News From Greater Minnesota
Tornado in southeast MN destroys Harmony home
It’s been a busy week in Minnesota what with metro-area tornadoes, a gay marriage amendment and legislative budget battles, plus presidential campaign announcements and tributes to Harmon Killebrew and whatnot. Here, in no particular order, is a look at some of the other news from around the state.
Farmers are making progress in their fields, notes Joe Spear of the Mankato Free Press. On Monday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that 4.7 days were suitable for fieldwork last week. The spring wheat crop is now 80 percent planted. Corn is 81 percent planted. Soybeans were 38 percent planted, up from 9 percent planted the week before. “However, the soil remains very wet. Topsoil moisture supplies were rated 35 percent surplus, 64 percent adequate and 1 percent short,” Spear wrote. The statewide average temperature was 57.3 degrees, nearly average for the week.
Got a bear in your back yard? “The long-term solution is for people to learn to live with the bears and manage their bird feed or garbage,” said Chris Balzer, Department of Natural Resources assistant area wildlife manager at Cloquet. Sam Cook of the Duluth News Tribune writes that a bear has taken up residence at Park Point in Duluth, feeding off trash and bird feeders. The bear, which appears to be a yearling, could have walked to the park over the Aerial Lift Bridge, but most likely swam to the park across Superior Bay from Wisconsin. Tom Mackay, a longtime Park Point resident, said the bear has been seen as far north as near the Aerial Lift Bridge and as far south as the Duluth Boat Club, which is near 40th Street. “So far, everyone likes it,” Mackay said, “until it carts away somebody’s dog or something.”
Six sets of twins are set to graduate from Fergus Falls High School on Friday. Debbie Irmen of the Fergus Falls Journal says the 12 students translate to 6 percent of the graduating class. Among the story’s traditional twin tropes about changing identities and different interests is this interesting bit of information: The Grunewalds, Hecks and Paulsons are planning to attend the same colleges, while the Stichs, Olsons and McClaflins will attend six different colleges.
Need a quick, down-and-dirty story for the daily paper? Pump out some data from the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau report. In this edition, we learn from Sarah Stultz of the Albert Lea Tribune that Albert Lea’s population is aging. Here are the facts: The median age of Albert Lea residents increased by three years during the last 10 years, from 41 to 44; the largest population age group belongs to those between 50 and 54 years of age, with 1,237 people, followed by those between 45 and 49 years old, with 1,225 people. The third largest population age group in the city belongs to children under 5 years of age, with 1,159 people. Almost 79 percent of the city’s population, or 14,143 people, is 18 and older. A decrease was seen in those between 35 and 44 years old in Albert Lea, going from 2,584 people in 2000 to 1,921 people in 2010 — a difference of about 663 people.
Landis+Gyr, which employs about 190 people in its Pequot Lakes facility, is being sold to Tokyo-based Toshiba for $2.3 billion in cash. The purchase of the Swiss-based company will not affect the Pequot Lakes facility, Landis+Gyr company spokesman Thor Valdmanis told Renee Richardson of the Brainerd Dispatch. Richardson tells the very interesting story of how a Pequot Lakes company became part of a global concern. In the mid-1980s, Lynn and Paul Hunt developed a remote way to read electric meters. They started the business in their Brainerd home and, in 1994, moved to Pequot Lakes. Facing a cash-flow problem in 2000, they sold a majority interest to Crow Wing Power, headquartered north of Brainerd. Six years later, the company was sold to the Bayard Group, which consolidated all of its subsidiaries beneath the Landis+Gyr name. Landis+Gyr developed Gridstream, which offers two-way communication that provides a utility with information on electric customer usage as well as the ability for a utility to control the meter and devices such as load control switches and smart thermostats. Operating in more than 30 countries, the Switzerland-based Landis+Gyr did about $1.4 billion in sales in 2009. Major Landis+Gyr shareholders include Allianz Capital Partners, Australian Capital Equity, DLJ Merchant Banking Partners, Dubai International Capital, Marinya Holdings, Sir Douglas Myers, Sir Anthony O’Reilly, Propel Investments, and Sofina SA. Credit Suisse and Lazard led the sale process of Landis+Gyr to Toshiba. Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs co-advised Landis+Gyr shareholders on liquidity alternatives. Not bad for a Brainerd home business.
