Local News

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    Power 96 News Brief for Monday 1-24

    01/25/2022

    Albert Lea's City Council will be in session this Monday evening beginning at 7 pm in the Council Chambers in City Hall.

    On the agenda is a resolution accepting a feasibility study and calling a public hearing for February 28, 2022 For The Pillsbury Avenue & Freeborn Avenue Reconstruction Project. There will be a Presentation And Motion Supporting Adoption of the One Watershed One Plan. The goal of the 1W1P is to combine/consolidate multiple water plans into one master plan for the Watershed. Currently there are three separate Watershed plans - Shell Rock River Watershed District, Freeborn County and Freeborn Soil and Water. The plan has been in development since 2018.

    There will be a a few issues regarding a Resolution Repealing Adopted Resolution 21-191 Of Albert Lea Township And The City Of Albert Lea Designating An Unincorporated Area As In Need Of Orderly Annexation.   

    The City of Albert Lea is still working with local legislators to seek $30 million in state funding for its wastewater project after being left out of the governor"s bonding proposal that was released last week. The plant is 40 years old and needs upgrading to meet stricter state limits on phosphorus pollution. The plant also supports 10 major industries that employ more than 1,600 people.

    The upgrade is estimated to cost $60 million, and the City is seeking state support to keep local wastewater fees affordable.

    District 241's School Board met Monday morning at 7 am for a closed session to address preliminary considerations of allegations or charges against an individual subject to its authority. There was also a resolution on the agenda disciplining an employee. The employee in question was the girls head basketball coach and high school counselor Richard Polley. Polley was arrested and charged with criminal sexual conduct earlier this month after allegedly having a sexual encounter with a student.

    Polly was terminated by the district Monday.

    If you're looking for a career change, there are more than 40,000 healthcare vacancies in the state according to the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Health care and long-term caregiving fields are in need of a large supply of workers.

    Assistant Commissioner Dan Pollock said the department is taking down any barriers to apply and making it as easy as possible.

    He says for people who want to apply - now is the time. There is more flexibility and higher wages, and the department is waving fees for training and testing.

    You have the ability to go to community college to become a registered CNA and have a job offer within weeks.

    Power 96 News Brief for Thursday 1-20

    01/21/2022

    Freeborn County Public Health reported 82 new lab confirmed positive COVID-19 cases today. Public Health also reported 1 new deaths and 3 residents were reported as being newly hospitalized. 6 children under the age of 10, and 5 children between 10 and 14 were included in the total of those who tested positive.

    The number of active cases within the county now stands at 379. In addition to the current numbers, Public Health also reported that there has been a cumulative total of 245 people who have been reinfected with COVID 19.

    Minnesota Attorney General Keith announced his office has filed a lawsuit against two companies for "deceptive" COVID-19 practices.

    Ellison announced the two companies are the Center for COVID Control and Doctors Clinical Laboratory.

    Ellison reported his office received numerous complaints from Minnesotans who submitted COVID-19 tests at Center for COVID Control pop-up sites around the state and said they never received their test results from the company's associated lab, Doctors Clinical Laboratory, even after weeks had passed.

    Attorney General Ellison urges Minnesota consumers to report their concerns with the Center for COVID Control and Doctors Clinical Laboratory, including inaccurate reporting or failure to receive test results by submitting a complaint or by calling the Attorney General"s Office.

    With the rise in area COVID cases, residents who would like to get tested may do so at no charge at the states free COVID testing site in Albert Lea. The free site is located at the the former Albert Lea Shopko by the Northbridge Mall. The free testing site does take walk-ins, but if residents make an appointment it is very quick once they walk in the door.

    The free testing site is using a Rapid Antigen test with results to client within 2 hours.

    The Albert Lea Police Department recently completed compliance checks for alcohol and tobacco retailers.

    All alcohol retailers passed their compliance checks and all but 3 tobacco retailers passed. Hy-Vee Gas, Loves Truck Stop and Casey's were the only retailers to fail the tobacco compliance check.

