News

Fri
16
Feb
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PUC asked to reconsider Benson Power closing vote

Vote sets stage for Xcel Energy to buy, close biomass power plant

 

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

Arguing that closing the Benson Power, LLC, biomass electric generation plant would adversely affect the environment and state economy, and violate guaranteed state contractual obligations, multiple petitioners are seeking to keep the facility open.

North American Fertilizer/Beaver Creek Transport, the Minnesota Timber Association, and the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association, are asking the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to reverse its order allowing Xcel Energy to proceed with the purchase and closing of Benson Power.

North American Fertilizer (NAF) is the company adjacent to Benson Power that processes the ash from the plant’s burning a mix of wood chips and turkey into fertilizer.

Fri
16
Feb
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As interest rates rise, so do county interest earnings

Swift County earned $170,000 in interest income on its investments in 2017. The earnings are due to a combination of more funds to invest and interest rates that are starting to creep up.

In all, the county had $20,141,095 invested at the end of 2017. But not all of that is made up of funds the county has sitting in reserves for general operations.

Nearly $5.2 million of the investment funds were just added this past year in the form of a bond sale to pay for renovations at the Swift County courthouse and at Countryside Public Health in Benson. Those monies are already being paid out to contractors. Another $1 million in funds are in a reserve that has been built up over the past several years from the county’s self-insurance health plan. There is $3.3 million in the road and bridge fund.

There is $5.09 million in the general revenue fund reserve. Other investment funds are tied to economic development and human services.

Thu
15
Feb
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Community Meeting

There will be a Community Meeting to further discuss the issues regarding Benson High School sports that parents brought before the school board in November.

The meeting is Monday, February 19th at 6:30 pm at the Fire Hall meeting room.

This is an open meeting and we encourage all school staff, community members, parents and school administration to attend. 

Spread the word - we hope to see you there!!

Thu
15
Feb
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City working to repair water main

A water line break on 10th Street South in Benson early this morning led to the city issuing a Code Red alert for a water emergency. It asked citizens to limit water use until 9:30 a.m. With the emergency now over, the city is working to repair the line. It is hoped that more water line breaks aren't in store this coming spring due to a lack of snowcover allowing frost levels to sink deep into the ground.

The leak was discovered about 4:15 a.m. by Benson police who then contacted the Public Works Department, which was on the job 15 mintues later. The water flow was fast enough and long enough from the leak that it caused the level in the Benson water tower to drop. The city suspects there was substantial damage done to the road that will likely require it being rebuilt this spring or summer.

 

 

Fri
09
Feb
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DEED: Benson Power closing positive for state, but some businesses hit hard

Benson Power is likely to be shut down this late spring or summer by Xcel Energy resulting in the loss of 45 jobs at the plant. The closing will also have a deep financial impact on suppliers of services and goods.

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher
Swift County Monitor-News

 

When Minnesota’s Legislature passed the law last spring allowing for the shutdown of Benson Power, LLC, it also directed the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development to study the consequences of its closing.

The Legislature set aside $150,000 for the study and directed DEED’s commissioner “to examine the economic impact of the closure of a biomass facility located in the city of Benson that uses poultry litter to generate electricity.”

“In conducting the study, the commissioner must analyze the impact of the closure of the biomass facility on employment and income in the local economy, including impacts on ancillary providers of goods and services to the biomass facility,” the Legislature directed DEED.

Fri
09
Feb
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School board pleased with citizen input on buildings

Costs range from $22 to $29 million, but tax impact said to be reasonable
 

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher
Swift County Monitor-News

 

In late January, Benson Public Schools brought together three groups of District 777 residents to give it input on where its priorities should focus for building improvements.

Results of the meetings were presented at a special school board meeting at noon last Thursday in the superintendent’s office at BHS. School staff and school board members were pleasantly surprised by the support they found among the groups for the significant upgrades that are needed.

Farmers/landowners, school district staff, and business owners/community members met in their individual groups Jan. 29, 30 and 31 to review the current condition of the district’s building and educational needs of its student now and into the coming years. Forty-five people participated in the meetings.

Fri
09
Feb
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$695,600 okayed for Civic Center remodeling

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher
Swift County Monitor-News

 

At a special District 777 Board of Education meeting Thursday noon, a $695,600 north civic center renovation project was unanimously approved.

It will focus on creating a new space for the Benson High School gymnastics program to replace the cramped quarters it currently uses in the Benson Armory. Funds will come from a building account set aside earlier by the board.

There are also concerns the City of Benson will revisit its plans to convert the armory into a new city hall eliminating the gymnastics space. Last April, the council put those plans on hold as the price tag appeared it could near $1 million and as it worked on building a new police station. Still, it is an option that remains on the table.

Fri
02
Feb
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Swift County board weighs costs, needs for future building projects

As major renovations to the Swift County Courthouse and the Countryside Public Health buildings in Benson draw toward completion, the board of commissioners is looking at addressing the next phase of construction projects.

Those projects are aimed at meeting space and maintenance needs at the Human Services building, the Swift County Law Enforcement Center (LEC) and Jail, the county attorney’s office, the highway department, and the 6W Community Corrections office space in the basement of the LEC.

In July 2017, the county board approved a $5.105 million general obligation capital improvement plan bond sale to pay for renovations to the courthouse and the Countryside buildings. The new projects, which could be addressed in the coming years, would cost at least another $5 million.

Fri
02
Feb
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PUC issues order approving Benson Power closing

Minnesota’s Public Utilities Commission’s issued an order Jan. 23 approving Xcel Energy’s purchase of Benson Power, LLC, ending the power purchase agreement that required it to buy the plant’s electricity through 2028, and shutting it down.

A 20-day process is now underway in which those opposed to the PUC’s decision ask it to reconsider its decision. If a request for reconsideration is filed, the PUC has 60 days to review the request and make a final decision.

“It affirmed exactly what the Legislature intended,” Benson City Manager Robert Wolfington said Monday of the PUC’s order. “Part of their intent was that their action be scrutinized by the PUC. The PUC scrutinized it, and they affirmed the Legislature’s intent.”

Fri
02
Feb
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Habben wins 34th annual Spelltacular Spelling Bee

Pictured are the participants of this year’s Spelltacular Spelling Bee, which took place Thursday night at the Northside Gym.  From left to right in front are Nick Bolduc, Jon Ilstrup, Hailee Ellingson, Amelia Hoffman, and Natalie Collins.  Second row -- Chaden Carroll, Jed Sherod, Taylor Duncan, Hunter LeClair, Blake Nagler, Eleanor Habben, and Katelyn Kobbermann.  Back -- Shukri Mohamed, Isabella Wolter, Azura Goodall, Kiara Schilling, Imani Brehmer, Olivia Kettner, and Kaitlyn Sondag.

Eighth-grader Eleanor Habben won the 34th annual Spelltacular Spelling Bee, which took place Thursday night in the Northside Elementary gym.  The daughter of Kentt and Emily Habben of Benson, she advances to the Regional Spelling Bee, set for Feb. 6 at Redwood Falls.  Placing second was Jed Sherod, the eighth-grade son of Jayson and Steph Sherod.  Twenty-six Benson 5th-8th graders qualified for the Spelltacular Spelling Bee, and 20 took part in the championship round, Thursday night.

Some of the final words used in this year’s competition were:  Chesapeake, segregation, defensiveness, vegetation, and hoarsely.  The local coordinator for the Spelling Bee is Cory Braaten, while this year’s pronouncer was Traci Pahl, and the judges were Kim Ulland, Rhonda Schwendemann, and Mary Weckwerth....

 

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