News

Fri
09
Jun
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PCF sees progress in 2017 Legislature

Supporters of reopening the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton have worked doggedly at the Minnesota Legislature for the past several years in an effort to get the state to consider leasing or buying the vacant prison.

With the end up the 2017 legislative session they have won a minor, but important victory. Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill that included language that directs the state Department of Corrections (DOC) to use an independent contractor to conduct an assessment of the prison’s readiness for use. The study will also look at what improvements would be needed before state prisoners could be housed in the 1,640-bed facility with the report due by Jan. 15, 2018.

It has sat empty since owner CoreCivic, formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America, shut it down in February 2010. CoreCivic has kept a maintenance staff at the prison to keep it ready to use and has made significant investments in improvements over the past seven years.

Fri
09
Jun
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SCBHS plans to close Counseling Associates service in August

Swift County-Benson Health Services plans to close its Counseling Associates of West Central Minnesota operation with those services to be consolidated with Woodland Centers as of Aug. 21.

Counseling Associates currently operates out of the second floor of the hospital employing seven counselors and three support staff. In addition to providing services to the community, they meet some of the counseling needs of Benson Public Schools. It has been providing mental health services to the area for more than 30 years.

Woodland Centers is a non-profit mental health services agency that is supported by six counties, including Swift. The other counties are Kandiyohi, Lac qui Parle, Meeker, Renville, and Chippewa with the main office in Willmar. It has offices in downtown Benson.

Fri
09
Jun
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30th Pioneerland Band Festival Wednesday, June 14

Benson High School’s Marching Band performs in its new uniforms in the Memorial Day parade. It will lead off next Wednesday’s Pioneerland Band Festival parade.

Pioneerland Band Festival will celebrate its 30th parade in honor of Flag Day Wednesday, June 14, in Benson, starting at 6:30 p.m.

Despite all the sidewalk, curb and street work going on in the community, the parade will follow its traditional route starting out on west U.S. 12/Minnesota Avenue proceeding east to 14th Street, then going north to the Benson High School. It will travel past Do-Mat’s Family Food and Runnings on its way downtown where it will pass by the Country Inn, the Benson Armory where judging will take place, and on past Roosevelt Park.

Most of the sidewalks along the parade route have already been replaced with work continuing at a rapid pace into next week. No construction will take place along the parade route June 14.

Fri
09
Jun
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Bill compensating city $20 million signed; but PUC needs to act as well

Fibrominn, now Benson Power, under construction in 2005.

While Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has signed the Jobs & Energy bill that included language that would see the City of Benson paid $20 million between 2018 and 2021 for economic development, there is still another hurdle to clear.

Whether or not the deal proceeds depends on state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approval for Xcel Energy to buy out the owners of Benson Power, LLC, and then proceeding to shut it down. That shut down could come as earlier as the summer of 2018.

Benson Power produces 55 megawatts of power by burning turkey litter and woodchips. It employs 45 people at the plant with another 50 to 60 people working in jobs supplying the plant with turkey litter and wood chips. Ash from the plant is conveyed to the adjacent North American Fertilizer plant incorporated into fertilizer products. It has been estimated that over 100 people’s livelihoods are tied to the plant not counting the employees who work there.

Fri
02
Jun
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Some school scoreboards aged, failing

Benson Pubic Schools’ Activities Committee will be looking into the costs and a schedule for replacing scoreboards in the district’s gymnasiums and outdoor sports facilities.

Benson Public Schools’ scoreboards range in shape from barely hanging on to okay, Activities Director Shannon Schmidt told the board of education at its May 15 meeting. She told the board that she was giving it the update on the scoreboards so that it didn’t end up one day with a gym or field without a working scoreboard.

If the school district were to modernize all its scoreboards, including upgrading with digital video screens, it could cost over $100,000 based on the experiences of other school districts in the area.

The softball field scoreboard is from around 2005 and was purchased used, she said. It is in the worst shape of any of the district’s scoreboards and needs to be replaced.

Fri
02
Jun
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6W may need additional agent in 2018

6W Community Corrections is likely to need an additional agent in 2018 to handle the rapidly expanding workload agents are dealing with.

