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Thumbs Up: The Friends of the Library non-profit organization wants to thank the community for their participation and support of the annual Used Book Sale at the National Guard Armory, which took place the first week in August. "With your help, we are able to provide funds to our county library for programming, equipment, books and events," noted Priscilla Reineke, book events chair. This year, the sale raised about $13,000. "Thanks to the many volunteer members who worked and the general public who shopped to make it another successful fundraiser," Reineke said. Besides the annual sale, the library operates a year-round bookstore. Its hours are Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Revenue from the store promotes and supports the library. "Our fundraisers can be planned because of the generous amount of books donated by the people," Reineke said. "This recycling of books generates the revenue to provide funds we can use and at the same time offer shoppers great deals." Book donations may be dropped off at the library during its open hours. Another way to support the Friends of the Library is to become a member. Annual membership donations are $10 for individual, $15 for family, $30 for business and $50 for patron. Forms are available at the library.


Thumbs Down: Water that was flowing out of a hydrant in Garfield during last month's heat wave prompted some double-takes and calls to the newspaper from people who wanted to know why this was happening. We looked into it but, unfortunately, didn't receive much cooperation from city officials or its maintenance department. We left several messages over the course of a week but didn't receive any calls back. We were able to reach just one helpful person at the city who thought the water tower was being drained in order to be cleaned and that's why the hydrant was running but she didn't have any specifics. City officials could have done a better job of informing residents what was happening and a quick five-minute call to the newspaper would have gone a long way in getting the word out.


Thumbs Down: Here's an insidious scam to be aware of: Citizens are being targeted by phone calls and threatened with prosecution for failing to comply with jury service in federal or state courts, according to U.S. District court officials in Minnesota. In the calls, the threat of a fine for shirking jury service is used to coerce those called into providing confidential data, potentially leading to identity theft and fraud. These calls are not from real court officials. Federal courts do not require anyone to provide any sensitive information in a telephone call. Most contact between a federal court and a prospective juror will be through the U.S. mail, and any phone contact by real court officials will not include requests for Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, or any other sensitive information. Jury duty is a vital civic responsibility and should be taken seriously by all citizens. However, it is a crime for anyone to falsely represent himself or herself as a federal court official. The federal judiciary takes such offenses seriously. Anyone receiving such a phone call should not provide the requested information.


Thumbs Up: The Alexandria City Council is clearing the way for a new type of business that promises to add to the area's appeal as a vacation destination. City staff is drafting an ordinance that would allow taprooms and small brewers to receive a license to make, serve and sell specialty beers on site. This is a fast growing, popular industry that allows customers to sample unique, hand-crafted beers that they wouldn't find in a liquor store. As council member Roger Thalman pointed out, these kind of businesses cater to a different clientele than those who go to the municipal liquor stores. The state Legislature revised the rules during the last session to allow these kinds of licenses in cities that have municipal liquor stores. Willmar, Marshall and Brainerd recently enacted taproom ordinances and Alexandria should be next.


Thumbs Up/Down: An Alexandria resident wasn't happy when he went to an estate auction and found out that a brother of the auctioneer running the sale was bidding on items. He felt it gave the brother an unfair advantage because he had advance time to research items on eBay and would know exactly when to jump into the bidding to get a good deal for himself or to drive up the cost of items. Also, because the brother was up front near the items that were being auctioned, he could look out into the crowd and see exactly who the bidders were. On the surface, such tactics may seem unethical or at least suspicious, but we looked into it and found that in most states, including Minnesota, auctioneering companies can, in fact, bid on items and it is perfectly legal to do so. It's a good idea to disclose this to other buyers.