    The businesses that failed, could face civil and criminal penalties. The clerks that sold the items to underage decoys could face criminal charges.

    Compliance checks are conducted yearly as required by law.

    Officials say a record number of Minnesotans signed up for private health insurance plans during MNsure"s recent open enrollment period.

    There were 134,257 Minnesotans who signed up for 2022 health insurance coverage through the state"s insurance marketplace between November 1 and January 15. That"s 14,988 more than the previous year"s open enrollment period.

    Power 96 News Brief for Wednesday 1-19

    01/20/2022

    From 4 am Friday until 4 am Tuesday, Freeborn County Public Health reported 311 new lab confirmed positive COVID-19 cases. Public Health also reported no new deaths and 1 resident was reported as being newly hospitalized. 19 children under the age of 10, and 14 children between 10 and 14 were included in the total of those who tested positive.

    The number of active cases within the county now stands at 389. In addition to the current numbers, Public Health also reported that there has been a cumulative total of 219 people who have been reinfected with COVID 19.

    An accused meth dealer in Albert Lea has taken a plea deal in District Court.

    41 year old Troy Jay Thompson, of Albert Lea, appeared in Freeborn County District Court. Thompson was charged with second-degree sale of methamphetamine back in November 2020.    According to court documents, the South Central Drug Investigation Task Force says Thompson sold a total of 11.49 grams of meth to a confidential informant in February 2020.

    Thompson pleaded guilty Tuesday to a reduced charge of third-degree sale of meth. His sentencing is scheduled for March 28.

    A Hayfield man is being held on a $200,000 bond after allegedly stabbing a friend in Dodge Center Saturday afternoon.

    34-year-old Tyler Stroud is currently being held in Steele County Jail on a charge of second-degree assault, fifth-degree drug possession, felon in possession of ammunition, and two counts of misdemeanor weapons possession.

    The Dodge County Sheriff's office said at about 12:40 p.m. Saturday, deputies responded to a 911 call of a stabbing in Dodge Center.

    Upon arrival, deputies found a 30-year-old male victim and his wife who reported their friend, 34-year-old Tyler Stroud of Hayfield, was at their home and was not acting himself, believing that he was off his meds and not acting right.

    After refusing to leave, a confrontation ensued, where Stroud allegedly stabbed the male victim and then fled in a vehicle.

    Just before 2 p.m. Sunday, deputies were alerted that the Minnesota State Patrol was following Stroud in that same vehicle.

    Multiple vehicles from State Patrol, Dodge County Sheriff"s Office, and the Olmsted County Sheriff"s Office had been following the vehicle.

    Stops sticks were used on Highway 14 by Dodge County deputies in an attempt to stop the vehicle safely but the Stroud drove around the sticks.

    After traveling through Dodge and Olmsted counties, deputies initiated a felony traffic stop at a stop sign at 11th Street and Olmsted County Road 5. Stroud was arrested and taken into custody without further incident.

    Power 96 News Brief for Tuesday 1-18

    01/19/2022

    Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan are announcing their capital investment recommendations for the upcoming legislative session.

    Walz and Flanagan are visiting a bonding project in the Twin Cities to announce the 2022 Local Jobs and Projects Plan.

    Last week, Walz said he would be working with the Minnesota Legislature on a bonding bill that could total more than a $1 billion in additional money for infrastructure.

    Walz said a major focus is to help build new infrastructure in underserved communities.

    Beginning Jan. 19, every home in the United States can sign up to receive four free at-home COVID-19 tests from the federal government.

    The tests will be available for request at CovidTests.gov. The site currently says ordering begins Jan. 19

    Tests will ship for free 7-12 days after ordering, according to the White House.

    The four free tests are for each residential address, not per person living at the address. If the four free tests aren't enough for a household, private health insurance companies are now mandated to cover the cost of at-home tests.

    It's going to cost more to go to the Minnesota State Fair this year.

    Admission for fairgoers ages 13-64 is going up to $17, while children ages 5-12 and seniors 65 and older will pay $15. Those younger than 4 will get in for free.