Commissioner Gary Hendrickx, District 1-Appleton, said at the Swift County Board of Commissioners meeting May 16. Hendrickx, along with Commissioner Pete Peterson, District 3-south Benson, serves as a liaison on the 6W board. It provides probation and parole supervision for Swift, Chippewa, Yellow Medicine and Lac qui Parle counties. It has 18 employees with 11 career agents.

“The workload for the agency is getting beyond the point where it can do the job with due diligence,” Hendrickx said. The 6W board voted to have the dollars in by Jan. 1, 2018, for another fulltime agent, he said.

Commissioner Joe Fox, District 4-Hegbert Township, asked what it would cost Swift County to add a fulltime agent to the 6W staff. Peterson said it would be around $17,000 a year.

Fri
02
Jun
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Community honors fallen heroes at Monday service

Benson City Council Member and veteran Lucas Olson addresses crowd at the Benson City Cemetery Memorial Day Service. Sitting in front are (right to left) VFW Ladies Auxiliary members Donna Christianson, Helen Hollingsworth, Tammy Luschen, Bev Klemm, Gail Bremher, Sue Hess, and Dee Cook.
It was a cool, cloudy day as area residents gathered in the Benson City Cemetery to honor America’s war heroes.

It was a windy, cool morning as a small crowd made its way from the parade route to the Benson City Cemetery Monday to honor those who served and fell defending the United States.

Among those who addressed the crowd to commemorate the service of American soldiers was Benson City Council Member Lucas Olson. He was elected to the council in a special election this past January to fill the remaining three years in Jonathon Pogge-Weaver’s seat.

Olson, the machine shop foreman and a machinist at Swift Machine & Fab in Benson, served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1995 to 1999. He is a graduate of Clinton-Graceville High School and Central Lakes College. He was deployed with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit to the Western Pacific and Kuwait....

 

Fri
02
Jun
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Northside Wagon Parade Celebrates reading and end of the school year

After 37 years of teaching in the Benson elementary schools teacher Donna Tatge is retiring. She waves goodbye as she is followed by her first grade class, which read “Mother Bruce” by Ryan T. Higgins. Paraprofessional Nettie Berens walks along with the class.
“The Chocolate Touch” was read by Anne Duncan’s second grade class.

Pictured, top: After 37 years of teaching in the Benson elementary schools teacher Donna Tatge is retiring. She waves goodbye as she is followed by her first grade class, which read “Mother Bruce” by Ryan T. Higgins. Paraprofessional Nettie Berens walks along with the class.

Pictured, bottom: “The Chocolate Touch” was read by Anne Duncan’s second grade class.
 

Many more photos appear in the May 31, 2017 edition of the  Swift County Monitor-News. Subscribe today to the print edition or our PDF internet edition. Call 320-843-4111 and you can get all the local news and sports delivered to you!
 

Fri
26
May
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County creates HR, payroll positions

With two 3-2 votes the Swift County Board of Commissioners will move forward with creating a full-time human resources person as well as a payroll officer/administrative assistant.

While Commissioners Eric Rudningen, District 5-Kerkhoven, Pete Peterson, District 3-south Benson, and Gary Hendrickx, District 1-Appleton, agreed the county needed to add the two positions, Commissioners Ed Pederson, District 2-north Benson, and Joe Fox, District 4-Hegbert Township, disagreed.

It is estimated the HR position would have a starting salary of $53,206. The payroll officer/administrative assistant would have a salary of $35,298, though the position might not be fulltime.

However, only one new position is technically being added. Commissioners had voted last year to hire a HR director in 2017. Also, current Assistant to the Administrator Amanda Ness is likely to fill one of the positions.

Fri
26
May
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County board sets public hearing on solar panel law

Near North Branch in Chisago County 1,000 acres of land is now covered by 440,000 solar panels that are expected to generate enough electricity to power 20,000 homes.

If you are driving east on Minnesota Highway 23, you will see 100 acres of farmland that is now home to a solar panel array that will generate 15.23 megawatts of power, enough for nearly 2,500 homes. Along U.S Highway 12 near Atwater is a 37-acre solar farm. These are just three examples of the growing number of solar energy projects underway in the state.

“Minnesota had just one megawatt of solar capacity in 2009,” Minnesota Public Radio’s Elizabeth Dunbar reported earlier this month. “Now it’s 447 megawatts, or enough to power about 63,000 homes.”

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