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Grindstone Dam, Reservoir one step closer to extinction

photo by Ailene Croup for PiCK News

Removal of the Grindstone Dam by the DNR will soon make this view of the Grindstone Reservoir and Dam a thing of the past.

Funding for Grindstone Dam removal expires in 2020

by Ailene Croup for PiCK News
The 26.6 acre Grindstone Reservoir is one step closer to extinction as the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) goes through the motions required to remove he Grindstone River Dam located on the north end of the city of Hinckley.
There was an informational meeting in 2017 where residents and interested parties had the opportunity to ask questions about the future of the river, recreation and funding necessary to complete the removal.
DNR officials reported at that time that funding for the project expires in 2020.
The next step is public comment required for the environmental impact statement (EIS).
“The EIS will describe the potential environmental effects of the proposed dam removal,” according to the DNR’s news release today, Oct. 12, 2020.
Social distancing requirements, because of COVID-19, will make it impossible for some residents to be able to voice their concerns in person or for those who do not have computer skills. The DNR has set up dates for participating by phone or through computer teleconferencing. Their will be one date available for in-person comments by computer set up for that purpose at the Hinckley Community Room, 106 1st Street S.E., in Hinckley.
Click this
LINK to see the dates and times for public comment.

Harvest Christian School burns as staff prepare for new school year

by Ailene Croup for PiCK News
As the sun went down, Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020, the sky lit up with red and blue lights from emergency vehicles at the south end of Sandstone.
Smoke began pouring out of Harvest Christian Elementary School, in Sandstone, at about 8 p.m. Thursday evening.
The wooden structure known as the old Depot by some and the Youth Center by others, has stood at the south end of city of Sandstone for over 100 years.Flames began eating through the roof about 8:30 p.m. as Sandstone firefighters attacked the fire from above with the city’s new ladder truck.
Hinckley Volunteer Fire Department (VFD), Finlayson VFD and Askov VFD provided mutual aid. Also, present to provide support was Essentia Health Ambulance and Pine County Sheriff Deputies Zach Bettschen, Anderson and Sgt. Scott Grice.
Harvest Christian School staff had been working in the building most of the day preparing for the school’s opening.
Deputy Bettschen said deputies would hold the perimeter to ensure the safety of onlookers as he spoke to Principal Ruth Carlson who sadly watch as firefighters worked to contain the damage.

One of the school's staff, Deb Wiener said, “We don’t know what God’s provision is but we know he’s in control of all the next steps. We thank the community for their immediate support.”Firefighters had the fire mostly under control by about 10:30 p.m. The amount of damage is yet to be determined.

Pine Co. Board's early budget talks cite 7.7 percent property tax increase in spite of shaky economy

by Ailene Croup for PiCK News
Pine County Board and department heads have begun working on the budget for 2021.
At the first of several scheduled budget meetings on August 25, 2020, Auditor-Treasurer Kelly Schroeder reviewed the county’s financial standing, mentioning several times the uncertainty of taxes coming in.

Still, the budget calls for a 7.7 percent increase in taxes (levy) or $1,385,444. The bulk of the increase is for wages and benefits for county employees.
In order to reduce the levy, Schroeder talked about being more aggressive in the use of restricted funds. These are funds that have a limited use by law.
She also talked about refunding bonds.
With current interest rates at 1 percent or lower, Schroeder said this is the best time to refinance or borrow money.
The courthouse bond, due to be paid off in 2031, if refinanced at the lower rate would bring about $800,000 in lower interest rates.
Another option would be to extend the courthouse building bond two years to 2033 and add on $2.16 million to finance future courthouse projects. The list includes:
Jail/Courthouse Cameras  $300,000
HHS Furniture  $250,000
Courthouse Remodel  $300,000
Courthouse Roof  $400,000
Transfer Station Buildings  $300,000
Sandstone Parking Lot  $75,000
This option was supported by Chairman Steve Hallan who  said, “This is the time to borrow the money, when the interest is low.”
The 2020 building fund budget is $75,000 which would be eliminated by extending the courthouse bond and adding $2.16 million to the bond.
There was no mention of using the refinance money to lower other budget costs or whether they could be applied to reduce the projected levy.
Lowering the interest rate would potentially lower the cost of the bond yearly and the tax dollars needed to pay it.
The board agreed to have their financial advisor, Ehlers, come to the regular county board meeting on Sept. 1, 2020, to have a pre-bond contract sales meeting with Ehlers. Schroeder said Ehlers would like this done by Sept. 1, 2020.
Commissioner Matt Ludwig said he would like to see a meeting like this held at North Pine Government Center.
This first of the budget meetings was held by teleconference only.
Hallan said the most difficult of meetings is the combined in-person and teleconferenced.
If a public hearing is required for the bond refinancing, Hallan said there would be a limit on those who could attend in person.

