News

Fri
29
Apr
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County going ahead with bonding for broadband

Questions raised about security of loan to Federated

The sale of $7.805 million in general obligation bonds to finance broadband service expansion in eastern Swift County is a step closer to taking place following two public hearings on the sale last Tuesday.
With the bond funds, as well as a $4.95 million state broadband grant, Federated Telephone Cooperative of Chokio, plans to expand high-speed internet service to 600 households, 425 businesses and 75 community institutions, in the coming year.  The project affects 13 of the county’s 21 townships concentrated in areas just east of the Benson city limits.

The area in Swift County included in the project is most of each of the following townships in the eastern half of the county: Kerkhoven, Hayes, Pillsbury, Dublin, Kildare, Camp Lake, Benson, Torning, Cashel, Swenoda, Six Mile Grove and Clontarf.

Fri
29
Apr
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Over 70 community members attended BHS Co-Curricular Project meeting

Over 70 community members attended a BHS Co-Curricular Project meeting Monday night in the senior high cafeteria to discuss results of a community survey of BHS staff, parents, and students, while also trying to develop a mission statement, vision, and specific goals of BHS fine arts and activity offerings at BHS.  Bruce Miles, of the Big River Group, LLC, of St. Cloud, was on hand to lead the two-hour workshop designed to provide the school board with guidelines they will use in the coming months to help improve the vitality of extra-curricular offerings at BHS.  More on the meeting next week.

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Fri
29
Apr
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Rain slows spring planting, but moisture is welcome

Minnesota farmers made good progress planting between rain showers during the week ending Sunday, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Despite only 3.8 days suitable for fieldwork, current year planting progress continues to make gains against the five-year average for most crops.

Though topsoil moisture levels are very good throughout much of the state, west central Minnesota farmers welcomed the rains that came Sunday night and Monday. The U.S. Drought Monitor showed the western two-thirds of Swift County in an abnormally dry area with both Big Stone and Traverse counties to the west in a moderate drought.

The U.S. Drought Monitor also showed western Pope County, all of Stevens County and western Chippewa County in an abnormally dry area.

Fri
22
Apr
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April’s quick warmup gets spring planting underway in Minnesota

Area farmers were out doing fieldwork and planting prior to Monday’s rain as April’s temperatures went from very cool to nice and warm.

After a very cool start to April, temperatures warmed up dramatically the past week allowing farmers to start spring planting.

Through the first 12 days of April, highs averaged just 45 degrees, but between April 13 and Monday, April 18, highs averaged 75 – 30 degrees warmer. Lows during the first 12 days of April averaged 23 degrees, but over the past week they have averaged 47 degrees – 24 degrees warmer.

Those higher temperatures have warmed the soil considerably over the past week. At the Swan Lake Research Farm in Stevens County the average soil temperature from April 1 to April 12 was 37 degrees at both 2 inches and 4 inches. As of Monday, the soil at 2 inches had warmed to an average of 53 degrees and at 4 inches to 50 degrees.

Fri
22
Apr
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Fewer blocked crossings promised

BNSF double train engine in Benson, MN

For well over a year Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railway has been working to install automatic switching gear on the tracks that run through Benson. The goal was to eliminate the need for manual switching – requiring a person to physically throw the switch – a process that slowed down how quickly trains could move through the community.

Last week Amy McBeth, with BNSF public affairs, informed City Manager Rob Wolfington that it was putting its new power switch into operation in Benson.
“This means that trains can pass through town and won’t have to stop and hand throw the switch,” she told him in an email. “It should help to reduce the time trains are there and alleviate some of the issues we’ve had there with motorists trying to traverse the crossings.”

Wed
13
Apr
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Emerald Eve raises $50,000

Some of the 222 people who attended Emerald Eve Friday night bid on items being auctioned by Bob Zielsdorf.
The Lloyd and Barbara Amundson Charity Foundation gave the SCBH Foundation $15,000 to be used toward its planned memory care and assisted living facility. Above, from left are, First Security VP Tom Jenson, Assistant Cashier/Loan Officer Maryls Boone, First Security President Brent Grube, Foundation President Jerry Peterson, Foundation Treasurer Jan Goff and Foundation Vice President Ron Laycock.
Lloyd and Barbara Amundson’s foundation gave $15,000 to SCBH for its assisted living-memory care facility. The Amundsons are the owners of First Security Bank in Benson.

