Animal Allies in Duluth on Saturday.