OIL TRAINS-DISASTER TRAINING
Oil transport draws cry for disaster training help
STAPLES, Minn. (AP) - North Dakota's oil boom has safety on the minds of many Minnesota towns as the volatile crude rumbles through town aboard long trains.
Officials are mindful of fiery derailments in the past year, including one in Quebec that killed 47 people. State lawmakers are mulling bills that would have railroads help pay to train and equip emergency responders.
Scott Braith leads a volunteer fire department in Staples, where trains were passing before the town even existed. He says nothing would get his force ready for a catastrophe like the one in Quebec, but it would help if railroads were more proactive.
Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Canadian Pacific aren't fighting the Minnesota legislation. But they say they are already working with first responders.
Vikings to add another $1.2M to stadium project
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The Minnesota Vikings are contributing another $1.2 million to the new stadium to put in a bigger video board on the facility's west end and for other video-related upgrades.
The funding was approved Friday by the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority. It brings the total cost of the project from $975 million to $976.2 million.
The team had initially agreed to contribute $477 million to the project. In November, the Vikings agreed to put up $26.4 million in contingency funds. Some of those funds could go back to the team if construction costs are less than expected.
The $1.2 million is in addition to the contingency funds. The Vikings are still depending on seat license sales to cover their full contribution.
The stadium is scheduled to open in 2016.
Motorcyclists gear up for annual spring Flood Run
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota's motorcycle season has begun with the annual spring Flood Run.
As many as 30,000 motorcyclists were expected to hit the road Saturday for a scenic ride between the Twin Cities and Winona. The Flood Run commemorates the 1965 Mississippi River flood when motorcyclists rode from the Twin Cities area to help out in Winona.
Traffic safety officials were urging motorists to keep an eye out for motorcyclists during the Flood Run and for the rest of the riding season.
PAPER MILL FIRE-ART
Parts of Verso paper mill to become art in Sartell
SARTELL, Minn. (AP) - The Verso paper mill was a key part of Sartell before it was put out of commission by a 2012 fire. And now, a local artist and Sartell High School teacher have found a way to keep pieces of it in the community.
The pair is leading a project that will repurpose pieces of building into sculptures - which will also serve as bike racks around town.
The St. Cloud Times reports that artist Heidi Jeub and Sartell High School technology education teacher Joe Schulte plan to start sculpting this summer.
The mill opened in 1905, two years before Sartell became a city. Jeub says the mill has always seemed sort of mythical. She says this is an interesting way to let people see inside the building.
Emerald ash borer spreads to Winona
WINONA, Minn. (AP) - Officials in Winona say they have found the devastating emerald ash borer inside city limits.
The Winona Daily News reports that an ash borer-infested tree had been confirmed in the southern part of the city. It's the only known infestation in the city, and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture is now looking for others.
Authorities knew the beetle would make its way to Winona at some point.
As part of an ash borer management plan in 2012, the city preemptively treated about 930 publicly owned trees. About 70 ash trees have been removed and 100 new tree varieties were planted.
The emerald ash borer kills off ash trees. It was discovered in Minnesota in 2009, and is in Houston and Trempealeau counties and the Twin Cities metro area.
Lumberjack Days official sentenced on check charge
STILLWATER, Minn. (AP) - The man who organized the Lumberjack Days festival in Stillwater was sentenced to 240 hours of community service and a year of probation man after pleading guilty to a check charge.
David Eckberg was sentenced Friday in Washington County District Court.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports Eckberg had pleaded guilty to issuing a dishonored check. He apologized in court and acknowledged he caused hardship to others.
The 62-year-old has already repaid the $37,000 he owed to many after writing them checks that didn't clear following the 2011 Lumberjack Days festival.
Eckberg and his wife had put on the annual festival along the St. Croix River since 1994. The Stillwater City Council canceled its contract with Eckberg's company in 2012. A new festival will be called Stillwater Log Jam.
Post-rehab, injured snowy owl released into wild
SUPERIOR, Wis. (AP) - A rare snowy owl that was apparently hit by a bus in the nation's capital and sent to Minnesota for rehab is back in the wild once again.
The Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota released the owl on Saturday outside Superior, Wisconsin near the Minnesota and Wisconsin state border.
Center director Julia Ponder says the owl is in great condition and flew off with strong, steady wing beats. She says it will hopefully head north.
The owl was found injured in downtown Washington in late January and taken to the National Zoo before being transferred to a Washington, D.C., wildlife rehabilitation center. It then came to Minnesota for rehab, because The Raptor Center has expertise in replacing damaged feathers.
Snowy owls are native to the Arctic.
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