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The Regional Report: Barrett Petfood looks to expand in Little Falls

What's happening in Brainerd lakes area communities throughout the region.

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Barrett Petfood Innovations logo on the side of a semitrailer. Brainerd Dispatch file photo
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A second Barrett Petfood Innovations facility appears to be in the city of Little Falls’ future, the Morrison County Record reported April 11.

The company, which just opened its extrusion facility in July 2020, has plans to build a freeze drying facility nearby if all goes as planned. This second facility would be a joint venture between Barrett and a Fargo, North Dakota-based company called Anchor Ingredients.

Sarah Barrett told the Record the pandemic is a boon for the pet food business as people add pets to their families while staying home. The extrusion facility was initially expected to employ 35 people, but it instead employs 100 and is running at full capacity. Freeze-dried meat from the future facility would be mixed with kibble produced across the street.

A May 17 Little Falls City Council public hearing will address the company’s request for a tax-increment financing district at the site.

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Aitkin

New athletics coaches and additional coaches’ pay were among the approvals at the Aitkin School Board meeting April 19, decisions that drew scrutiny in the wake of the district cutting art as a separate class in Rippleside Elementary School, the Aitkin Independent Age reported Wednesday, April 28.

The school board heard from community members including elementary art teacher Loren Vonasek, who told the board more than 750 people signed a petition asking the board to save the art program. The board blamed its cut on a continual budget shortfall and noted additional cuts are likely in the pipeline if a proposed capital projects levy fails to pass.

A decade-old skate park will likely be razed in favor of three pickleball courts, two basketball courts and an “architect-designed community space,” the Aitkin Independent Age reported April 14.

The community space would include a warming house with concessions at the Aitkin City Park and would be reflective of similar spaces on the Iron Range funded by the Minnesota Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation. Recent grants awarded to the city focus on providing activities for older adults, and the older demographics of the city of Aitkin mean it could utilize other grant opportunities as well.

The interim police chief in Aitkin was hired for the permanent role, the Aitkin Independent Age reported April 14.

Paul Ryan has been a police officer in Aitkin for 26 years, served as the school resource officer for more than three years and served as interim chief for four months following the resignation of former Chief Tim Catlin. Catlin resigned in November while on paid administrative leave during an investigation into a complaint.

Catlin worked for the city of Aitkin for 39 years and was chief of police since 2014. He also served as Aitkin County sheriff 1995-99. The agreement allowed Catlin to receive his full pension and one year of health insurance. He also was paid for unused vacation time, unused compensatory time and unused sick leave totaling $63,894.

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In response to the matter, according to the Age, the Aitkin Police Department decided to use Lexipol, a company offering policy manuals, training bulletins and consulting services to public safety agencies.

Deerwood

An original song written by a Deerwood man will be used in an upcoming documentary, the Crosby-Ironton Courier reported Wednesday, April 28.

The song, called “The Morel Mushroom Song,” was written and performed by Lynn Maalis and is available on YouTube at https://bit.ly/2R80NDg .

Ironton

Historical highlights about the city of Ironton are set to be included on an interpretative sign as part of the Northern Minnesota Historical Mine Tour, the Crosby-Ironton Courier reported Wednesday, April 28.

The Ironton City Council asked residents to submit their ideas for the 10 highlights to city council members. The council also agreed to donate $1,000 to the group organizing the tours on a split vote, with Mayor Greg Stanich breaking a tie. The driving tour would begin in the Cuyuna Range and extend to Ely.

The Cuyuna City Council heard a presentation from this group on April 13 and took no action with expectations to discuss in May.

Isle

The Isle City Council agreed to eliminate drug testing requirements for all part-time city employees who do not operate a vehicle at an April 13 meeting, the Mille Lacs Messenger reported Wednesday, April 28.

The action came after Don Graber, municipal liquor store manager, told the council it was difficult to fill positions at the store and the drug test was a deterrent. City Attorney Damien Toven said the council must make the change across the board and not specifically for the liquor store.

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Each drug test costs the city $73 and 47 were completed in the last three years.

Motley

A pair of flags in support of first responders were removed from Veterans Memorial Park and Motley City Hall after a resident questioned if they were appropriate to fly, the Morrison County Record reported April 11.

While the original discussion stemmed from whether the American flag-style flags represented a desecration of Old Glory, It was instead the desire to prevent other groups from requesting their own flag be flown that led to the decision.

Council member Steve Johnson voiced this concern during the Motley City Council meeting at which the issue was broached by Wayne Barros, a 30-year employee of the city’s public works department who retired in 2014. Johnson said there are “a lot of militant organizations out there” that might request equal representation on government property, according to the Record.

— Compiled by Chelsey Perkins, community editor. Perkins may be reached at 218-855-5874 or chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com . Follow her on Twitter @DispatchChelsey or on Facebook at facebook.com/dispatchchelsey .
Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her at chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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