    The State Fair is also adjusting its hours — it'll be open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 25, through Saturday, Sept. 4, and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Labor Day, Sept. 5.

    Last year, the fairgrounds were open from 6 a.m. to midnight for the first 11 days and then from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Labor Day.

    These changes come as the Minnesota State Fair reported an operating loss of $1.3 million for 2021, which follows an operating loss in 2020, after the fair was canceled due to COVID-19.

    A 37-mile ice highway in Minnesota that takes motorists across the mammoth Lake of the Woods to the northernmost point in the contiguous United States is open for the second straight year, with a toll of $250 per vehicle. The road, which costs an estimated $1,500 per mile for plowing and other upkeep, begins in Warroad and ends at the Northwest Angle resort community, which is known for its ice fishing. The highway allows people to bypass a drive into Canada or get there in a vehicle rather than a plane or snowmobile.

    Power 96 News Brief for Monday 1-17

    01/18/2022

    A high school counselor and head girls basketball coach at Albert Lea High School was arrested and is accused of criminal sexual conduct.

    The Albert Lea Police Department said Richard John Polley was arrested Thursday. According to a criminal complaint he had sexual intercourse with a student earlier this month.

    According to the criminal complaint, the girl spoke with Polley as her counselor and the two became friends on Snapchat.

    The student said Polley told her "he didn't think it was a great idea to have her on Snapchat but didn't delete her," the complaint reads.

    On January 8, the complaint states the student went to Polley's house two times, once around 10:00 p.m. and then again about an hour later. The complaint said Polley was asleep the second time the student went to his house and she had woken him up. It was during this visit the two allegedly had intercourse.

    According to Albert Lea Area Schools, Polley has been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation. He is a counselor at the high school and the girl's varsity basketball coach.

    If you have plans on going to Rochester in the near future, bring your mask.

    The Rochester City Council voted 6-1 Sunday night - requiring vaccinated and unvaccinated people to wear masks in all indoor public spaces. This upholds Mayor Kim Norton's declaration of a local emergency from Saturday morning. The change brings a range of reactions from the community. The council acknowledged the apparent discourse many times in it's emergency meeting - saying each member received hundreds of emails from concerned constituents.

    The mandate is in effect until 11:59pm Feb. 7 unless the council extends or rescinds the requirement.

    The Albert Lea School Board will be in session tonight at 5 pm in the Board Room at the Brookside Education Center to conduct the official business of the district. Staff will receive reports from the Superintendent, Board Members, Student Board Members and teachers. The board will be presented with a new tax abatement proposal.

    The board members will then move into a closed session for Labor Negotiations and to discuss preliminary considerations of allegations or charges against an individual subject to its authority.

    Power 96 News Brief for Thursday 1-13

    01/14/2022

    DEED, The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development has awarded $1.56 million dollars in grants to seven communities across Minnesota to clean up or investigate eight contaminated sites that have been approved for redevelopment.

    The City of Albert Lea was awarded $50,000 in investigation funding for the Blazing Star Landing site.

    The grant allows the city to investigate the site, and ensure that either there isn't any contamination. The Blazing Star site will be redeveloped into two apartment buildings with 48 units each.

    The investigation will begin in early spring with results expected back by April or May.

    If you're a Waste Management customer you'll want to get your trash and recycling out earlier tomorrow. Officials at Waste Management reported that drivers will be starting their routes 1 hour earlier than usual due to the impending snow storm that is due to impact the area.

    Rochester Public Schools announced its temporarily moving to distance learning beginning January 18

    Interim Superintendent Kent Pekel sent an alert to families saying he made the difficult decision to temporarily transition our school district to distance learning for all students beginning on Tuesday, January 18, and extending through Friday, January 28, 2022.

    Pekel said the primary reason for taking this step is not the spread of COVID-19 among students in our schools, but the impact of the Omicron variant on staff.