Emerald Eve raises $50,000

With the help of a $15,000 donation from the Lloyd and Barbara Amundson Foundation Charity Foundation, the Swift County Benson Hospital Foundation raised over $50,000 at its Emerald Eve event last Friday evening.

The 222 tickets sold were the most in the 20-year history of the foundation and raised nearly $10,000 alone. The live auction conducted by Benson area auctioneer Robert Zielsdorf raised over $24,000. Funds were also raised from the more than 80 items on the silent auction.

Emerald Eve funds are going toward a planned assisted living-memory care facility that the hospital’s governing board and SCBH Foundation have been working on for the past couple years.

SCBH CEO Kurt Waldbillig told the crowd Friday night that the board of governors is still in the design phase of the project. The next step once the project design is in place is to send out for bids for construction, he said.

Wed
13
Apr
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County to sell $7.8 million in GO bonds for broadband

Swift County’s Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the sale of $7,805,000 of taxable general obligation tax abatement bonds at their April 5 meeting to finance broadband expansion in the eastern half of the county.

The motion simply set the terms of the sale of the bonds and a deadline for making a bid of 10:30 a.m., May 2. Action to award the bonds is scheduled to take place at the county board’s May 3 meeting.

Commissioners also voted to retain Northland Securities, Inc., of Minneapolis, as its financial adviser for the bond sale at the cost of $22,000.

While Swift County selling the bonds and its taxpayers will be backing them up, Federated Telephone Company will be making the payments over the next 20 years to retire the debt.

Last year, Swift County agreed to support Federated Telephone’s expansion of broadband services to the eastern half of the county by committing to $7.5 million in bonding for the $12.5 million project.

Thu
07
Apr
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Heavy, wet snow blankets Benson Thursday morning

Kids head to class at the Northside Elementary Thursday morning as a heavy, wet snow falls.

Large snowflakes came down heavily early Thursday morning turning the ground white in the Benson area as kids headed to school. With the temeprature hovering around 34 degrees, and expected to hit a high of 43 degrees, the snow was already melting away.

Wed
06
Apr
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Benson Council gets a demo on Prairie 5 Rides dispatch system

Benson Council gets a demo on Prairie 5 Rides dispatch system

Monday night Benson’s City Council got an overview of how a Prairie 5 Rides bus works with its electronic tablet that keeps track of who needs to get picked up, dropped off, where they are waiting and where they are going.

Prairie 5 Rides Manager Ted Nelson took the council aboard one of its busses to describe how the service works and answer questions. Bus driver Penny Schomaker assisted him.

Calls for pick ups and drop offs go to a central dispatching office in Montevideo and are posted to a drivers’ screen in the bus. The screen also lets the driver take care of payments from riders, keeping track of who has a punch card or pass, and who is paying in cash.

The computer-based rides program can also keep track of regularly scheduled rides, such as for those kids who use the bus to get to school every day.

Wed
06
Apr
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$12-$15 million needed for school building upkeep

Before the District 777 Board of Education sinks millions of dollars into upgrading the Junior High School, it wants to take a good look at the options as well as ways to finance those options. The auditorium, at left, will stay and get some improvements, but it is the classroom space to the right that poses the bigger issues going forward.

District 777’s Board of Education has developed a new facilities plan that is focused on maintaining and upgrading its current facilities to keep them up and running for the next 20 years.

It includes just over $5 million in architectural, mechanical and electrical work that it sees needing to take place over the next five years on the Northside Elementary, Junior High School and Senior High school buildings. There is another $7.37 million that is necessary within the next five to 10 years with $2.68 in optional work listed.

In all, the work the school board sees as necessary simply to maintain the facilities it has today over the next decade comes to $12.38 million - $15.059 million if the option work is included.

There are no new buildings planned in the facilities plan’s preliminary estimates. However, the school board does continue to discuss the possibility of an addition to the Northside Elementary to accommodate an expanded preschool program.

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