News

Fri
10
Feb
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Immigrants are needed for rural Minnesota to grow

State demographer, U of M study both say immigration is key to population growth

As the national debate rages over President Donald Trump’s attempt to restrict immigrants coming to America from war torn Middle Eastern countries and as he works toward building a wall across the country’s southern border with Mexico, another report has been released showing Minnesota’s economic future is tied to welcoming immigrants.

The need for immigration to fill the growing demand for workers is no more pressing than in rural Minnesota, which has been steadily losing population for more than 50 years. Many rural counties today, including Swift County, have a population lower than it was in 1900.

Deaths outnumber births in rural Minnesota.

Outmigration of young people from rural areas to the big cities steadily bleeds away the future employment base.

Fri
10
Feb
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City buying Loen Electric building for new police headquarters

Benson’s Police Department will be getting a new home with the city council’s unanimous vote Monday night to purchase the Loen Electric building in the southwest corner of the city for $199,500.
While the purchase is effective Feb. 28 the city won’t be taking possession of the building until July 1.

Loen Electric will be moving its operations into a building on the south side of U.S. Highway 12 west. It is between the Swift County Development Achievement Center and the Historical Museum. It plans to do extensive remodeling of the new building prior to moving in.

In the coming months, the City of Benson will be developing a scope of work with architectural plans for converting the Loen building into its police headquarters.

Council Member Jack Evenson made the motion for the purchase with a second by Lucas Olson. Council Members Stephanie Heinzig and Terri Hawley joined Evenson and Olson, as well as Mayor Gary Landmark, in approving the purchase.

Fri
10
Feb
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Armory to be studied for new Benson city offices

Benson’s National Guard Armory building was built in 1927 and is one of few historic buildings left in the community.

Benson’s City Council approved spending $26,500 for a study that will develop a scope of work for turning the Amory building into a new city hall.

Architect Reed Becker of Widseth, Smith, Nolting of Alexandria is to provide the city with drawings for floor plans along with a 3D image of the what the building will look like when remodeled. He is to also provide the city with estimates for construction costs.

Once the plans are complete, they are to be in a form that can be presented to the public at a public hearing. A public hearing would be necessary should the city decide to seek public approval of bonding to pay for the project.

Benson’s National Guard Armory building was built in 1927 and is one of few historic buildings left in the community. Renovation plans call for tearing off the front of the building, but it has been proposed the new structure be designed to mimic the current look.

Fri
10
Feb
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Prairie 5 Rides is ending weekend service March 1

Prairie 5 Rides will stop providing weekend bus service in the City of Benson as of March 1.

Benson’s City Council agreed Monday night to end the service after being presented with the costs and records that show very low ridership on Saturday and Sunday by Prairie 5 Rides Manager Ted Nelson.

On weekends, the bus services operates from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturdays while Sunday service is from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for 9.5 hours per weekend.

At the rate of $50 an hour the cost is $475 per weekend to provide the bus service, Nelson told the council.

Prairie 5 Rides took over the city-owned Heartland Bus Service in the first week in August and since then has provided rides on 23 weekends. During the time, it has provided 112 rides on Saturdays and 126 rides on Sundays for a total of 238 rides.

At a cost of $475 per weekend over the past 23 weeks, the total cost of providing those weekend rides has been $10,925, or $45.90 per ride.

Fri
03
Feb
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Maintenance budget for schools being readied for February meeting

Over the next few weeks, the Benson Public Schools administration will be preparing its recommendation for priorities on an estimated $14.2 million facilities maintenance plan to be implemented over the next 10 years.

It will also further research the role the school district could play in establishing expanded child care programs for the community. It will bring its proposals back to the school board at its Tuesday, Feb. 21, meeting.

As it looked at the amount of work needed simply to maintain the Benson High School, the Junior High School, and the Northside Elemetnary School, the school board formed a facilities task force to look into the work required. It was formed to give district residents input into the proposals that would eventually be put before the school board and taxpayers.

Fri
03
Feb
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County board votes 3-2 to offer administrator’s job to Baker

Swift County’s Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 in a special meeting Friday to offer the position of county administrator to Kelsey Baker after its first choice for the job turned it down.

