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Wright County News  

Tuesday, March 26, 2019


Wright County Unemployment Sees Slight Jump in January Unemployment 

Wright County's jobless rate took a bit of a jump upward in January. Recent statistics released by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development show that the non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Wright County was 4.8 percent in January, up from 3.4 percent in December, and up four tenths of a point from the same period in 2018. Some of the jump in unemployment is due to seasonal layoffs, but some can also be attributed to ultra-low jobless numbers that state officials have described as "unsustainable," and could be the start of a slight upturn in overall unemployment. Despite this year's January numbers being slightly higher than January of 2018, the 4.8 percent rate, it still is lower than all other previous January statistics dating back to the recession of the late 2000s. Minnesota's seasonally adjusted January unemployment was up a tenth of a point to an even 3 percent, while the seasonally adjusted U-S jobless rate in January was also up a tenth of a point to an even 4 percent. The February statistics should be released in the next week or so, and should give a little more insight into whether the jump in January was a blip, or the start of a trend. 

Crow River Flood Watch Continues 

No major changes in the projections surrounding the spring flooding on the Crow River in the Wright County area. In Mayer, the river is at its expected crest of a little more than 15 feet, and is expected to start to recede by early Friday. The current level is in the moderate flood stage. In Delano, the river level is expected to crest today at just over 19 feet, which is in the major flood stage, but no unexpected problems have been reported. The South Fork of the Crow River is projected to stay at or around this level until late Saturday when the level is expected to start to drop. Meanwhile in Rockford, the Crow River is currently at around 13.2 feet, and is in the moderate flood stage. The Crow is not expected to crest in Rockford until early Friday, at around 14.2 feet, which would be at the lowest level of a major flood stage. Officials in all the communities continue to monitor the situation closely.

Faribault Foods to Close Cokato Plant Later This Year 

A longstanding part of the economic community of Cokato will close its doors later this year. The Dassel-Cokato Enterprise Dispatch reports that Faribault Foods announced to its employees earlier this month that it will discontinue production at its Cokato plant at an undetermined date, probably in the early fall. Faribault Foods reportedly decided to consolidate manufacturing into its Faribault facility which was expanded last year to a nearly 1 million square foot facility which is now one of the most modern in the canned food industry. The company says the approximately 130 employees in Cokato will be offered jobs in Faribault if they want to stay with the company. Faribault Foods will reportedly also provide employees with financial incentives including additional compensation and extended benefits if they work until the shutdown date in Cokato, regardless of their decision on whether or not to move with the company to Faribault. Faribault Foods is a U-S subsidiary of La Costena Group of Mexico City and operates the plants in Faribault as well as Tucson, Arizona in addition to Cokato. 

Officials Continue to Watch Crow River Levels 

National Weather Service officials along with other flooding experts continue to watch the South Fork of the Crow River for changes in the annual spring high water season. The river was expected to crest in and near Wright County this past weekend, and so far, the snow melt has been gradual enough that the river, while in flood stage, is expected for now, to remain well below record levels. The latest information from the National Weather Service Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service estimates that the South Fork of the Crow River near Mayer will stay at about the current level of around 15 feet through most of the week before gradually falling this weekend. That level is considered to be in the moderate flood stage. Meanwhile in Delano, on the South Fork of the Crow, there were some tense moments Friday evening when a flash flood warning was activated because of ice jams at the Bridge Avenue Bridge. Those ice jams were cleared, and the water slowly began to drop. The river crested at 19.76 feet on Sunday, and is expected to stay above 19 feet in the major flood stage through the week, though slowly dropping to the moderate flood stage by early next week. The new emergency flood walls were put up late last week in Delano, and officials continue to monitor the river level. As it stands now, the 19.76 foot crest is the top ten historic crests in Delano. The crest of the Crow River in Rockford has been pushed out to Saturday at an expected 14.2 feet, which would be a top 10 historic crest in Rockford, and would be in the major flood stage. The current level is just shy of 13 feet in the moderate flood stage. One thing to note is that at least for now, experts who watch river levels caution that these crests are expected to last for several days. That means we could see levels peak or even start to fall, only to rise again if we have a major warm-up that could speed up the snow melt, or if we receive any significant rain or snow.

Private Well Precautions in Flood-prone Areas 

If you have a private well in a flood-prone area you're encouraged to consider contacting a licensed well contractor to check your well and make any necessary repairs or changes to help protect it from flooding. The state Health Department's Chris Elvrum outlines some of the precautions property owners might take in protecting their private wells. He says if you think flood waters may reach your property, it's a good idea to store a supply of clean water that will last for a few days.

One Injured in 4-Vehicle Crash Saturday Evening in Big Lake 

One person was injured when four vehicles collided in Big Lake Saturday evening. The State Patrol reports that shortly after 9 PM, a passenger car was turning onto southbound Highway 25 from westbound Highway 10. Officials say that vehicle did have a flashing yellow arrow, but apparently the driver pulled out in front of a southbound pickup truck, and the two vehicles collided in the intersection. The impact of the crash pushed the vehicles involved into two more passenger cars in the vicinity of the crash. Officials say the only person injured was the driver of the passenger car that pulled in front of the pickup. 24-year-old Kaila Hackett of Monticello had non-life threatening injuries and was taken to Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids. A passenger in her car, a 30-year-old man from Monticello, was not injured. The Big Lake Police Department assisted at the scene.

Two Injured in Friday Head-on Crash South of Buffalo 

In a story you may have missed over the weekend, two people were injured, one seriously, when two vehicles collided head-on just south of Buffalo Friday afternoon. The Minnesota State Patrol reports that around 3:20 PM, a pickup was northbound on Highway 25 near 10th Street Southeast in Rockford Township, while a passenger car in the same area was southbound. Authorities say the two vehicles collided head-on on the driver's side of the vehicles. The driver of the southbound passenger car, 52-year-old Kent Bogren of Hutchinson sustained serious, and life-threatening injuries and was airlifted to the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis. Officials say alcohol was detected in the driver's system, but they did not report whether or not that was a factor in the crash. The driver of the pickup truck, 46-year-old Thomas Wagner of Hillman, Minnesota had non-life threatening injuries and was taken to the Buffalo Hospital for treatment. The Wright County Sheriff's Office, the Buffalo Police and Fire Departments, and LifeLink Helicopter all assisted the State Patrol at the scene.

MN Legislature Mulls Telephone/CPR Training 

A pair of bills to mandate training or transfer protocols for Telephone/CPR for all the state's 911 operators are up before the Legislature. Dan Heyman has a complete report in our news throughout the day. Anyone wanting additional information on the proposals should research Minnesota House File 1520, and Minnesota Senate File 1638.

These stories and more follow the Westwood One 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.