    Currently, 50% of Rochester school buildings are experiencing significant staff shortages, including teachers, transportation drivers, school nurses, maintenance staff, and paraprofessionals.

    A jury trial has been scheduled for a Minnesota man accused of walking into a medical clinic and opening fire, killing one staff member and wounding four others last year.

    Gregory Ulrich will stand trial beginning May 16 on charges of murder, attempted murder, and other counts in the Feb. 9 shooting at the Allina Health Clinic in Buffalo.

    Minnesota's pandemic rental assistance program is finally moving past a major backlog in payments.

    RentHelpMN is an emergency rent assistance program designed to keep people from being evicted during the pandemic.

    Minnesota paid $333 million in rent help through December.

    Jennifer Ho, Commissioner of Minnesota Housing, said, in January we typically see higher rent delinquencies following the holidays.

    There has already been an increase in applications this month, with over 3,000 applications submitted in the first six days of January.

    If you need assistance or Rent Help, Applications are available at www.mnhousing.gov

    Power 96 News Brief for Wednesday 1-12

    01/13/2022

    Freeborn County Public Health reported 48 new lab confirmed positive COVID-19 cases. Public Health also reported 1 new death and 1 resident was reported as being newly hospitalized. 1 child under the age of 10, and 2 children between 10 and 14 were included in the total of those who tested positive.

    The number of active cases within the county now stands at 299. In addition to the current numbers, Public Health also reported that there has been a cumulative total of 139 people who have been reinfected with COVID 19.

    Governor Tim Walz has announced his intention to provide $40 million in new funding to help support hospital staffing to serve Minnesotans across the state during the current surge of COVID-19 cases brought on by the Omicron variant. Governor Walz submitted his plan for the funding from the American Rescue Plan to the Legislative COVID-19 Response Commission on Wednesday.

    The $40 million will cover the costs for providers (mostly RNs) who will work 60 hours per week for 60 days to provide care to patients at certain Minnesota hospitals dealing with staffing shortages due to COVID-19.

    Additionally, the Governor announced that the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is taking emergency action to provide regulatory relief to hospitals and long-term care facilities, allowing them to expand capacity to more easily treat additional patients.

    As of Tuesday, Minnesota hospitals are treating more than 1,500 COVID-19 patients, including nearly 260 in the ICU. This number is expected to rise in the coming days.

    Our news partner, the ABC 6 Weather Team are continuing to track Friday closely for our better snow chance over the next 7 days, with accumulating snow looking likely. The latest model trends are showing a more westerly track, meaning the highest snow totals will trend out west, with lesser amounts to the east. Accumulating snow continues to look likely, especially later Friday afternoon & evening, causing a few issues on the roads, prompting our ALERT DAY status for Friday. So far models are predict about 4 to 6 inches as being possible.

    The Red Cross has declared a national blood crisis.

    The organization says it"s facing the worst blood shortage in more than a decade, forcing doctors to decide which patients receive blood transfusions and who must wait.

    COVID-19 continues to create “relentless challenges,” according to the Red Cross. The pandemic has caused a 10% decline in overall donations and has led to ongoing blood drive cancellations and staffing limitations. The organization has also seen a 62% drop in blood drives at schools and colleges.

    Donors can make appointments online via the Red Cross Blood Donor app, or by phone, at 1-800-RED-CROSS.

    January donors will be entered for a chance to win a Super Bowl getaway, a home theater package, and a $500 gift card.

    Power 96 News Brief for Tuesday 1-11

    01/12/2022

    An Albert Lea woman who received meth through the mail that was hidden in stuffed teddy bears in Freeborn County has received probation in her case.

    Investigators said that 46-year-old Marivel Ramos, was part of a conspiracy where she sent cash to California and received packages full of meth. Ramos pleaded guilty in October 2021 to second-degree drug possession.

    According to court documents, three of the packages mailed to Ramos were opened and the teddy bears inside contained a total of 10.5 pounds of methamphetamine.

    Ramos was sentenced to 10 years of supervised probation in the case.

