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Wright County News

Saturday, February 25, 2017


Last Days of Buffalo Masons' Annual Food Shelf Drive 

There are still a few days left in the Buffalo Masons annual Food Shelf drive. This year the Nelson Masonic Lodge #135 is partnering with the Order of the Eastern Star Galilee Chapter #53 for a matching funds drive to benefit the Buffalo and Annandale-Maple Lake area food shelves. Officials say donors should make their checks out to the Nelson Masonic Lodge #135, or Galilee Chapter #53. Then in the memo area of the check, write the name of the food shelf of your choice, either Annandale-Maple Lake, or Buffalo. The food shelf that is designated will then receive the full amount of your check, as well as a full match of the same amount from the Masons. Checks may be deposited at any KleinBank branch. The Masons say 100-percent of the donations go directly to the food shelf, with no administrative expenses deducted. Plus, all funds are given to the food shelves during the month of March, which allows them a chance to take full advantage of the benefits of Minnesota FoodShare month. The final day for donations for 2017 under the program is February 28th. 

Last Days for Some Minnesotans to Apply for Health Coverage 

Rural Minnesotans who lost "qualifying health insurance" in the past 60 days can still apply for 2017 coverage. MNsure's Jeremy Drucker says these are individuals who were on Blue Cross or Health Partners in 2016 when those two carriers decided not to renew plans for 2017. Eligible Minnesotans have until March 1st to enroll in coverage for this year.

Memorial Services Saturday for Longtime Soo Line Railroad Employee, Monticello Community Icon, Harold Pittman 

Memorial Services are scheduled for today in Monticello for an icon of the community. Harold Pittman passed away February 13th at his Monticello home at the age of 94. Harold was an employee of the Soo Line Railroad for some 32 years. He carried on his love of the railroad long after his retirement. His miniature train, "The Harold Express," was a favorite at Monticello events including the Walk N Roll, the Halloween Kiddie Parade, the Art in the Park events, and the Monticello Riverfest parade. In 2016, the miniature train received a complete re-build as an Eagle Scout project by Monticello Troop #270 Scout Nathan Robinson, and Monticello Chamber officials say the train will continue running at city events and parades in honor of Harold. Memorial Services for Harold Pittman are scheduled for this morning at 11 AM at St. Peter's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Monticello. 

Local Organizations Benefit From Latest Wright-Hennepin Operation Round Up Grants 

Several organizations from the Wright County area have received funding recently from the latest round of Operation Round Up grants from the Wright-Hennepin Cooperative Electric Association. Under the program, Wright-Hennepin customers volunteer to allow their bills to be rounded up to the nearest dollar. That rounded amount is then used for donations to numerous local programs. Some of the latest recipients of Operation Round Up funds include Noah's Ark Preschool, District 877 Schools summer food service program, and the St. Michael-Albertville all-night graduation party. More than 45 thousand dollars in total were distributed in January under the program. Wright-Hennepin says more than 80 percent of its members participate in the ORU program. For more information on Operation Round Up, or how to apply for funding, log onto;, or call (763) 477-3000. 

Big Lake Man Killed in Three-Vehicle Crash in Big Lake Township 

One man was killed, another injured in a three-vehicle traffic crash Wednesday morning in Big Lake Township in neighboring Sherburne County. The Minnesota State Patrol reports that the crash happened just before 8 AM at the intersection of Highway 10 and Sherburne County Road 81. Authorities say a passenger car was southbound on the county road, and was crossing Highway 10 on a green light. Meanwhile, an SUV that was westbound on Highway 10, ran the red light and collided with the passenger car in the intersection. The impact of the crash pushed the car into another car that was stopped in the right lane of eastbound Highway 10. The driver of the passenger car that was struck by the SUV, 33-year-old Matthew Barthel of Big Lake was pronounced dead at the Centra Care Hospital in Monticello as a result of injuries sustained in the crash. The driver of the SUV, 35-year-old Juan Morales, also of Big Lake, sustained non-life threatening injuries. He was taken to the St. Cloud Hospital for treatment. The driver of the third car, 47-year-old Jeffrey Mateyka of Becker, was not injured. The Sherburne County Sheriff's Office, Big Lake Fire Department, and Allina Ambulance all assisted the State Patrol at the scene. 

