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The Regional Report: Barrett Petfood plans new facility; W-H-A makes changes to Pledge of Allegiance policy

CASS LAKE

A new member now sits on the Cass Lake City Council after his application to fill an open seat was approved, the Cass Lake Times reported. Mike Hanson took the oath of office following his selection in the wake of the resignation of council member Barb Sproul, but not before some back-and-forth discussion among council members on whether to delay the appointment or implement a special election instead. A lengthy discussion with the city attorney by speakerphone led council members to continue with the appointment.

Previously, council member Wayne Bohn noted he might resign to apply for the seat—only because he failed to file for re-election to his current seat. Bohn was not one of the applicants and is still on the city council.

CROSBY

The 2018-19 school year will be the last for Crosby-Ironton High School Principal Jim Christenson, the Crosby-Ironton Courier reported. Christenson submitted his resignation, effective June 30, 2019, to the school board at its most recent meeting. Christenson has served the district for 35 years.

DEERWOOD

Five businesses in Deerwood will receive funds as part of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development's Small Cities grant program, the Crosby-Ironton Courier reported. The businesses, slated to receive $38,500, must each contribute 20 percent toward the rehabilitation projects. Selected by the Deerwood City Council were the American Legion, True Value, Deerwood Technologies, The Deerstand and Coach's Corner.

GARRISON

It's impossible to find young people willing to become firefighters in Garrison, Chief Bruce Breun told the city council, the Mille Lacs Messenger reported. The chief requested changes to the department's hiring practices in an effort to attract more candidates. He asked the council to consider paying new firefighters $10/hour for training while in their probationary period—a requirement that previously went uncompensated. The council approved Breun's request unanimously and went on to approve the hire of three new applicants who'd already passed background checks and references.

LITTLE FALLS

Barrett Petfood Innovations plans to build a new facility in Little Falls, the Morrison County Record reported. Owners of the specialty pet food manufacturer, currently located on Highway 25 south of Brainerd, intend to seek state funding through the Minnesota Investment Fund and the Job Creation Fund, along with tax-increment financing through the city of Little Falls. The city council agreed to set a public hearing on whether to provide TIF funding and other business subsidies. If all funding falls into place, owner Sarah Barrett told the Little Falls City Council they intended to build a 150,000-square-foot facility on land currently owned by the Little Falls School District. They expect to hire 100 employees.

A power outage at the middle school in Little Falls led to a mass exodus of students, the Morrison County Record reported. About 500 students were picked up by parents over a 2.5-hour period during the outage. Some residents expressed concerns the district was not prepared for a power outage with backup generators. Superintendent Steve Jones told the school board a check with general contractors put the expected price tag at $2 million to cover the district with generator power.

MORRISON COUNTY

Five school districts in Morrison County are coming together to develop a shared high-tech workforce development curriculum, the Morrison County Record reported. Little Falls, Pierz, Royalton, Swanville and Upsala are part of the collaboration, which is coming along in its planning stages. Pierz will offer an agronomy class, Swanville will focus on graphic design, Upsala will teach agriculture food service and hydroponics, while Little Falls will take on automotive and metal fabrication classes. The courses would also include an English class. Plans call for two courses to be taught at two of the schools for one semester, and two classes to be taught at one school the second semester. The districts are aiming for a fall 2019 rollout.

MOTLEY

A new charging station for electric vehicles will soon appear in Motley, the Staples World reported. The station, which will be located at BRICKS Travel Center, is part of Minnesota Power's plan to build a charging network in northeastern Minnesota. Powered by a 5-kilowatt solar array, the stations will include a 50-kilowatt DC fast charger and a Level 2 station. A Level 2 station will provide 240 volts, equivalent to what an electric dryer or oven uses, according to nonprofit advocacy group Plug In America.

The elementary school in Motley might be headed toward closure, the Staples World reported. The Staples-Motley School Board discussed potentially shutting down the Motley building, shifting all students and staff to the elementary and high school buildings in Staples. Estimates show the district could reap about $500,000 in savings by eliminating use of the building, most of which would come from cutting out the operating costs. None of the potential savings accounts for staff reductions. Mike Schmidt, high school principal, said all staff would be reassigned.

In the spring, the school board approved a budget with $273,300 in cuts, and in July, the district announced its intentions to propose a bond referendum to its residents. The referendum would ask voters to approve a building project to combine all the district's students into one building at the site of the current elementary school, adding on to that facility to increase its size from 47,000 square feet to 187,000 square feet.

NISSWA

A Nisswa City Council member sought proof of residency from Mayor Fred Heidmann, who is running unopposed for another two-year term, the Echo Journal reported. Council member Ross Krautkremer asked Heidmann to produce documents proving he lived within city limits for the 30 days leading up to the November election, a requirement by law. Heidmann said at the Oct. 18 meeting he would provide proof.

PINE RIVER

The construction of a solar array is underway at Pine River-Backus School, the Echo Journal reported. The project, which nearly faltered several times, is expected to be up and running by year's end, at the latest. Also undergoing solar array projects are Pequot Lakes High School and Central Lakes College, which will each have roof-mounted solar power systems.

RANDALL

So-called "flushable" wipes are causing headaches in yet another city, the Morrison County Record reported. Sewer clogs caused by the wipes have been making the news for the last few years, at times racking up expensive fixes to public infrastructure. The city intends to send letters to residents asking them to refrain from flushing the wipes.

WALKER

A recent change from daily to weekly Pledge of Allegiance recitation at the Walker-Hackensack-Akeley High School had some American Legion members perturbed, the Walker Pilot-Independent reported. Superintendent Eric Pingrey told those in attendance at a school board meeting the change reflected a desire to create more meaning behind the pledge. Students, Pingrey said, were reciting the pledge "like robots and were not really 'into' it," The Pilot-Independent reported. The school is developing curriculum around the pledge and its origin in an attempt to make it more meaningful for students.

Legion members challenged that approach, noting the district was opting to go for the bare minimum as required by state law. A Minnesota statute requires all public and charter schools to recite the pledge at least once a week—but schools are not permitted to force students to participate. School board members were challenged to reinstate the daily practice, but none made motions to do so.

-- 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 www.facebook.com/dispatchchelsey.

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