    A familiar site on the outskirts of Austin will be gone by the time the snow melts this spring as Austin Utilities completes the demolition of the Northeast Power Plant located in NE Austin at 2901 11th ST NE. Community members will see more activity over the next few months as the demolition phase of the project will begin in January and is expected to be completed in April.

    The project was originally scheduled to be completed in 2020 but was delayed because of the pandemic.

    Due to concerns over the rise in COVID-19 cases, Austin's Paint the Town Pink kickoff event has been postponed.

    The 12th annual "Paint the Town Pink" program was slotted to kick off today. The "Paint the Town Pink" program has raised over $2 million for cancer research at The Hormel Institute since its inception. The Hormel Institute is still planning to have its "Plunging for Pink" and "Paint the Rink Pink" events later this month.

    The Iowa Legislature began the 2022 session with talk of approving tax cuts, rewriting unemployment laws to push people back to work and creating a parents bill of rights that could determine how schools decide which books are appropriate for libraries.

    The 150 lawmakers and staff returned to the Capitol on Monday with no mask, vaccine or test requirements as COVID-19 continues rapid spread throughout the state.

    Lawmakers could decide how to deal with potential federal vaccine mandates, which are currently tied up in the courts.

    Power 96 News Brief for Monday 1-10

    01/11/2022

    Albert Lea's City Council will be in session tonight at 7 pm in the Council Chambers in City Hall. The city is expected to pass a resolution accepting a feasibility study and public hearing for 2 local street projects. They are also expected to pass a resolution allowing for the application of a grant that will be used for the reconstruction of Valley Avenue from Johnson Street to Hawthorne Street in fiscal year 2026.

    The council will vote on a resolution amending a professional services agreement with Mead and Hunt For the Albert Lea Municipal Airport Pavement Preservation Project. There will also be a resolution Establishing 2022 Appointments And Designations.

    The Freeborn County Board of Commissioners will be conducting a workshop January 11th at 8:30 an in the Freeborn Room at the Freeborn County Government Center. Staff will be discussing the OSHA ETS policy, the County wide wage adjustment, Discuss setting the minimum 2023 salary for Sheriff and County Attorney.

    Members of Harris Mechanical as well as APEX engineering will be presenting options to the Board on needed improvements to HVAC/Lighting/roofing and utilities.

    Commissioners will discuss a Resolution Approving Abatement over $10,000. There will also be discussion over the Pledge of Allegiance to open board meetings that will be discussed by Commissioner Edwin.

    Michael Wolphagen, 41, of Austin was arrested Friday for felony drug possession along with indecent exposure.

    Wolphagen was arrested at Maytag Laundry after an employee reportedly saw the man touching himself in public.

    According to police, Wolphagen was not supposed to be inside the laundry facility due to being told weeks prior to stay away.

    When booked into the Mower County Jail, Wolphagen was found to have methamphetamine in his possession.

    The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has been providing additional support to families for decades. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, additional benefits called Emergency-SNAP (ESNAP) benefits to help out just a little bit more throughout these hard times.

    The additional benefits started in March of 2020 in response to the pandemic and have been renewed every month since. But, they are scheduled to end at the end of January.

    Minnesota Department of Human Services Assistant Commissioner Tikki Brown said, "Although, we have heard that it may be extended an additional three months. So, we hope that's the case and we can continue to provide these extra benefits."

    Brown said just under $450,000 people in Minnesota receive SNAP benefits and each person receives about $213 a month.

    Power 96 News Brief for Thursday 1-6

    01/07/2022

    The man accused of a shooting at an Albert Lea apartment in November of 2020 appeared in court Wednesday.

    A hearing was held for Devin Weiland where attorneys on both sides filed motions for the judge to consider.

    Both sides had filed motions that were considered during the hearing. One motion call into question the witness list the defense had provided. The prosecution also claimed that files the defense had shared with an expert had not also been shared with the prosecution team.

    The judge did not rule on either issue but said he would take it under advisement.

    A potential upcoming competency hearing was mentioned during the hearing but a date was not set.

