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A Douglas County nonprofit organization will receive two vans and another will be able to continue to give cars to the needy, thanks to grants from the St.Paul-based Otto Bremer Trust. "It'll be huge just because our budget does not have money in it to be able to make large purchases," said Mike Burke, director of the Alexandria Opportunities Center, which connects people with disabilities to jobs and community activities and will receive the new vans on Monday, April 8.
(Editor's note: This is the first of an occasional series about internet access in Douglas County.) As an applications engineer for a software company, Kevin Rankl needs good internet access. He had it, when he and his family lived in the Alexandria city limits. When they moved into a neighborhood near Lake Carlos, however, he discovered that the access speeds advertised by the internet provider were overly optimistic. "My work is all based off the internet," he said. "We're making it work right now, but if anyone's home they can't go on the internet at all."
What is on the minds of rural Minnesotans? The Minnesota Farmers Union, a grassroots farm organization, will hold a Rural Voices Discussion for farmers and rural residents at 10 a.m. Wednesday, April 17 at Grand Arbor, 4403 Pioneer Road SE in Alexandria.
Marcie Wagner thought she had found the perfect place in the woods to establish a meditation center. Her neighbors are fighting it, citing concerns about traffic and future businesses and that the center might bring in addicts, the mentally ill and former inmates. The Douglas County Planning Commission weighed in Tuesday night, voting 4-2 against her request to offer mindfulness classes and weekend retreats on a small pond near Lobster Lake. It was also opposed by Moe Township.
Times are tough for farmers. No question. Amid four years of miserable crop and milk prices, plus a trade war with China, some are sweating their chances of getting an operating loan this spring. If they don't get one, they may be headed to bankruptcy. Others are having to dip into their savings or borrow on their equity to keep going, hoping that prices will rise in time for them to recover that money. The tension can, and has, sparked family squabbles and even thoughts of getting out.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has proposed spending just over $240 million over two years on the state's agriculture needs, such as meat inspectors, lab equipment and research. His proposal will have to go through a Republican Senate and a Democratic House, and will likely be modified along the way. Sen. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, chairman of the Minnesota Senate Committee on Agriculture, Rural Development and Housing Finance, called the governor's budget a "modest one" that focuses on the state agriculture department and its duties, including hiring new staff.
Corn and soybean farmer Russ Elliott was born during the midst of the early 1980s farm crisis, but he has heard plenty of stories. "I've heard a lot of farmers talk about it, how neighbors were just going out of business; here today, gone tomorrow, and they were pretty shocked," said Elliott, 37, president of the Douglas County Corn and Soybean Growers. Now, an increasing number of farmers are talking about it again.
A sheriff's mortgage foreclosure sale for the troubled Viking Plaza Mall set for Friday has been canceled, the Douglas County Sheriff's Office said Monday, and a document filed in the Douglas County Recorder's Officer shows that the mall's mortgage has changed hands. Ever since last June, a sheriff's sale of the mall had been repeatedly scheduled and postponed. Triggered by the loss of the mall's two anchor stores, J.C. Penney and Herberger's, the mall's lender sought the sheriff's sale while the mall's owners sought to refinance about $10 million that was still owed.
Author and labor trafficking survivor Bukola Oriola visited the Douglas County Library on Thursday, March 14, speaking about human trafficking and signing copies of her book. Oriola's book, "Imprisoned: The Travails of a Trafficked Victim," gives her account of having married a man in Minnesota who confiscated her wages for two years.
In a little over a week, Spencer Brand will be surrounded by old friends and the music he has loved since his days at Jefferson High School in Alexandria. It'll be a Sunday afternoon and the doctoral music student will be making his first-ever appearance as a soloist with an orchestra. He'll lift his trumpet to lead the Central Lakes Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Haydn's Trumpet Concerto.