Sunday Liquor Heads to a Vote on the Senate Floor 

Two days after the House passed similar legislation, a bill allowing liquor stores to be open on Sundays in Minnesota cleared its final committee in the state Senate Wednesday, and now awaits a floor vote. The Sunday liquor vote will likely be much closer in the Senate than in the House, which passed it 85 to 45 this week. The bill has had some interesting division lines even within parties. Among House members from our area, Republican Representatives Eric Lucero of Dayton, Joe McDonald of Delano, Marion O'Neill of Maple Lake, Joyce Peppin of Rogers and Nick Zerwas of Elk River all voted in favor of the Sunday liquor bill, but Representatives Glenn Gruenhagen of Glencoe, Jim Knoblach of St. Cloud, Jim Newberger of Becker, and Dean Urdahl of Grove City all voted "no." DFL'ers found themselves split as well. Examples include DFL House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman of Brooklyn Park who voted for the measure, but Deputy DFL Minority Leaders Paul Marquart of Dilworth, Jon Applebaum of Minnetonka and Rena Moran of St. Paul all voted against it. Governor Mark Dayton says he'll sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

MN Lawmakers Show Bi-Partisan Support for Measures to Battle Opioid Addiction 

State lawmakers from both sides of the aisle Tuesday unveiled a series of bills to combat opioid addiction, a rapidly-growing public health problem in Minnesota and throughout the country. The bills would tighten prescription monitoring and tax drug distributors, with money going into a fund to expand services for Minnesotans addicted to opiates. 

Pedestrian Struck by Train in Waverly 

The investigation continues into the incident Monday evening in Waverly during which a young man from neighboring Meeker County was struck by a freight train. Wright County Sheriff Joe Hagerty says around 7:30 PM Monday, his office received word of a pedestrian that was struck by a train near 4th Street in Waverly. Authorities say the initial investigation indicated that a Burlington Northern Santa Fe train was eastbound when the crew reported seeing a male walking on the tracks. Despite sounding the train's horn and applying the brakes, the conductor said the train was unable to stop, and it struck the pedestrian. Responding deputies and officials with Waverly Rescue and Allina Ambulance found 18-year-old Tre Ertl of Litchfield on the north side of the tracks just east of the city limits. Ertl was transported to a metro area hospital in critical condition. 

Dayton and GOP Leaders at Odds Over Automatic Increase in Cigarette Tax 

Governor Mark Dayton opposes House Republicans' plan to eliminate the automatic annual increase in Minnesota's cigarette tax, freezing it at $3.04 per pack. House Speaker Kurt Daudt says the on-going upward spiral in the cigarette tax hits those who can least afford it the hardest. The Minnesota Retailers Association is also pushing for the change. Spokesman Brian Carr told lawmakers at a hearing last week that Minnesota has the seventh-highest cigarette tax rate in the country, and automatic adjustment drives consumer prices up to a level that he called uncompetitive for Minnesota retailers. But DFL Representative Jennifer Schultz of Duluth opposes the GOP bill, saying the cigarette tax automatic inflator should stay in place. She says a lot of money is spent in the state on health care related to smoking. She added that former governor, Republican Tim Pawlenty called the cigarette tax a health care "user fee." Republicans floated a trial balloon on the bill last week for what could become a controversial issue later in the session. 

Veterans Affairs and Suicide Prevention Presentation Tonight in Cokato 

Officials with Wright County Veterans Affairs will be in Cokato tonight to provide information on a number of topics, including suicide prevention. Members of the Wright County VA staff will open the general discussion of topics including VA health care at 6 PM, followed by the important information on suicide prevention beginning at 7 PM. The session is free and open to the public at the Cokato City Hall. 

Letter Sent to Sessions about Ag Mega-Mergers 

A letter sent to new Attorney General Jeff Sessions and members of Congress urges oversight as the U.S. Department of Justice looks at the proposed mega-mergers of giant chemical companies. Veronica Carter has a complete report in our news throughout the day. Those signing the letter include Pollinate Minnesota, Environment Minnesota, the Midwest Pesticide Action Center and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. 

Spring Road Weight Limits Now in Effect on Wright County Highways 

Those limits took effect Tuesday, and will remain in effect until further notice. The truck weight limits on county roads help to protect the travel surface as frost leaves the materials in the roadbed. All roads will be posted with signs indicating maximum allowable axle loads, and the Wright County Sheriff's Office will enforce these limitations. Any questions regarding specific route postings should be directed to the Wright County Highway Department at (763) 682-7383, or 1-800-362-3667, ext. 7383. Maps showing specific restrictions are available for viewing in city and town halls. The map is also available on the home page of the Wright County website at; Spring weight restrictions also go into effect on state highways in the central frost zone as of today. Weight limits went into effect on state roads in the south, southeast and metro frost zones on Friday, February 17th.

Franken Bill Aims at Cutting Medicare RX Costs 

U.S. Senator Al Franken has re-introduced legislation that he says would result in lower Medicare prescription drug costs by allowing the program to negotiate prices with manufacturers. Franken says right now many Minnesota seniors face some very hard choices that affect their livelihoods. Senator Franken says his bill could save Medicare up to 24-billion dollars.

MN Schools Among the Most Fire-Safe in U-S 

Minnesota schools are among the safest in the country when it comes to fires--that's according to a new report from the Department of Public Safety. State Fire Marshal Bruce West attributes that to a strong partnership between fire officials and school employees. Minnesota's annual average of 43 school fires is 47-percent lower than the national average of 81. About 60-percent of Minnesota school fires happen in middle schools, junior highs and high schools. And about a third of school fires start in bathrooms and locker rooms.

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.