    Weiland has two upcoming hearings set for February 8 and 9.

    A man is now in custody in connection to a Christmas Eve burglary in West Concord.

    The West Concord Police Department says 18-year-old Joseph Ubl has been arrested on suspicion of stealing hundreds of dollars worth of tools from a garage on Christmas eve.

    Police said the arrest is thanks to a collaboration between law enforcement and the public"s help after the department shared surveillance images from the burglary online.

    Hundreds of dollars worth of Milwaukee brand tools, among other things, were stolen.

    Pacelli Catholic Schools says it will close today and Friday due to a rise in COVID-19 cases.

    A letter sent out to parents and guardians of Pacelli students states:

    “The CDC recently reviewed cases and reported 828,417 new cases around the nation as of January 3, 2022. This steep incline in cases has occurred following the holiday season. At a state level, Minnesota reported 16,204 positive cases. At the local County level, the check has the Mower county added 69 cases bringing the cumulative total for the county to 7,883. The county is listed as a High Transmission area, according to the county COVID-19 tracker.”

    “At Pacelli we have also seen a steep rise in cases following Christmas break, we currently have 7 confirmed positive cases of COVID - 19, 5 families awaiting testing, and more than thirty students who are quarantining as a result of these positive cases.”

    An update on when Pacelli Catholic Schools might restart classes is expected on Friday.

    Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison says he"s quarantining outside the country after testing positive for COVID-19. In a statement Wednesday night, Ellison said he was experiencing only mild symptoms thanks to having been vaccinated and boosted. He says he's isolating in place, and will travel home when it is safe, while conducting business remotely as usual. He says he didn't know he was positive until he took a test required to board the plane home.

    Power 96 News Brief for Wednesday 1-5

    01/06/2022

    Freeborn County Public Health reported 116 new lab confirmed positive COVID-19 cases yesterday for the period of 4 am Thursday through 4 am Monday. Public Health also reported 1 new death and 3 residents were reported as being newly hospitalized. 5 children under the age of 10, and 5 children between 10 and 14 were included in the total of those who tested positive.

    The number of active cases within the county now stands at 157. In addition to the current numbers, Public Health also reported that there has been a cumulative total of 94 people who have been reinfected with COVID 19.

    A Mason City woman accused of discharging a firearm in an Albert Lea hotel has entered a plea of guilty in the case. 31 year old Jessica Ann Hutfles entered the guilty plea to a charge of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon in Freeborn County District Court Tuesday.

    Police say Hutfles discharged a firearm in a room at the Motel 6 in the 2000 block of Main Street on October 22, 2021. Investigators say Hutfles left the scene but she and a firearm were found a short distance from the Motel 6.

    Hutfles is now scheduled to be sentenced on March 24.

    Darrell George Hondl, 59 of rual Albert Lea has been charged with one count of felony second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon, one count of felony dangerous weapons-intentional discharge of a firearm that endangers safety, one count of gross misdemeanor domestic assault and one count of misdemeanor dangerous weapons-recklessly handle or use.

    The charges follow a domestic altercation in which Hondl allegedly fired three shots from a gun during the incident on Sunday. No one was shot during the altercation.

    Hormel Foods said Wednesday it has donated more than 93,000 pounds of ham to Convoy of Hope to help families in Kentucky and Texas.

    Hormel Foods made the donation to help families impacted by the tornadoes that ripped through the state last month. The company also donated over 7,500 hams to be distributed at food shelves throughout Texas.

    U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn said he has tested positive for COVID-19 and is undergoing treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

    Hagedorn, a Republican who represents a large swath of southern Minnesota, said in a statement he has been vaccinated and is experiencing “very mild symptoms.” But he acknowledged that his doctors are concerned because he"s fighting kidney cancer. In his statement, Hagedorn said “I will work with the professionals at Mayo until it is safe for me to return to my home in Blue Earth or travel to work in Washington.”

