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Wright County News

Sunday, February 1, 2015


Wright County Unemployment Up Slightly in December  

Wright County's jobless rate was up slightly at the end of 2014. New statistics released this week by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development show that the December non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Wright County was 4.3 percent, up from 3.7 percent in November, but down almost a full point from the 5.2 percent rate in December of 2013. The 4.3 percent December jobless figure in Wright County is in fact the lowest since 2006, prior to the great recession. Both the state and national jobless rates were down slightly in December. Minnesota's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate last month was 3.6 percent, while the U-S unemployment rate to close out 2014 was at 5.6 percent.  

Funeral Services Monday for David Harrison, Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Victim 

Funeral services are set for Monday for a young man formerly from Wright County who died last week from exposure to carbon monoxide at a Meeker County home. 27-year-old David Allen Harrison of rural Litchfield, and formerly of Annandale, died at a home in Greenleaf Township January 21st. Detectives with the Meeker County Sheriff's Office who investigated the incident say that multiple generators were being used inside the home for heat and electricity. A 21-year-old woman who was also at the home suffered the effects of the carbon monoxide, but survived. She was taken to the Meeker County Memorial Hospital in Litchfield, and was later transferred to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis. David Harrison was a 2005 graduate of Annandale High School, and was currently employed by Advanced Auto Parts in Buffalo. He is survived by a son, Colby Harrison of Annandale, his parents, Dale and Irene Harrison, and 4 siblings. Services for David Harrison are scheduled for Monday at 2 PM at the Dingmann Funeral Chapel in Annandale.

Wright County Woman Wins Big On Wheel Of Fortune 

A young woman from Wright County had a huge win on the nationally-syndicated TV show "Wheel of Fortune" last week. With only three letters revealed on the final puzzle, Nicole Weisenberger of Delano correctly identified the puzzle as "bubbly soap," and added to her previous winnings to bring her grand total to more than 79 thousand dollars. The big win was aired on Tuesday night's episode of "Wheel of Fortune." 

Chain Reaction Crash Results in Serious Injuries to St. Michael Woman  

A 4-vehicle chain reaction type accident late Tuesday afternoon in St. Michael resulted in one driver sustaining serious injuries. The Minnesota State Patrol was called to the scene of the crash on the westbound I-94 exit ramp to Highway 241 in St. Michael around 4 PM on Tuesday. Officials say an SUV, a pickup truck, and a passenger car were all stopped on the exit ramp from the freeway to Highway 241 when another pickup truck exited the freeway, apparently not realizing that the traffic was stopped. The driver of the pickup reportedly hit the brakes and veered to the right, but could not avoid rear-ending the passenger car. That car then jolted forward rear-ending the other pickup, which in turn then struck the SUV. The driver of the passenger car that was rear-ended, 63-year-old Mary Bialon of St. Michael was airlifted to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis with serious injuries. The driver of the pickup truck which struck the Bialon vehicle, 37-year-old Devin McClintic of St. Michael was not injured. The drivers of the other two vehicles involved, 47-year-old Mark Peterson of St. Michael, and 44-year-old Stacy Wermager of St. Michael were not injured. The Rogers Police Department, Wright County Sheriff's Office, St. Michael Fire and Rescue, Allina Ambulance and Life Link Helicopter all assisted the State Patrol at the scene. 

Pedestrian Injured When Struck by Car in Cokato 

A car-pedestrian accident in Cokato this week left a man from that community injured. The State Patrol says shortly after 9:30 AM Tuesday, 73-year-old Robert Bergstrom of Cokato was attempting to cross Highway 12 at Pleasant View Avenue when he was struck by an eastbound car. Officials say Bergstrom was not in a cross walk when he was struck by the vehicle. He was taken to Buffalo Hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The eastbound car was driven by 82-year-old Arlene Callander of South Haven. Authorities say she was not injured. The Wright County Sheriff's Office assisted the State Patrol at the scene.

