News

Fri
12
Jan
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School board seeks citizens for input on building projects

Advice would shape May levy referendum cost

With the forming of four committees representing diverse interests in the Benson Public Schools, the board of education is hoping to gather input that will provide it with direction for addressing building maintenance needs.

That direction would be the basis for going to the voters in May to seek approval for bonding to pay for the work.

The four committees will consist of school staff, landowners and farmers, business owners and community members at large.

“The Benson school board is seeking volunteers to serve on a school committee to analyze the school facilities,” the school board asks in a letter presented at its meeting Monday night. “Each committee will work independently with the school architect and superintendent to analyze the current facilities and make a facilities improvement recommendation to the board.

Fri
05
Jan
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School could set levy referendum for May

Funds raised would go to facility improvements

Benson Public Schools could be going to the voters in May asking them to support a levy referendum for basic maintenance and upgrading of district buildings. Just what the projects would be and what they would cost has to be decided yet.

School board members are going to rely on input from a cross-section of district citizens for direction on the scope of a building renovation project. Those citizens will be brought together for several meetings, given a tour of facilities, told what problems each has and the challenges the problems present. They will then be asked to come up with a list of recommendations for a referendum.

By getting citizen input, the school board is hoping to go to voters with a project that already has broad community support.

Fri
22
Dec
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USDA agrees to back financing for Benson assisted living facility

United States Department of Agriculture financial backing for a Bremer Bank loan for Swift County-Benson Health Services to construct an assisted living and memory care facility has been approved.

Bremer Bank of Willmar has agreed to loan $7.352 million toward the $9.682 million project to build a 46-unit assisted living facility of which 18 units will be dedicated to memory care.

The Sonsteng Foundation has also stepped in to help the project with a $750,000 loan. SCBHS is also investing additional assets in the project to cover the difference between Bremer’s loan and the project cost.

One key step remains before SCBHS gets a go to start construction and that is the final numbers on the cost of building the facility. This “do not exceed” cost number will tell the governing board whether or not the financial package it has put together still can pay for the facility as proposed; that number is expected this week.

Fri
22
Dec
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SCBHS is projecting much stronger year in 2018

Swift County-Benson Health Services’ 2018 budget shows a projected loss of $148,000, which reflects a substantial improvement in the health facility’s bottom line compared to past years and the current year.

That projected operation’s loss reflects a depreciation expense of $1,081,000.

Adding back the depreciation gives SCBHS about $950,000 in cash earned in 2018 if income and expense projections are on the mark. Principal payments on debt service don’t show up on the profit and loss statement. However, they take away from cash on hand.

Those debt payments are about $450,000, reducing cash to around $500,000 in 2018, Chief Financial Office Dan Enderson told the SCBHS governing board at its meeting last Thursday night.

Thu
21
Dec
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Heartland staff cited after possible assault of girl who left facility

Editor’s note: The following story was written by Minnesota Public Radio’s Tim Nelson with comments by the Heartland Girls Ranch executive director  added by the Monitor-News.

The state’s Department of Human Services has cited staff at the Heartland Girls Ranch in Benson after a girl left the facility and was later found in Iowa, possibly the victim of a sexual assault.

The Heartland Girls Ranch of Benson was founded in 1992 and serves girls recommended for placement by county child protection workers, age 12 to 21, from around Minnesota. It has become a home in recent years for girls who are victims of sex trafficking. It has 32 beds and serves around 60 to 70 girls a year, according to its website.

The DHS report says a girl at the ranch was allowed two home visits in September, the first of which ended early when her family reported she’d used a mobile phone to contact an adult not on her approved contact list.

Fri
15
Dec
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Threats cause evacuation at Benson High School during basketball game

Fri
15
Dec
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County board approves second reading of buffer law

Additional changes likely to local buffer law
 

Despite the need for wording changes in the months ahead, Swift County’s Board of Commissioners passed the second reading of its buffer law at its meeting last Wednesday.

With that second reading, the ordinance is now on a path to becoming law that will set down the rules for the installation of buffers on public waters and public ditches, the enforcement of the law, and the penalties for those who fail to comply.

While a small group of people showed up at the public hearing for the second reading Dec. 6, only Torning Township farmer Allen Saunders questioned its provisions.

Swift County Environmental Services Director Scott Collins told commissioners that he had not received any calls since the approval of the first reading of the ordinance at the Nov. 21 meeting and only a few comments from people.

Fri
15
Dec
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Safety, insurance concerns table OHV Park expansion

Appleton’s 330-acre Off-Highway Vehicle Park has proven popular with those who like four-wheeling, dirt bike racing, and off-highway vehicle challenges.

It features 10 miles of off-road vehicle trails, 5 miles of ATV and off-highway motorcycle trails, 1.5 miles of off-highway motorcycle practice tracks, and three endure bike tracks. It has jumps, a water hole, dunes, hill climbs, and rock crawls.

Now the Swift County Parks, Drainage and Wetlands office is applying for a conditional use permit to expand into the nearby pit owned by Larson Gravel.

There is one hitch to the permit’s approval to address before the gravel pit becomes part of the OHV Park. Just to the east of the OHV park is the Appleton Sportsmen’s Club, which includes a shooting range for rifles and pistols, as well as a trap range for shotguns. High school youth leagues also use the trap range.

Thu
07
Dec
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Worker dies in industrial accident at Benson Power

Fri
01
Dec
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Swift County passes first reading of buffer ordinance

Buffers protect waters from chemical runoff and sediment that accumulates due to erosion. Swift County is working on its buffer ordinance that will put it in compliance with state law.

Swift County’s Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the first reading of a county proposed buffer ordinance at its meeting Nov. 21.

A second reading of the proposed law is set for the county board’s Tuesday, Dec. 5, meeting, which will be in the Benson City Council chambers starting at 5:30 p.m.

A new ordinance must be approved at two public meetings and then published in the county’s legal newspaper, which this year is the Appleton Press. Thirty days after publication the proposed law becomes effective unless challenged by petition.

Minnesota’s buffer law is being implemented in two stages. Buffers of at least 30 feet wide, and an average of 50 feet wide were to be installed by the state’s public streams, river, lakes, and wetlands by Nov. 1. Starting Nov. 1, 2018, 16.5-foot buffers must be installed on public ditches.

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