    Power 96 News Brief for Tuesday 1-4

    01/05/2022

    Freeborn County Public Health are changing their COVID reporting policy. Beginning this week, Public Health will stop releasing daily COVID numbers and will begin reporting twice a week. COVID Updates will now only be posted on Tuesdays and Fridays.

    A head-on crash North of Mason City resulted in two serious injuries that forced two people to be extricated from their vehicles.

    The Cerro Gordo County Sheriff"s Office said the crash happened just after 10 p.m. Monday night at 330th St. and Highway 65.

    A 2017 Hyundai driven by Tyler Litwiler, of Northwood, was northbound when the vehicle crossed the centerline and struck a 2010 Chevy Impala.

    The Impala was driven by Michael Snook, of Mason City. Heather Query, also of Mason City, was a passenger.

    Both drivers were trapped and had to be extricated. Litwiler and Snook each sustained serious injuries. Query suffered moderate injuries.

    A Mower County man accused of a break-in, child porn, and drug possession is taking a plea deal.

    Ryan Christopher Collins, 32 of Austin, entered guilty pleas to first-degree burglary, third-degree drug possession, and fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle. Six counts against him of possession of child pornography have been dismissed.

    No sentencing date for Collins has been set. He is still being held in the Mower County Jail on a $150,000 bond.

    The Mayo Clinic announced in October that anyone not vaccinated and not exempt by Jan 3. would be terminated. The private healthcare system did review medical and religious exemption requests. The Clinic kept their word on the matter terminating the employment of staff who were not vacinated. Exactly how many people were fired and how many got religious or medical exemptions will not be released until a later date accoring to Mayo officials.

    The Minnesota State Patrol says 199 people were arrested across Minnesota over the holiday weekend for drunk driving.

    The patrol says the arrests happened from 6 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Monday.

    State officials had stepped up the number of patrols over the holidays to watch for impaired drivers.

    In a special meeting Monday night at Brookside Education Center the Albert Lea School Board elected Neal Skaar as the new board chairman. Skarr beat out Kim Nelson in a 4-3 vote. Dave Klatt was elected clerk, and Dennis Dieser was unchallenged for treasurer.

    Power 96 News Brief for Wednesday 12-29

    12/30/2021

    Freeborn County Public Health reported 64 new lab confirmed positive COVID-19 cases from 4 am Friday through 4 am Monday. Public Health also reported no new deaths and 4 residents were reported as being newly hospitalized. 9 children under the age of 10, and 4 children between 10 and 14 were included in the total of those who tested positive.

    The number of active cases within the county now stands at 149. In addition to the current numbers, Public Health also reported that there has been a cumulative total of 80 people who have been reinfected with COVID 19.

    The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) has identified the officer and the man killed in an officer-involved shooting last week.

    The officer has been identified as Zachary Gast. Gast has been with the department for two years and is currently on administrative leave.

    The Austin Police Department does not use body-worn cameras but the BCA said cameras in police squad cars were able to capture portions of the incident.

    The BCA"s investigation of the officer-involved shooting is ongoing. When the investigation is complete, the BCA will provide its findings without recommendation to the Mower County Attorney"s Office for review.

    Austin-born John Madden, Hall of Fame coach and broadcaster passed away yesterday morning. The Hall of Fame coach turned broadcaster whose exuberant calls combined with simple explanations provided a weekly soundtrack to NFL games for three decades, died Tuesday morning, the NFL said. He was 85.

    The league said he died unexpectedly and did not detail a cause.

    Madden gained fame in a decade-long stint as the coach of the renegade Oakland Raiders, making it to seven AFC title games and winning the Super Bowl following the 1976 season.

    Madden was the preeminent television sports analyst for most of his three decades calling games, winning an unprecedented 16 Emmy Awards for outstanding sports analyst/personality, and covering 11 Super Bowls for four networks from 1979-2009.

    Two Minnesota men died in an avalanche in the mountains north of Yellowstone National Park.

    Park County officials say a group of eight snowmobilers was riding near Scotch Bonnet Mountain north of Cooke City at mid-day Monday.

