News

Fri
13
Apr
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First week of April was coldest on record

Two record lows set
 

“Skating on April ice.” The proverb is a warning to people that their actions could lead to bad consequences. If our recent weather keeps up, the phrase just might have to substitute May for April.

This past week we have seen temperatures low enough for ice to thicken on area lakes. Two record lows were set last week.

When the temperature fell to zero Wednesday morning, it shattered the previous low temperature record for April 4 of 6 degrees above zero set in 1995. It also became the latest in the spring that the area has seen a zero degree reading. The previous latest date was April 1.

It was also the lowest temperature the area has seen since it fell to a minus 2 degrees March 2. The zero-degree low April 4 was 29 degrees below the average. There were reports in the area of temperatures that fell to a minus 3 degrees.

Fri
13
Apr
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County looks at building multi-facility office space

Built in 1984-85, the Swift County Law Enforcement Center and Jail closely matches the historic courthouse. The LEC would be torn down with a two-story, 35,000-square-foot building replacing it.
An architect’s drawing of how the new facility would be placed.

Jail, sheriff, county attorney, 6W Corrections, human services under one roof

If the Swift County Board of Commissioners goes ahead with building a new multi-agency building on the west side of the courthouse, there are several ways in which it can pay for it. All of its options call for selling bonds that would be paid for by taxpayers.

Last week commissioners voted 4-1 to retain Wold Architects & Engineers of St. Paul to conduct a $20,000 study to develop a more detailed layout, design and cost analysis for building.

It would be a two-story, 35,000-square-foot building, housing a new 25-bed jail, the sheriff’s office, human services, 6W Community Corrections, the county attorney, and the Restorative Practices program. It is estimated that the new building would cost $15.6 million.

Fri
06
Apr
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Path is cleared for Xcel to purchase Benson Power

Two potential roadblocks to Xcel Energy purchasing Benson Power, LLC, were overcome in the past week clearing the way for its eventual shutdown.

A Cass County lawsuit brought by the Associated Contract Loggers & Truckers of Minnesota seeking a temporary injunction on the closure of Benson Power was dismissed. Second, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission published its order allowing Xcel to end the power purchase agreement with Benson Power, buy the plant, and close it.

Loggers and truckers had filed for the injunction stating that Xcel Energy knew that biomass was a more expensive source of power than other sources when it signed the contract to buy about 125 megawatts of green power in exchange for storing nuclear waste casks on Prairie Island. The “biomass mandate” deal was reached with the Legislature in 1994 and amended in 1996.

Fri
06
Apr
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Peterson works for rural Minnesota in D.C., but finds effort frustrating

Swift County-Benson Health Services CEO Kurt Waldbillig listens to U.S. 7th District Rep. Collin Peterson, DFL-Detroit Lakes, talk about trying to get things done in Washington, D.C., that protects rural hospitals and communities. Peterson was in town March 28 to meet with local leaders and businesses.

You think Washington, D.C., looks bad on television and in the news reports you read – it is actually much, much worse, U.S. 7th District Rep. Collin Peterson said during a trip to Benson last Wednesday.

Extreme positions on both sides are leading to nothing getting done in Congress, Peterson said. “Ideology run amuck” is preventing work on critical legislation, including a new farm bill.

The “Blue Dog” Democratic was in Benson to meet with local government and community leaders, and industry representatives. Peterson, one of the last of the conservative Democrats in the U.S. House who is willing to buck his party’s stands on issues, is running for his 15th term.

Peterson’s 7th Congressional District is considered a plus 13-point district for Republicans. No other district in the country comes close to supporting a Democrat in such red territory. The next nearest is a district that is plus 5 for Republicans.

Fri
30
Mar
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Landowners cooperating with SWCD as it works with them on buffer law

Round one of the Minnesota buffer law is wrapping up as the Swift County Soil & Water Conservation District now works with landowners to implement phase two.