Now, if global warming would just hurry up and we could grow orange trees in our yards, we’d be all set. The Little Falls City Council is considering an amendment that will allow city residents to keep chickens in their back yards. City hensmen would be limited to four birds, which would have to be in a coop at all times which must be built at least 30 feet from property lines and not be allowed in the front yard, according to a story by Jennifer Stockinger of the Brainerd Dispatch. Ah, fresh eggs. Get some bacon from the butcher and squeeze some juice from our own orange trees and breakfast will be served.
Ann Dalrymple of the Fargo Forum notes that tuition at Concordia College in Moorhead will increase 8 percent, or $2,200, next year. Total tuition will be $29,360, moving the private college from one of the least expensive private colleges in Minnesota to solidly in the middle of the pack. The average charged by Minnesota private colleges will be $32,339 next year. Dalrymple interviewed incoming senior Nick Ganoe, a music-education major from Fergus Falls who chose Concordia for the programs, not the price. “Ganoe said he was disappointed when he heard tuition would be going up, but it didn’t prompt him to consider transferring. He’ll work more hours this summer to help offset the increased cost,” she wrote. No word yet on whether Ganoe is regretting a music-education major in a state that refuses to adequately fund education, much less arts education.
Siding a house is like riding a roller coaster: Once you start working on the house, you have to finish the job no matter what comes your way. Fritz Busch of the New Ulm Journal tells of Naoko Meyer of 210 S. Franklin St., who found two men removing siding from her house last Tuesday. Unfortunately, the job was scheduled for 210 N. Franklin St. Design Home Center subcontracted the job to Schmidt Roofing Inc., which sent its workers to the Meyers’ house. “We had the address right, but maybe the GPS (Global Positioning System) didn’t get our workers to the right place. They removed about half the Meyers’ siding before we heard about it and got in touch with them,” Cory Schmidt told Busch. The Meyers will get new home siding at no charge.
A chase between a 20-year-old Spicer man and Minnesota State Patrol troopers hit speeds of up to 143 mph on a 2007 Suzuki motorcycle, Gretchen Schlosser of the West Central Tribune reports. Ryan Mitchell Larsen appeared Thursday on a felony charge of fleeing a peace officer. He was released on his personal recognizance and ordered to obey state traffic laws. According to the complaint, a state trooper began the pursuit along State Highway 23 after radar indicated the motorcycle was going 100 mph. In the westbound lanes past New London and into Spicer, the motorcycle drove between multiple cars to get away from the trooper at speeds of 120 mph in the 40-mph zone at Spicer. After clocking the motorcycle at 143 mph, troopers lost sight of the vehicle. Near their last sighting, a trooper saw a skid mark in a driveway and questioned a man there. The man said Larsen had pulled up on the cycle and said he was in trouble. The man said he let Larsen stay in the house and park the cycle next to the garage, with a garbage can placed so it wasn’t visible from the road.
It’s not crude, it’s canola and it’s providing a looming oil boom in the northern Minnesota town of Hallock, writes Ryan Bakken of the Grand Forks Herald. “One-fourth of the way through construction and 14 months before production starts, the $168 million canola plant rising on the prairie already is providing a much-needed jolt to the economy,” he wrote. “Starting in mid-January, about 100 workers have been working on the Northstar Agri Industries site. When construction hits full stride this summer, workers may number 250. When production of the cooking oil starts in the summer of 2012, full-time employees will number 47, with an estimated annual payroll of $3.3 million, an average of $70,000.”
John Fitzgerald is a freelance writer and longtime journalist who lives in Buffalo.