Red River falls below major flood stage

News From Greater Minnesota

River trackers in Fargo and Moorhead note that for the first time since April 6, the Red River has dropped below the major flood stage. The Fargo Forum reports that the river last week was at 29.89 feet. Flood stage is 18 feet, and the National Weather Service predicts the river will remain above the moderate flood stage of 25 feet for at least another week.

Hibbing nurses cancel strike, plan vote
Nurses in Hibbing have canceled a strike that was scheduled to begin Wednesday against Range Regional Health Services. KDAL in Duluth reports that “once the proposal is formalized and put into writing, it will be presented to the 150 nurses for a vote. Both sides have been negotiating on a new contract since September of last year. The current contract with the hospital expired on October 31st of 2010.”

Git ‘er done on the TV
Larry the Cable Guy’s turn at Bemidji High School will air at 8 p.m. May 10, as part of his History Channel television show “Only in America With Larry the Cable Guy.” The Bemidji Pioneer reports that Larry will serve lunch, teach a class and co-anchor the morning announcement show as well as take a curling lesson at the Bemidji Curling Club. The Pioneer says the May 10 show will also include segments where Larry learns how a cable-car system runs, discovers the hidden worlds of Chinatown and helps manage a timber business in Oregon. No word yet on whether Teach for America will supply Larry’s state teaching license for the day.

Illinois man to lead Duluth Schools
I.V. Foster, superintendent of the K-8 Prairie-Hills school district in Markham, Ill., has been tapped to lead the 9,000-student Duluth school district. Jana Hollingsworth of the Duluth News Tribune reports that Foster, 52, will become Duluth’s first black superintendent. Hollingsworth listed the challenges Foster faces: severe state budget cuts; declining enrollment; a large achievement gap between white and minority student test scores; the ongoing controversy surrounding the $296 million “Red Plan” facilities reconfiguration; and a likely budget referendum in November. Foster said he’s excited about the opportunity to work with Duluth staff, parents and school board members. He replaces Keith Dixon, who will retire June 30 after six years with the district.

Ron Wood – but not that one – likely to lead Southwest State
Kari Lucin at the Worthington Daily Globe reports that Minnesota State Colleges and Universities will likely appoint Ron Wood to serve as interim president of Southwest Minnesota State University, Marshall. Wood, former president of Minnesota West Community and Technical College and not the longtime guitarist for the Rolling Stones, has already decided to accept the one-year appointment, with a July 1 start date, if it is offered. He will remain an alderman on the Worthington City Council and intends to continue coaching golf at Worthington High this spring. He will replace outgoing SMSU President David Danahar.

Parent targets chocolate milk
Angela Fiedler, the president of the Fergus Falls parent teacher organization, asked the school board last week to remove chocolate milk from school lunch menus, according to a report by Ryan Howard of the Fergus Falls Journal. She said the beverage is too sugary and promotes bad dietary habits. Howard, in fact, beat this news story like a rented mule. Here’s what he dug up: Fiedler became interested in school nutrition at the Mom Congress on Education and Learning in Washington, D.C., when she garnered facts on nutrition from crew members of a TV show that tries to get schools to make their lunches healthier; an 8 oz. carton of chocolate milk contains 23 grams of sugars, similar to the sugars in an 8 oz. can of soda but less than the 40 grams found in a 12 oz. can; a Cleveland Elementary cafeteria server (Howard didn’t report the name) said that on a typical day, the school serves around 400 8 oz. cartons of chocolate milk during lunch and only around 100 cartons of white milk for both breakfast and lunch; Becky Shearer, the district cafeteria manager, doesn’t mind offering chocolate milk, saying that though chocolate milk might have more sugars, it still provides the calcium and other nutrients that are found in white milk; and the district already has a wellness committee that is working on improving school lunches. Erica Yoney, school nurse and the chair of the wellness committee, said she welcomes the input of PTO members. “We’re thrilled that we have parents who have this kind of excitement and energy,” she said.

Feds help Northeast Minnesota step into 21st century
Officials broke ground last week for the $43.5 million broadband expansion project called the Northeast Minnesota Middle Mile Fiber Project. Katie Kolt Hall of the International Falls Journal reports that the broadband cable access will be used by public and private entities and will be complete in 2012. The money comes from the United States Department of Agriculture via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The 915 miles of fiber will make broadband services available in Koochiching, St. Louis, Lake, Cook, Carlton, Pine, Itasca, and Aitkin counties. “It will connect anchor sites including state, county, city, higher education, school districts, libraries and health care,” Kolt Hall wrote. “The Northeast Fiber Project positions northeast Minnesota to compete in the global economy,” said Paul Brinkman, executive director of Northeast Service Cooperative.

Northfielders satisfied with city; heroin profile changing
In a pair of interesting stories, Suzanne Rook of the Northfield News painted two different pictures of the town. In the first, an overwhelming majority of Northfield residents said they are satisfied with the quality of life in the town. Ninety percent of respondents in a new survey rate the city’s sense of community favorably; 78 percent believe the city is headed in the right direction. About one-third want Northfield to be a small town, about one-third want suburb-like amenities, and about one-third don’t know what they want, the survey showed. Meanwhile, last Wednesday Rook reported that doctors are seeing an uptick in the number of heroin addicts under the age of 19. Even more unusual, these users seem to have no relation to a group of Northfield heroin users and overdose victims identified several years ago. Charles Reznikoff, addiction medicine specialist at the Northfield Hospital, said previous heroin addicts used a brown powder form of heroin. New, younger addicts are using the dark, sticky “black tar” form of heroin, he said. This leads Reznikoff to believe this isn’t a recurrence of the previous heroin problem but instead a connection to a gang of metro-area drug dealers. Scott Robinson of the Rice County Drug Task Force said the task force is investigating heroin use in Northfield. “Northfield is a special place. But in this case, they’re not special at all. Heroin is a huge problem in the suburbs, the exurbs and in Minnesota itself,” he said.

Horse lovers say cougar is on the prowl
Although officials say true cougar attacks are rare, several Freeborn County residents are claiming that the cats have attacked their horses. Matt Peterson of the Albert Lea Tribune reports that Jolene Morrison noticed last Thursday “her 17-year-old horse, Sapphire, had a bad limp, numerous gashes and missing hair. The mare’s 2-year-old colt also sustained injuries.” The horses are boarded on Glenn Ward’s property and he’s certain the wounds were caused by a cougar. He has five-foot-high barbed wire and electric fences which, he says, would keep out bears, wolves or other animals. Department of Natural Resources and law enforcement officials aren’t quite so sure. DNR wildlife manager Jeanine Vorland said the possibility of a cougar is unlikely. If it was a cougar, it likely was just passing through and won’t be spotted in the area again, she said. You can just go ahead and insert your own joke about man-hungry middle-aged women here.

John Fitzgerald is a longtime Minnesotan and journalist who lives in Buffalo.

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