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Prediction: Colder than usual winter in northern Minnesota

ALSO: Red Wing bridge will be done in 2020; Rochester man sues bus company over alleged discrimination; and more.

The weatherman in Grand Forks has taken a look at the stats and decided that we’re in for a cold winter. Grace Pastoor of the Bemidji Pioneer checked in with National Weather Service meteorologist Jeff Makowski, who said that La Nina means cold air will drop out of Canada and onto northern Minnesota, bringing colder than average temperatures and heavier snowfall.

Speaking of predictions, a transportation consultant says construction on the Highway 63 bridge across the Mississippi River in Red Wing will take three to four years. Brian Todd with the Rochester Post-Bulletin reports that Chad Hass, a senior associate with SRE Consulting Group, updated folks at the Red Wing Public Library last week on the bridge and tossed out these facts: They will build three permanent bridges and one temporary bridge including a 1,643-foot box girder bridge that will be the main portion along with permanent and temporary bypass bridges on the Minnesota side. Traffic will not be moved to the new bridge until 2020.

Fantastic first sentence to this story: “The last time Mary Plaster saw Prince, he was lying on the ground at stage right in the Duluth Public Library’s pavilion.” Christa Lawler of the Duluth News Tribune writes about how an 8-foot Prince puppet’s papier-mâché head was stolen last week at the All Souls Night celebration in Duluth. The puppet was part of In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre tour. The description: “Prince’s head is about 2 feet tall, 18 inches wide with big eyes and a shade of facial hair. … Plaster is asking that the puppet be returned to the Depot or the Duluth Public Library — no questions asked.”

Philip Bologna has filed a lawsuit against First Student, which provides bus service to Rochester Public Schools, alleging years of harassment and discrimination. Kay Fate of the Post-Bulletin describes the allegations in great detail; in short, Bologna, 64, argues he has been discriminated against because his wife is black. Bologna drove bus about half time and maintained and archived video security footage about half time. He alleges that employees used racial epithets around him, made work difficult for him, threatened him and physically intimidated him. The suit says he complained about the harassment to various supervisors to no effect.  

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A 54-year-old man has been sentenced to nearly two years in jail for breaking into a Maynard restaurant and stealing two pans of ribs and a pack of raw meat. Gretchen Brown of the West Central Tribune reports that the owner of Budger’s Dinner House knew something was amiss when he arrived at work last April and found a piece of ham by a wrecked screen door. He called the Chippewa County Sheriff’s Office and, Brown writes, “A deputy cleared the scene and went to interview Wieking, believing him to be a suspect due to a history of alleged food thefts, according to the criminal complaint. Soon after the deputy returned to the scene of the burglary, Wieking walked in the back door of the restaurant with two steel pans and a plastic container.” Wieking reportedly said, “I’m a stupid drunk guy,” when asked why he did it — after which he was arrested, charged with third-degree burglary and released. He allegedly later assaulted a man for spreading rumors that $500 of food was stolen when Wieking said it was only $50. He was then charged with felony second-degree assault, felony terroristic threats and misdemeanor disorderly conduct. A plea agreement resulted in the dismissal of the second-degree assault and disorderly conduct charges, $155 in restitution and the jail sentence.

Say you’re in Austin and you’re craving a quick Spam and pineapple on white bread sandwich. Jason Schoonover of the Austin Daily Herald reports that the Austin City Council may soon allow food trucks in the city – specifically in the parking lots by Brick Furniture and the Austin Municipal Pool. City Clerk Ann Kasel says food trucks are doing well in towns like Rochester and “we’re kind (of) thinking we’d allow it in certain municipal lots to see how it goes and to see if this is something that more trucks are interested in before we over-regulate it.”

Students in Cass Lake were told they can do anything and go anywhere with a STEM education. Jow Bowen of the Bemidji Pioneer writes that students and staff at Leech Lake Tribal College each year sponsor a celebration of science, technology, engineering, and math to entice students to consider these careers. Cate Belleveau, the school’s STEM outreach director, said “that’s where the good jobs lie.” She added that students need to become managers so they can lead efforts in forest management and water protection. One college student, Chris Stauffer, said he’s studying computer engineering and wants to work for a tech giant like Google, NASA, Tesla or Apple. “You can go anywhere with this degree,” he said.

The Winona City Council is leaning on the expertise of the Winona Area Pollinators to help make the city more bee-friendly. Glen Olson of the Winona Daily News reports that the city wants to foster bee habitats, review pesticides and chemicals, plant bee-friendly native plants and allow habitats to continue. Chad Ubl, communications director for the parks and recreation department, said “I don’t think there’s many changes we’ll have to make.”

Andrew Hazzard of the Fargo Forum reports that 473 pigs died in a farming accident in Roseau County in late October and were then disposed of at a hog rendering plant. The Minnesota Board of Animal Health wouldn’t say who owned the farm, although Hazzard reports that area media say the farm is owned by Glacial Lakes Ag Management, which had not replied to comment requests by press time. The Board of Animal Health visited the farm within 72 hours of the deaths and determined the animals would be sent to a rendering plant but declined to offer any information about how the 473 hogs died.