Larry Timmerman, the senior program evaluator for Ramsey County Health & Wellness/Economic Growth and Community Investment, turned the job down last week after the county board voted 3-2 to offer him the administrator’s job.

In a letter to the board, Timmerman said that at this time the offer was not in the best interests of his family, the most important people to him. He added that knowing at least two of the commissioners preferred Ms. Baker he hoped that the entire board would

Fri
03
Feb
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Breen’s fountain sees booming business in its final days

Breen’s fountain coffee regulars, from left, Paul Gandrud, Don Wilcox and Mark Kettelkamp play “the numbers game” for who will pay the bill.
Laree and Vyke Breen struggled with the decision to close the Breen’s fountain for a decade, but in the end it came down to the need for more space for the pharmacy and a steadily declining clientele.

The era of the ‘Big Brave’ comes to an end

Monday afternoon Florence Griffin, the wife of the late Dr. Richard Griffin of Benson, and son Tim were having one last lunch at Breen’s Pharmacy. They had come from Cold Springs to take in a nostalgic moment at the Breen’s Fountain before it was set to close at the end of the day Tuesday.

They, like many others over the past two weeks, since the advertisement ran in the Swift County Monitor-News Jan. 18 announcing the fountain was closing Jan. 31, made a special trip for a last visit to the fountain. But there were plenty of local people filling the booths, seated at the tables, and perched on blue stools as well.

Last Saturday the fountain was full of people visiting for one last Big Brave (burger, fries and a thick made-from-ice-cream shake), or Little Brave (burger, fries and a pop,) or just one last chocolate shake all by its delicious self.

Fri
27
Jan
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County sets special meeting after administrator job offer turned down

With a 3-2 vote Jan. 17, the Swift County Board of Commissioners offered the job of county administrator to Larry Timmerman. However, Sunday Timmerman notified commissioners that he was declining the job offer.

Commissioners have now set a special meeting for Friday at 1 p.m. to consider their options. It is likely that they will offer the job to Kelsey Baker, a candidate whom two of the county board members had supported over Timmerman.

Since 2014, Timmerman has been the senior program evaluator for Ramsey County Health & Wellness/Economic Growth and Community Investment. Prior to that he served as the county administrator for Wabasha County in 2013 and the senior planner for the Washington County Office of Administration from 2007 to 2013.

Fri
27
Jan
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Four temperature records broken in the past week

After a bitter stretch of cold weather that dominated the first two weeks of January the temperatures have dramatically turned around. Between Thursday and Sunday four record high low temperatures were set.

A warm southerly flow of air and cloudy skies the past week helped keep temperatures steady at or above the freezing mark for four consecutive days.

Those lows were 12 to 15 degrees above the average high temperatures for mid-January, which are 19 to 20 degrees. They were 32 to 35 degrees above the average lows of 0 to 1 degree above zero for the Jan. 19 to 22 period.

The warmest January low on record is 37 degrees set Jan. 27, 1989. It came during a six-day stretch from Jan. 24 to Jan. 29 when lows ranged from 31 to 37 degrees. The 35-degree lows recorded Jan. 19, 20 and 21 this year tie for second place for the highest low temperature in January. The low was also 35 degrees Jan. 9, 2002.

Fri
27
Jan
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County takes next step in $4.5 million courthouse renovation

Formal plans and specifications for a nearly $5 million renovation of the Swift County Courthouse and an upgrade of Countryside Public Health will be sought in anticipation of seeking bids later this spring.

County commissioners voted 4-1 at their Jan. 17 meeting to proceed with the projects, which will be paid for by general obligation bonds. Property owners in Swift County will pay the bonds off.

Commissioners Gary Hendrickx, District 1-Appleton, Pete Peterson, District 3-south Benson, Joe Fox, District 4-Hegbert Township, and Eric Rudningen, District 5-Kerkhoven, voted for the motion while Commissioner Ed Pederson, District 2-north Benson, voted against it citing concerns about the cost.

 

Countryside Public Health
Nearly $490,000 in work is needed at the five-county regional headquarters of Countryside Public Health in Benson for basic maintenance of the building.

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