Be prepared to travel long distances, wait in long lines for MN Driver's License

by Theresa Dawson for PiCK News
Any driver from the Pine County area looking to take the written exam or driver’s test may face as much as an 80-mile drive or more to find a testing facility.
“We don’t do driver’s exams here. You will have to go to St. Cloud, Duluth or Arden Hills,” may be heard or posted at the local offices. Because of COVID-19, long lines and possible long drives can be expected.

 As usual there will be a host of documentation necessary based on your licensing needs. It is best to consult the Minnesota Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) site when considering what documentation to take. There is even a preregistration which can help to make your processing smoother.


photos by T. Dawson for Pick News.

Top: St. Cloud Midtown Square DMV site is 74 miles from Pine County is the site for driver's tests. Above: Gerriann Kolles waited in line with her son so he could take his driver's test. He did all his driver's instruction online.

Resident shows appreciate for Pine County law enforcement

Ailene Croup for PiCK News
Peace officers are an isolated group of men and women.
PiCK News reporter Ailene Croup spoke with a family member about his experience as a veteran police officer. He said officers stay to themselves and mingle with their own. He said he always recommends to new officers that they expand their contact group to people who aren’t a part of the law enforcement community so the public can see them outside of work.
Law enforcement is a profession where it’s rare for the public to be happy to see them. The nature of their job such as giving tickets, stopping cars, breaking up fights and domestic intervention makes the public distrust their presence. But, and this is a big but, when they are needed, there is no one else who can do their job.
Theresa Dawson showed her appreciation to Pine County Law Enforcement by delivering treats to them at work on Thursday, June 25, 2020.
Dawson, a new resident of the county, said she intends to be supportive and vocal about the job the sheriff, chief deputy, deputies, correction officers/jailers and 911 dispatchers perform for the community.
Thanks to all the law enforcement personnel who continue to protect and serve.

photos by A. Croup for PiCK News

Above left: Pine County Deputy Troy Griffith, Sheriff Jeff Nelson, Sheriff's Dept. personnel Lena Veldhouse and Katy Beck, Chief Deputy Paul Wiedenstrom, Assistant Jail Administrator Heather Immel and Hinckley resident Theresa Dawson. Above right: Deputy Borchardt and K9 Chaos, Deputy Tim Vaagenes and Sgt. Scott Grice and Hinckley area resident Theresa Dawson.

What's wrong with Socialism?

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders patted Castro on the back. Maggie Ickes tells the real story with her first-hand review of Castro's socialism

by Ailene Croup for PiCK News

Reporter’s note: I met Magaly “Maggy” Ickes in 2003 when I interviewed her while working for the Bedford Gazette in south central Pennsylvania. She was a Cuban refugee. Her story began with Fidel Castro’s six-year revolution culminating in 1959 with the overthrow of Cuban Prime Minister Fulgencia Batista. Under Castro, Cuba became a socialist state.


Maggie’s story

Thanks to a woman Magaly (Falcon) Ickes calls her guardian angel, she is able to tell her story and express her gratitude for the gift of freedom.

Her guardian angel made it possible for her to survive three brutal years in Fidel Castro’s labor camp where she worked cutting sugar cane and picking vegetables, awaiting her turn at America and freedom.

Maggie, who is now a resident of Dutch Corner, in south central Pennsylvania, was only 6-years-old when Fidel Castro became dictator of Cuba. The date was July 26, 1959.

“It was a day I won’t forget. He called it our independence day,” she mocked.

“Everything was rationed. You were given a passport-type book and you could get a pound of coffee, one of meat, sugar, rice and other staples per person, plus a liter of milk for a family to last a month.”

