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Blue Earth County shows rise in suicides

ALSO: NDSU says knock it off with the nasty chant; it’s flu season; trial of man accused of aiding in the murder of Rose Downwind begins; and more.

The number of suicides in Blue Earth County took a significant jump in 2015, according to data from the Minnesota Department of Health. Brian Arola of the Mankato Free Press reports that suicides jumped from seven to 12 between 2014 and 2015. “Between 2010 and 2014, there were seven, five, 11, eight and seven suicides in the county,” the story says. The uptick concerns health-care professionals: “This is no longer something that’s a blip. This is a trend that’s here to stay unless we can reshuffle our resources,” said Melissa Heinen, suicide prevention coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Health. One area of focus could be white males between 25 to 34. Deaths among that group made up half of the increase in suicides last year. Tina Muggli, licensed marriage and family therapist for Blue Earth County, said isolation and loneliness are contributors to suicide. “The number one factor is feeling alone in their pain and suffering, feeling as if no one understands and they have no connections with others,” she said.

Leaders at North Dakota State are pleading with football fans to cease with the time honored yet offensive cheer heard every year when the Bison meet the newly named Fighting Hawks of the University of North Dakota. Patrick Springer of the Fargo Forum spells it out: Although UND teams are no longer called the Fighting Sioux, some NDSU football fans persist in reciting a chant at each Bison first down in which they say “Sioux suck” and then add a four-letter word not appropriate for a general-interest publication. NDSU leaders, including President Dean Bresciani, published a letter in the campus newspaper asking students end this tradition. In an email sent on Oct. 14, Bresciani joined student and faculty leaders to posit that “people are continuing this chant out of a misplaced sense of tradition, and we are asking any who do so to re-evaluate their participation.”

Flu season is upon us, and as Lorna Benson of Minnesota Public Radio (via the Austin Daily Herald) reminds us, it’s time to get a flu shot and to remember to wash your hands early and often. The state health department’s first weekly influenza report last week noted three confirmed flu hospitalizations. More than 1,500 were hospitalized for flu last season in Minnesota, including three children who died. MDH epidemiologist Karen Martin says this year’s influenza strain is harder on elderly people, “but it’s really too early to say what kind of season it’s going to be,” she added.  

Brandon Rossbach’s trial has begun with jury selection in Bemidji. Grace Pastoor of the Duluth News Tribune reports that Rossbach, 32, is accused of helping Marchello Cimmarusti burn and bury the body of Rose Downwind in October 2015. Cimmarusti pleaded guilty to second-degree unintentional murder in April and Christopher Davis, who faced the same aiding-an-offender charge as Rossbach, pleaded guilty in July. Rossbach has maintained his innocence since he was named as an accomplice by Cimmarusti — who turned himself in in December — and arrested Dec. 9. 

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In Minnesota, there are two measures of geologic time: ice ages, and the amount of time it has taken Austin to put together its rec center program. Jason Schoonover of the Austin Daily Herald brought the good news to a weary citizenry: The Austin City Council voted 5-2 Monday to approve an amended lease agreement for the $35 million Austin Community Recreation Center to be built at the downtown Austin Municipal Plant. The rec center will include a new YMCA, Youth Activity Center and meeting rooms. Squabbles between the city and the YMCA over day passes and affordability were ironed out through long negotiations and compromise, and the ability to go back to the table after a year or two of operation. “This is probably one of the longest, hardest things that I’ve seen the city take part in since I’ve been here,” Mayor Tom Stiehm said. 

Some social scientists don’t refer to the homeless as “homeless” but rather “houseless.” Ground was broken Monday in Moorhead for a 43-unit apartment building that will address that problem. Archie Ingersoll of the Fargo Forum reports that the $8.5-million, three-story, 43-unit building in north Moorhead will provide housing for homeless people in the area. “It’s not a shelter. It is permanent housing,” said Lisa Rotvold of the nonprofit building organizer, Beyond Shelter. Neighbors remain unconvinced; Ingersoll reports that many fear it will bring a rise in crime and a drop in property values. Lisa Lipari of Churches United for the Homeless, the group that proposed the project, said the complex will have 24-hour security; tenants will be screened to ensure they qualify for housing assistance; and sex offenders won’t be eligible. “It’s likely to be one of the safest apartment buildings in the Fargo-Moorhead area,” she said.

A three-hour public hearing in Winona on a proposal to restrict or ban frac-sand mining in Winona County featured 109 members of the public and not one new argument. Brian Todd of the Rochester Post-Bulletin reported that those at the meeting acknowledged that the choices – an outright ban on mining or restricting the number and size of the silica sand mines to be used in the hydraulic fracturing industry – were the same options available and argued over for years. “These meetings have the feeling like we’re in the movie ‘Groundhog’s Day,’ ” said Kent Cowgill. “I hope this is our last time at this,” Margaret Walsh said.  County Attorney Karin Sonneman has said that this public hearing is the last one required before the board of commissioners can take action on changing the zoning ordinance.

If a guy’s got to harvest sugar beets, he may as well harvest sugar beets in a brand new $700,000 Ropa Tiger V8-4 sugar beet harvester. At least, that’s what Carolyn Lange of the Fargo Forum says. Lange went out to Priam last week to watch Tim Ahrenholz use the new equipment. Ahrenholz is used to the conventional method of harvesting beets, which requires two beet toppers, a beet lifter and a beet cart, all pulled by tractors requiring a total of four drivers. The German-made Ropa does the work with two pieces of equipment and two people. Ropa beet harvesters are in 40 countries, but there are only five in Minnesota. With a price of around of $700,000, the initial investment is significant, Ahrenholz said, but Ropa has trained several shops in Minnesota on how to maintain and repair the machines.