Mixed Grades on Minnesota's Tobacco Report Card 

One of Minnesota's grades improved in this year's State of Tobacco Control "Report Card" from the American Lung Association. Spokesman Bob Moffitt says the state's grade for access to cessation services moved from an "F" to a "B" mainly because of an expansion of Medicaid. Minnesota received an "A" for smoke-free air, and a "B" for tobacco taxes, but Moffitt says Minnesota received an "F" for tobacco control funding because the legislature previously raided the state's tobacco settlement fund to cover budget deficits. 

Alleged Kidnapper in Christopher Rossing Case Now Charged With Murder  

There are new charges against the man who is the prime suspect in the disappearance of Christopher Rossing, the rural Howard Lake man who went missing more than 5 months ago. A statement from Christopher Rossing's family indicates that they are pleased that the case against Robert Nuttall has been elevated to a murder charge, saying they feel that justice is closer to being served.

Maple Lake Ice Fishing Derby Postponed 1 Week  

Because of all the recent warm temperatures, organizers with the Maple Lake Property Owners Association have decided to postpone the 40th Maple Lake Ice Fishing Derby by 1 week. The events have now been re-scheduled to Saturday, February 7th. Temperatures are expected to turn significantly colder over the next several days which should help to return the ice to more normal conditions for this time of year. Once again, all of the events for the 40th Maple Lake Ice Fishing Derby, originally scheduled for this weekend have been postponed for 1 week to Saturday, February 7th. KRWC will have more information on the changes and the all the events on our Spotlight program Friday at 10:10 AM. More information is also available at;

MnDOT Stresses That Drones Must Follow Safety Guidelines  

Small, remote controlled airplanes have been around for decades and have provided fun for hobbyists and folks that just like to watch them fly. But remote controlled drones that can fly miles out of the sight of the operator have now jumped from the pages of science fiction to reality. That reality really hit home this week when a small drone crashed on the south lawn of the White House. Kevin Gutknecht with the Minnesota Department of Transportation says the applications for this new era of flying machines is just beginning. He warns, though, that as the popularity of unmanned aircraft increases, so have close calls, with drones getting too close to airports and airplanes. There are many established rules when it comes to flying drones, which govern how high they can fly, how close they can be to airports or other sensitive areas like power plants or prisons, and what people can and can't do with drones. The full list of regulations are posted on MnDOT's aeronautics page at; 

Fire Causes Extensive Damage to Buffalo Home  

The investigation into a house fire that heavily damaged a Buffalo residence early Sunday morning is continuing, but fire officials believe that it started as a kitchen fire earlier in the evening. Buffalo Fire Chief John Harnois tells KRWC Radio News that the fire at 301 Leksand Lane in Buffalo was reported around 5 AM Sunday. The owner of the home, Allen Seipp told fire officials he woke to the sound of smoke alarms in the home and discovered his home was on fire. Officials say flames were already burning through the roof when firefighters arrived. The homeowner said that he had been cooking with a wok around 10 PM the previous evening, and the filter in the range hood had caught fire. The resident said he thought he had the fire completely extinguished, and turned in for the night. Fire officials say the fire was most likely smoldering in the wall in the kitchen through the early morning hours before burning through the attic, allowing enough oxygen to allow the fire to get out of control. Fire crews from Buffalo, Monticello and Maple Lake contained the blaze in about 2 and a half hours. No injuries were reported, and no other homes in the area were damaged.

Some MN Day Care Providers Oppose Free Preschool  

A Wright County woman is providing a voice for many day care providers in the state who oppose a Senate bill that would offer free preschool for all four-year-old kids. Hollee Saville of St. Michael represents the Minnesota Licensed Family Child Care Association. She says universal preschool is in direct conflict with research that continues to amplify the importance of early childhood play-based learning environments. Senator John Hoffman of Champlin says parents would be able to choose whether their four-year old enrolls in free preschool.

Wright County FSA to Host Base and Yield Workshops This Week 

The Wright County Farm Service Agency in Buffalo is hosting two Base and Yield Workshops in our area this week. Wright County FSA Director Peggy Read says it's important for farmers who have not already done so to make the changes in their base and yield status on their farms. A second meeting this week will be held Thursday in the conference room at the Wright County Farm Service Agency Office in Buffalo, also at 7 PM. For more information on the meetings, or other programs, contact the Wright County FSA Office by calling (763) 682-1982.