State law required buffers of at least 30 feet wide, and an average of 50 feet wide, to be installed along 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.

These buffers are intended to help filter out phosphorus, nitrogen and sediment that run off the land.

Last June the county board agreed to be the enforcement authority for the state buffer law allowing property owners to work with someone local rather than a state enforcement officer.

By agreeing to do the enforcement, the county is receiving $141,114 from the state for its expenses in 2017 and another $176,392 for 2018.

Fri
30
Mar
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PUC ruling clears the way for closing Benson Power

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher
Swift County Monitor-News

 

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) rejected the appeal petitions of suppliers to Benson Power, LLC, in a 4-0 ruling issued last Thursday in St. Paul.

That rejection begins the final phase of a year-long process that started in the Minnesota Legislature last March as Xcel Energy sought to end the state’s biomass mandate, buy Benson Power, and shut it down.

With the PUC deciding against hearing the appeals, its final decision will be published in about two weeks. Three days after publication, it is expected that Xcel will close on the purchase of the plant from its East Coast insurance company owners. The purchase date could be as soon as April 16.

Once under Xcel ownership, the plant will be shut down, and plans put in place for its demolition.

Fri
30
Mar
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School board looks at building security; safety measures

Every school district in Minnesota is re-examining its school safety measures and working on ways to improve them as the nation comes to grips with one tragic school shooting after another.

Benson Public School’s focus on school safety was heightened when a former student made threats against faculty and the community during a holiday basketball tournament in late December. That concern was raised again following the murder of 14 students and three faculty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, Feb. 14.

At its meeting March 19, the District 777 Board of Education discussed measures the Benson schools have taken to improve security. Currently, state legislation allows the school board to levy $36 per pupil under the Safe Schools program. That raises about $30,000, which goes toward the salary of a school resource officer.

Benson’s School Resource Officer Paula Wilson is currently going through ALICE training and learning how to train others.

Fri
30
Mar
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Scandi Haven Village groundbreaking set for April 4

Ground will be broken next Wednesday for construction of a new assisted living-memory care facility next to Swift County-Benson Health Services. It should be open for business by February 2019.

Swift County-Benson Health Services (SCBHS) will break ground Wednesday, April 4, at 10:30 a.m. for its new assisted living and memory care facility.

To be constructed just south of Scofield Place and east of the clinic and hospital, Scandi Haven Village will be a 46-unit assisted living facility with 18 units dedicated to memory care.

“Scandi describes the new facility’s style and function,” a description of how the name came about states. It refers to the Scandinavian design both inside and out. “It references the bright, clean-and-simple, Scandinavian style of the building’s interior. Haven was combined with Scandi to describe a place of refuge; a place to rest and relax. Village suggests that not only does it take a village to raise a child but that same village is responsible to take care for our aging family members who care for us.”

Fri
23
Mar
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County approves permit for 9,500-head dairy facility

Swift County has approved a conditional use permit for the construction of a 9,500 head dairy in Section 36 of Swenoda Township six miles south of Benson just to the west of Minnesota Highway 29 south.

There was no opposition to the permit approval at the county board’s March 6 meeting.

A few facts about the dairy:

Fri
23
Mar
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Possible option for Benson Power repurposing being explored by city

While it has been assumed that once Benson Power, LLC, shuts down in the coming months that it would then be prepared for demolition. Now there an alternate possibility for the site in the preliminary discussion stages.

The plan does not involve continuing to generate electricity. It also does not end the plans to deconstruct the generating capacity facilities and equipment at Benson Power.

What Brightmark Energy (BME) is considering is repurposing part of the facility for an anaerobic biomass gas producing operation, the Benson Economic Development Authority (EDA) was told at its meeting Monday morning.

BME is a San Francisco-based energy company that “develops, owns and operates energy projects.” Its president and CEO, Bob Powell, is a former chief financial officer of Pacific Gas & Electric, the nation’s largest electric utility business. He has over 25 years of experience in the energy field.

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