According to local state Senator Andrew Lang, his bill to provide compensation to businesses affected by the Benson Power Plant passed a key committee hurdle recently. It was cleared by the Senate Energy and Utilities Finance and Policy Committee, and was laid over for possible inclusion in a forthcoming budget bill. Similar legislation had been vetoed by former Governor Dayton last year. The closure of the plant by Excel energy after they bought it had a serious impact on many area businesses and they now facing serious financial loses and business closures.

Widespread flu across Minnesota continues with 31 more hospitalizations last week, making 271 so far this flu season. There have been 10 deaths this season from the flu. Last year 435 died from the flu in Minnesota.

Ridgewater College of Willmar and Hutchinson announces Law Enforcement as the latest Transfer Pathway Associate of Science Degree. Students can transfer a two year law enforcement degree to any of Minnesota’s 7 State universities with related participating programs. College officials say it will streamline the course selection process for community college students planning to pursue four year bachelor degrees after their time at Ridgewater.

Yesterday morning around 5:45 am the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office got a call of a vehicle on fire in Brandon at the Tim and Rachel Goble home on 4th St. East. Vehicle owners were woke up by their kids after they saw it on fire in their driveway. Brandon firemen got it out but it is a total loss. A detached garage nearby sustained moderate damage, and another vehicle parked nearby was damaged by smoke. The engine block heater was plugged in at the time of the fire and officials think the electrical system may have been the cause, though nothing is official as of yet.

The Minnesota DNR had its annual awards day recently, honoring a number of Conservation Officers from around the state. The boat and water safety achievement award went to Nick Klehr, who works out of the Litchfield Station. The Willmar Munger Wetlands Achievement award went to Shane Vernier, who patrols in the Willmar area. A number of safety, special achievement, appreciation and life-saving awards were handed out.

The Willmar Lakes Area chamber of Commerce President Ken Warner reminds everyone that the red carpet event that was postponed a few weeks ago is getting close. The re-scheduled date is February 21 st at the Conference Center in Willmar. The event from 6-9 pm includes good food and great entertainment by comedian/entertainer Justin Willman.
$85 tickets for the fundraiser can be obtained by calling the Willmar lakes area chamber of commerce.

According to the American Red Cross, the government shutdown and winter storms have taken a toll on blood and platelet supplies as many drives have been cancelled around the country in recent weeks. The Red Cross is issuing an emergency call for donors. A number of drives in our local have been scheduled including today in Atwater from 1-7pm at the community center. Blood drives will be coming up in Paynesville, Belgrade, New London, Lake Lilian, Olivia, Grove City, Willmar and Litchfield. Call 1-800-Red Cross for times and dates.

State Representative Mary Franson of Alexandria recently submitted a “data practices request” for data regarding fraud in Minnesota’s Childcare Assistance Program.
The request concerns the allegations of upwards of $100 million of childcare assistance funds being allocated to fraudulent childcare facilities and possibly going overseas to terrorist groups. Franson says that so far the Department of Human Services has failed to fulfill four previous request for information. The non-partisan Office of the Legislative Auditor is expected to issue its report on the fraud sometime in February.

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