Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down, March 25

Views by the Echo Press Editorial Board. Topics: Bill Flaig, Marge Van Gorp, conservation districts, suspicious gun shots, salty driveways.

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Alexandria Echo Press file photo

Marge and Bill will be missed

Thumbs Up: Two individuals with a special connection to the Echo Press passed away recently – Marge Van Gorp on Feb. 25 and two weeks later, Bill Flaig. Van Gorp wrote the history column for the Echo Press for 15 years. She had a passion for history and had a knack for researching the area’s past and selecting items to write about that were fascinating and insightful. Flaig served as the administrator and CEO of the Douglas County Hospital from 1983 to 2011. He was widely regarded here at the newspaper as a trusted source – a straight-shooter who not only provided information but explained the complex world of healthcare in a way that was easy to understand. Both Marge and Bill cared deeply about the community and contributed to it in many ways. Marge volunteered at the Douglas County Historical Society at the Spruce Hill Church. As noted in her obituary, she was an artist, an author, a quilter, a crafter and more. She was 98. Bill gave time to the Church of St. Mary, Habitat for Humanity, the Alexandria Area Community Foundation and the food shelf. He was 72. We will miss both of them.

Funding for conservation districts

Thumbs Up: For many years, Soil and Water Conservation Districts, including the one in Douglas County, have relied on the state’s Clean Water Fund to carry out their mission of protecting soil, water and related natural resources on private land. It was an appropriation that had to go through the political process and was subject to renewal every two years. A bill working its way through the Legislature would change that by providing permanent funding. Rep. Paul Anderson, R-Starbuck, supports the measure. “SWCDs have elected board members but, unlike watershed districts, they do not have levy authority,” Anderson noted in his weekly newsletter. “They have long asked for stable, consistent funding for their on-going projects. I support the work done by our local SWCDs and am in favor of this dedicated source of state funding to go along with the revenue they receive from their respective counties.”

Suspicious shots near Smith Lake

Thumbs Down: Last Saturday, at about 7:25 p.m., a resident on Smith Lake Road saw four deer on a gravel road hop over a fence. Just a few minutes later, he heard four gunshots. He’s convinced that someone shot the deer out of season. “That’s just not right,” he said. He reported the incident to the sheriff’s office and the Department of Natural Resources but nothing has been done about it so far, he said. Those who see such a violation should report it to the DNR’s Turn In Poachers or TIP Line at 1-800-652-9093. The line is open 24 hours a day, or callers can key in #TIP on their cell phone. The DNR says that all violations reported through their online form will be investigated. Callers should provide as many details as they can to help the conservation officer, including location and, if known, the violator's identity. Callers should also include their own contact information and if it’s OK for a conservation officer to contact them. Callers may remain anonymous.

Sweep your sidewalks

Thumbs Up: Here’s an important spring chore that can easily be overlooked – sweeping up road salt on driveways and sidewalks. The city of Alexandria deserves a thumbs up for sending out a reminder about road salt this week. If salt is visible on dry pavement, it is no longer melting ice or snow and will be washed away with stormwater runoff. City leaders point out that salt in lakes can be harmful to fish and other freshwater aquatic life and can also negatively affect infrastructure, vehicles, plants, soil, pets, wildlife, as well as groundwater and drinking water supplies. Once in the water, chloride (salt) becomes a permanent pollutant and continues to accumulate in the environment over time. The only known way to remove chloride is through reverse osmosis, which can be a costly and challenging large scale treatment process. Local lakes with a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Impairment for chloride include Lake Winona, Lake Agnes, and Lake Henry. After sweeping up your salt, it may be saved in an airtight container for future use or disposed of as standard trash.

If you have a suggestion for a Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down, email it to or mail it to Echo Press, P.O. Box 549, Alexandria, MN 56308.

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