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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUNDUP: Fire destroys potato warehouse in Perham

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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUNDUP: Fire destroys potato warehouse in Perham
Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

PERHAM, Minn. -- Firefighters remain on the scene of an intense fire in Perham in northwestern Minnesota. It's in a large potato warehouse owned by the R.D. Offutt Company --the nation's largest producer of potatoes. The fire was reported about 4:30 Tuesday afternoon, after employees spotted smoke coming from the building. More than 100 firefighters from 17 departments fought bitter wind-chills to bring the fire under control and keep it from spreading. Part of the warehouse, which is described as longer and wider than a football field, has collapsed. Perham Fire Chief Mark Schmidt says the building is likely a total loss. Nearby roads were closed for a time because of the heavy smoke and to help emergency vehicles in the fight. No one was injured. The cause is under investigation.

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The Department of Natural Resources annouced a plan Tuesday that they hope will boost walleye numbers in Mille Lacs Lake. The agency will convene a panel of national fisheries experts to review past and current management practices as part of a new effort to increase the legendary lake walleye population as quickly as possible, but with minimal impact to the community. The 132,000-acre lake in central Minnesota is long-favored by anglers due to its abundant walleye population, but the population has been in decline for a number of years. DNR fisheries chief Don Pereira says while the lake continues to have adequate walleye spawning stock and more than enough egg production and fry to repopulate the lake, the lake hasn't produced a strong year-class of walleye since 2008. He says the vast majority of walleye that hatch do not survive to their second autumn in the lake.

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Over 550 leaders from both the private and public sectors are at a day-long summit in Saint Paul on Minnesota's economic competitiveness. State Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben says in the past they've had two separate conferences on economic development and workforce development, but this time they are bringing together those two worlds to focus on economic competitiveness and believes there will be some strong outcomes from this event. Clark Sieben says the focus is on innovation, globalization and talent, and they're talking about everything from K-12 education to recruiting new businesses for Minnesota.

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Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life marks the anniversary of the U-S Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion with its 40th annual rally today (noon) at the Minnesota Capitol. M-C-C-L has had little success on its agenda the past few years with Democrats controlling the legislature and a D-F-Ler in the governor's office. M-C-C-L's Scott Fischbach says they have a pro-life majority in the Minnesota House but need to build on those numbers. He says the group will be as active as ever in the 2014 elections.

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All of Minnesota is under some sort of weather advisory today (Wed). A blizzard warning is in place for many counties in northwest and west-central Minnesota, with 20-to-40 mile-per-hour winds forecast. Forecasters with the National Weather Service in Chanhassen also say a winter weather advisory has been issued for the remainder of the western half of Minnesota, where there will be blowing snow and whiteout conditions from time to time. A wind chill warning is in place for the entire eastern half of Minnesota, with readings dipping to 25-to-35 below zero. In the far northeast tier of counties a lake effect snow advisory has been issued, with 5-to-7 inches expected. 

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A planned 90-million-dollar Senate Office Building across the street from the Minnesota Capitol is the focus of court hearing this morning (9am) in Saint Paul. Former State Representative Jim Knoblach, a Republican, is asking a judge to block construction of the building because it was approved late last legislative session as a provision in a tax bill, rather a bonding bill like most large state construction projects. Bonding bills require a larger majority to pass. Democrats respond there's ample precedent for putting construction projects in tax bills. Meanwhile, Republicans accuse them of sneaking the measure through at the end of session. Democrats respond the proposal was in the legislative process about a month and also in conference committee discussions.

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Republicans in House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt's district had cited gun incident in Montana and a lack of fiscal conservative leadership in planning a no confidence vote -- but it was derailed when Daudt unexpectedly showed up at the meeting District 31 Republican told the Star-Tribune that Daudt shared his side of the story and they were satisfied with that explanation. In September Daudt was involved in a dispute during a vehicle purchase, and it was his loaded gun that a 24-year-old man pointed at the seller and his family. Daudt was handcuffed and questioned but was not charged with a crime. The minority leader has acknowledged that the incident took place but has refused to discuss it publicly. Republicans in the district had also been concerned about Daudt's support last year for a capital investment bill, which they opposed.

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Target is cutting off health coverage to its part-time workers. In a blog post, the company said that offering insurance could actually disqualify employees to be eligible for the governent subsidies available through the new healthcare exchanges. Target says less than 10 percent of its employees participate in the plan that's being discontinued.

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The amputations for University of Minnesota Duluth student Alyssa Jo Lommel due to frostbite are more extensive than doctors had originally planned. On the CaringBridge website, Lommel's mother noted yesterday that doctors at Regions Hospital in St. Paul had to amputate all of her fingers below the knuckle. The 19-year-old suffered severe frostbite and hypothermia after being dropped off at her home in Duluth after a night of drinking around midnight, and she fell asleep on the front porch. Lommel was found roughly nine hours later, still outside after enduring sub-zero temperatures overnight.

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