Senate Bill Would Eliminate Income Tax on Social Security 

With the economy growing stronger and a big budget surplus, a Minnesota lawmaker has authored a proposal to eliminate income taxes on Social Security benefits. Minnesota is one of just seven states that taxes Social Security income to the fullest extent allowable, but Republican State Senator Dave Senjem of Rochester wants to phase that out entirely. Will Phillips, Director of AARP Minnesota, says that would save those Minnesotans, most of them seniors, about a thousand dollars per year. Statewide, one out of every seven older adults live in poverty. In Minnesota, there are more than 900,000 people who receive Social Security payments, with an average benefit of just over $15,000 a year.

Homeland Security Continues Measures to Minimize Chances of Agri-Terror 

Minnesota's 81,000 farms create some 75 billion dollars in economic activity each year, and provide 340,000 jobs. FBI Chief Reports Officer Mark Ormsby says that in itself leaves the state's ag sector as vulnerable as any to the possibility of a terrorist attack. One of the first Homeland Security Centers of Excellence on agro-security was established more than a decade ago at the University of Minnesota. Researchers there continue to work to manage and respond to food contamination events, both intentional and naturally occurring. 

State Senator Anderson Excited as 2015 Legislative Session Unfolds  

State Senator Bruce Anderson of Buffalo says the 2015 Minnesota legislative session could be interesting now that the GOP has re-gained control of the Minnesota House. Anderson says it gives Minnesota Republicans some leverage that they did not have when the DFL held both legislative houses and the governor's office previously. Senator Anderson was recently awarded the Guardian of Small Business Award from the National Federation of Independent Business Minnesota. Officials with that organization which has some 13 thousand members throughout the state say that lawmakers need to demonstrate a supportive voting record for small business during the 2013 and 2014 sessions in order to be eligible to receive the award. Anderson reports that late last week the Senate also passed a disaster relief bill for 37 counties and 3 tribal areas that suffered damage during last summer's severe storms and flooding. Wright County is included in the disaster declaration, along with neighboring Carver, Hennepin and McLeod counties.

State Unemployment Falls Despite Job Losses  

The statistics are somewhat confusing, but while job numbers were down in December, the state's unemployment rate actually fell last month for the 5th consecutive month. November job revisions added some 4 thousand jobs, which dropped the state's jobless rate to 3.6 percent. Steve Hine with the Department of Employment and Economic Development says employers cut 52-hundred jobs in December. The state's unemployment rate of 3.6 percent is the lowest it's been since April 2001. The county-by-county unemployment numbers for December should be released in the next week to 10 days.

State Patrol Investigating Fatal Crash in Elk River  

The Minnesota State Patrol is investigating a fatal traffic crash that happened in the city of Elk River over the weekend. Authorities say around 12:30 PM Saturday afternoon, a pickup truck that was westbound on U-S Highway 10 ran a stoplight and struck a southbound car in the intersection at Upland Avenue. Dead at the scene of the crash was 63-year-old Daniel Vaughn of Elk River, the driver of the car that was struck by the pickup. The driver of the pickup truck, 18-year-old Steffen Salfrank of Elk River was not injured. The Elk River Police Department and the Sherburne County Sheriff's Office assisted the State Patrol at the scene.

Gas Prices Not Likely to Stay Down For Extended Time 

Very few people think it's realistic to view lower prices on gasoline as anything but temporary. St. Cloud State University Economics Professor King Banaian says he doesn't see any way the price of crude oil will stick around 50 dollars a barrel for an extended period of time. Economists say in the meantime, Americans have more disposable income to spend, and that little bit of extra disposable income for nearly everyone really adds up. Officials say for every penny that gas prices drop, the result is that the nation's consumers as a whole have about 1 billion dollars more spending money.

These stories and more follow CNN and MNN network news in our Wright County News at 6:10, 7:10, &  8:10 AM and 12:10, 4:10, 5:10, & 6:10 PM on AM 1360 / KRWC.