News

Wed
10
Apr
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Citizen committee formed to study justice center proposal

Bowing to persistent public pressure over the past three months, the Swift County Board of Commissioners created a Community Perspective Committee to give it input on a proposed $17.48 million justice center.

The committee will have two people named from each of the five county commission districts. At their April 2 meeting, commissioners said they want all the names of potential committee members submitted by April 15 so they can appoint the representatives at their April 16 meeting.

A listing of the towns and township in each district is at the end of this story.

 If more than two people from a commission district apply, County Board Chair Gary Hendrickx, District 1-Appleton, said what he would look for was a variety in who is named - male, female; people for and
people against. “You do not want to stack this in one way at all,” he said.

Wed
10
Apr
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Sheriff, attorney criticize Swift County retention policies

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher
Swift County Monitor-News

Swift County has lost Assistant County Attorney Allison Whalen to neighboring Stevens County. It is a loss that will have a deep impact on the office’s ability to prosecute cases as well as provide services to victims.

Both Swift County Sheriff John Holtz and County Attorney Danielle Olson roundly criticized the county board of commissioners and Administrator Kelsey Baker for their lack of effort to retain Whalen at the board’s meeting Tuesday, April 2.

It could get worse for the county with both Olson and her remaining assistant having sent out job applications for open positions in area counties.

Fri
05
Apr
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County looks at tour of PCF as governor says ‘No private prisons’

Swift County is organizing a tour of the Prairie Correctional Facility for Wednesday, April 24, that would include state legislators, the commissioner of the state Department of Corrections, area county commissioners as well as the prison’s owners, CoreCivic.

It would be intended to show the state that the 1,640-bed Prairie Correctional Facility (PCF) in Appleton that once employed 350 people from 24 surrounding counties should be used by the state to meet future prison needs. When it was at full occupancy, the prison generated an estimated $15.2 million annually in economic vitality for the region.

Though it has sat empty for nine years, the prison is ready to house prisoners. CoreCivic has kept a minimal maintenance staff in place and invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in its upkeep.

Fri
05
Apr
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Ideal weather helps slow snow melt, reducing area flood threat

With the temperarure reaching the year’s high of 57 degrees last Wednesday children who have been cooped up all winter long were anxious to be outside playing.

Since it reached its peak of 17.5 feet March 24, the Chippewa River has fallen 4 feet allowing water that was once encroaching on the Hawleywood Addition of Benson to drain away.

Flood concerns were considerably reduced as the area saw more than two weeks of temperatures that warmed during the day to between 32 and 57 degrees, then saw evening lows fall below freezing again, slowing the snowmelt.

It also helped that there has been no precipitation since March 14.

It was just 10 days ago that three excavators were working to free ice jams at the Burlington Northern Sante Fe railroad bridge over the Chippewa River south of Minnesota Highway 9. Ice floes were lodging against the bridge pylons, creating a dam that caused river levels to rise to the north of the bridge.

Fri
05
Apr
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Brightmark’s plans for Benson Power site progressing

Bob Powell, CEO Brightmark Energy, was in Benson last week to meet with city officials and citizens of the community.
BME is working to finalize engineering, technical, legislative, and financial issues as it moves forward with plans to build a biogas facility on the former Benson Power and Fibrominn site west of Benson.

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher
Swift County Monitor-News

Brightmark Energy CEO Bob Powell was in Benson for a couple days last week meeting with city staff and a group of area business people as the California company’s plans for development of the former Benson Power (Fibrominn) site progress.

Brightmark Energy (BME) is pursuing the possible construction of an anaerobic digestion facility that would break down dairy manure into methane gases from which renewable natural gas is then created. Other sources of biomass could include poultry manure, sugar beet waste, and other products.

Its initial investment is estimated at around $50 million with the potential for an additional $150 million if it expands to a second phase.

Fri
29
Mar
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SCBHS moves toward affiliation decision

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher
Swift County Monitor-News

Swift County-Benson Health Services will pursue possible affiliation with CentraCare Health of St. Cloud, Carris Health of Willmar, or both with a final decision set for the May 23 governing board meeting. Carris also has a relationship with CentraCare.

If it follows through with affiliation, it means the end of SCBHS operating as an independent medical facility with a substantially reduced role for its governing board. The board now has three members appointed by the City of Benson, six Swift County Board of Commissioners, and one by the medical staff.

It made the decision Monday night based on the recommendation of a committee made up of staff and board members that looked into the pros and cons of remaining independent, remaining independent with substantial investment from the county and city, or affiliating with a regional healthcare organization.

Fri
29
Mar
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Board of Education looks to make $631,900 in cuts

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher
Swift County Monitor-News

Facing an estimated general fund deficit of $631,900 in the 2019-2020 school year budget, the District 777 Board of Education made a series of painful cuts at its March 18 meeting.

Those cuts will affect the classes offered to students in Benson Public Schools, the number of faculty on staff, custodial services, the bus for summer marching band trips, and even the amount of paper the schools use.

Based on current state funding and local tax revenues, the school district estimates its general fund operating income for the 2019-2020 school year at $9,350,700 with expenses of $9,982,600 - a deficit of $631,900.

It is the general fund that accounts for faculty salaries, the courses offered, and the general operations of the school district.

Fri
29
Mar
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Flood averted as river falls

Burlington Northern Sante Fe and Riley Construction excavators work to clear ice floes from the Chippewa River at the BNSF railroad bridge next  to Minnesota Highway 9 West Sunday morning. As the ice was cleared, the river level dropped, reducing the flood threat to northwest Benson.

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher
Swift County Monitor-News

Just in case all the right elements came together to create a flood threat to the Benson community, the city council took at tour of the vulnerable areas March 18. City Manager Rob Wolfington laid out options for fighting a flood, depending on how severe it became, and sought council direction on the steps to implement.

Over the weekend, two of the three ingredients came together to cause the Chippewa River to rise rapidly – warm temperatures melting the heavy and moisture-laden snow pack, and the river ice breaking up, then lodging against the pylons of the Burlington Northern Sante Fe railroad bridge. The third feared ingredient, rain, stayed to the south.

Fri
15
Mar
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County board keeps $10 wheelage tax

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher
Swift County Monitor-News

 

Though it has the authority to put its $10 wheelage tax on cruise control, not having to review its implementation annually, that is not the easy path Swift County Board of Commissioners has decided to follow.

At the March 5 county board meeting, Commissioner Eric Rudningen, District 5-Kerkhoven, said he likes to revisit the wheelage tax each year so that “the public and commissioners are aware that it is there rather than being approved once and forgotten about.”

There might be more controversy for commissioners when they bring it up every year, but Rudningen said he could accept that. “When we make choices, whether it is who we send to the Legislature or how we back certain things, that directly affects what we are able to do out here in the county,” he said.

Fri
01
Mar
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Gymnasts frustrated with lack of action

Benson gymnasts, coaches, members of the visiting team, and spectators crowd along the cramped space of the Benson Armory for a gymnastics meet.

School board sympathizes, but says lack of funds and $26.3 building project a priority

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher
Swift County Monitor-News

A large contingent of Benson-Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg parents, coaches and gymnasts showed up at last Tuesday night’s District 777 Board of Education meeting seeking answers on when they will get a new facility.

“We were here months ago with our concerns after the option of using the civic center closed down,” Varsity Coach Kathy Ahrdnt said. “You promised that you would continue to work on it. We are here tonight to continue the discussion, to see where you are and to see if there is a timeline so we can move forward.”

The gymnastics program needs a safe place for its gymnasts to practice and compete, Ahrdnt said. The Benson Armory is too cramped to safely compete and practice, the school board has been told for several years.

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