She and her father, Jesus Falcon, supplemented those rations by using slingshots to hunt for frogs and small birds, “Like the ones you see on cows backs,” she explained...more

MN Board of Animal Health releases notice of CWD on Pine County hobbyist deer farm

by Ailene Croup for PiCK News
A Pine County deer hobbyist farm will be required to depopulate and test all the deer remaining on its farm since the discovery Chronic Wasting Disease in its deer.
Michael Crusan told PiCK News they cannot, by law, reveal the Pine County farm where the Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) was detected. Crusan is the Communications Director for the Minnesota Board of Animal Health.
He said the farm is classified as “hobbyist” which means they have one species on the property and do not sell products obtained from the deer such as antlers or animal urine. The hobbyist must pay a fee to the state of $250.
On commercial deer farms, they pay a $500 fee and can have a combined herd of more than one species such as elk and deer and they can sell products derived from the animals, Crusan said.
There is always mandatory testing when an animal dies on a deer farm whether commercial or hobbyist. They are required to send biological samples to the state for testing if the deer dies of natural causes or is killed.
PiCK News asked Crusan if there will be restrictions on deer hunting or hunters testing for CWD during the 2020 deer season.
Crusan said that is a question for the Department of Natural Resources.
Crusan did say it is common for the DNR to set up surveillance around an area where there have been positive tests for CWD and it likely already in the planning.
= Here is the Minnesota Board of Animal Health press release from Jan. 10, 2020:

MN Board of Animal Health
The ongoing chronic wasting disease investigation of farms tied to the Douglas County detection first reported in December 2019 has led to a CWD-confirmed doe on a Pine County farm. The herd in Pine County was being investigated because it provided animals to the Douglas County herd in the past, including the CWD positive doe that initiated the disease investigation.
“We identified the Pine County herd as high priority early in our investigation because our records showed it provided deer to the Douglas County herd,” said Board Assistant Director, Dr. Linda Glaser. “At this point in the investigation CWD has not been detected in any of the other herds connected to Douglas County.”
The Douglas County herd is completely depopulated, and the site is not allowed to have any deer or elk for five years. The owner must also maintain fencing to prevent wild deer from accessing the empty pen and post biohazard signs on the fencing for the entire five-year period.
The Pine County herd owner must also depopulate and test all remaining deer on the farm and maintain fencing with biohazard signage for five years. The investigation is continuing beyond this herd to discover additional movements of deer between it and other locations in the past. Any additional farms identified will be quarantined and their movement records will be reviewed.
CWD is a disease of the deer and elk family caused by prions, which can damage brain and nerve tissue. The disease is most likely transmitted when infected deer and elk shed prions in saliva, feces, urine, and other fluids or tissues. CWD is not known to naturally occur in other animals. The disease is fatal in deer and elk, and there are no known treatments or vaccines. Consuming infected meat is not advised.


What PiCK News doesn't cover, this website does. Featuring great writers with tons of information about this great state. This isn't spoon-fed news. It's real n e w s.

~ Rural reporter derails Star Tribune on new Amtrak train to Duluth.

News Shorts

Nov.1, 1849

Minnesota's First Session of the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Minnesota adjourned

It has been 150 years since the Territory of Minnesota conducted its First Legislative Session. It would be another 10 years before the first State Legislature would convene.

In that first territorial session, on Nov. 1, 1849, Chapter 3 , Section 2 outlined  the establishment of each county's government in the territory.

"At the general election in November of this year there shall be elected in each county organized for county purposes, three county commissioners, one sheriff, one register of deeds, three county assessors, and one coroner, for the county, and such other territorial, district, county or precinct officers as may be prescribed by law, and two justices of the peace and two constables for each election precinct."

Who was eligible to vote?

Chapter 4 states that all free, white, male inhabitants over the age of 21 and having lived in the territory for six months were eligible.

Chapter 30 gives Elam Greely the authority to build a dam on the Snake River near the outlet of Cross Lake and use it for 12 years.

Chapter 30

For more information about these events:

- County Board meeting August 18, 2020, North Pine Government Center, Sandstone, at 10 a.m. Click on the link above to get details regarding social distancing


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