    One of the men got stuck on a southeast facing slope and another man was trying to help dig him out when the avalanche happened, burying the two riders.

    The group used their rescue equipment and were able to find the men, but they were unable to revive them.

    Power 96 News Brief for Monday 12-27

    12/28/2021

    Albert Lea's City Council will be in session tonight at 7 pm in the Council Chambers in city hall.

    The council is expected to pass a resolution approving a 2 year contract between the city and the firefighters union. The city is also expected to pass a resolution approving a 2 year labor contract between the city and the Minnesota Public Employees Association that represents Police Officers Sergants and Detectives.   

    The council is also expected to accept addition funds from the Corona Virus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund. This fund was established under the American Rescue Plan Act and will add 30,590 dollars. The city is expected to receive over 1.9 million dollars in total American Rescue Plan Act funds.

    This morning, Freeborn County Public Health reported 32 new lab confirmed positive COVID-19 cases that were reported December 23rd. Public Health also reported no new deaths and no residents were reported as being newly hospitalized. 6 children under the age of 10, and 1 child between 10 and 14 were included in the total of those who tested positive.

    The number of active cases within the county now stands at 152. In addition to the current numbers, Public Health also reported that there has been a cumulative total of 72 people who have been reinfected with COVID 19.

    Two people were hurt in an ATV crash in Stewartville over the weekend.

    The Olmsted County Sheriff's Office said deputies responded to an ATV crash near 1st St and 4th Ave SE in Stewartville Friday just after 3 p.m.

    Deputies located a man with his left arm pinned underneath the ATV. They also noticed open alcohol containers in and around the ATV.

    Deputies said they believe the two had been drinking prior to the crash. It appears the driver ran a stop sign in an attempt to avoid an oncoming vehicle.

    The driver was taken to the hospital with substantial injuries to his left arm. According to the sheriff's office the driver, 36-year-old Jeremy Morrison remains in the hospital and has undergone surgery on his arm. The passenger had minor injuries.

    Morrison is facing possible charges of criminal vehicular operation as well as DUI. Additional charges are possible pending results of a blood test.

    Sun Country Airlines says all domestic flights have been canceled due to what the company says is a third-party network system outage.

    According to the company, the outage affects all Sun Country flights, as well as the flights of many other airlines across the world.

    Sun Country initially announced full refunds were issued and change fees were waived for domestic flights scheduled before 8 a.m. CT Monday due to the outage, however, the company's website now states all change fees have been waived for flights scheduled through December 28.

    Power 96 News Brief for Wednesday 12-22

    12/23/2021

    The Freeborn County Board of Commissioners have set their final tax levy for 2022. County residents can expect to see an increase of just over 2.5%, down nearly half of what was approved in the preliminary levy. The preliminary levy was set at 5%.

    The Austin City Council approved the city"s tax levy for 2022. Residents of Austin can expect to see a nearly 6.8% increase from the 2021 levy.

    Hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans who renew their annual vehicle registrations online or by mail might not get their 2022 stickers in time thanks to global supply chain disruptions. Manufacturing company 3M typically produces the stickers but the company reported Tuesday that it can"t get the paper it needs. The State Department of Public Safety"s Driver and Vehicle Services Division Director says that some 52,000 registration renewals have already been submitted, and he anticipates receiving another 320,000 additional renewals before the end of January.

    The division says drivers who renew in person at a license center can get pre-printed stickers on the spot.

    Freeborn County Public Health reported 48 new lab confirmed positive COVID-19 cases in a period that ran from 4 am Friday until 4 am Monday. Public Health also reported no new deaths and no residents were reported as being newly hospitalized. 4 child under the age of 10, and 2 children between 10 and 14 were included in the total of those who tested positive.

    The number of active cases within the county now stands at 128. In addition to the current numbers, Public Health also reported that there has been a cumulative total of 71 people who have been reinfected with COVID 19.

    A Stewartville man has entered a not guilty plea on chargers that he committed child sex abuse.

    43-year-old Daniel Joseph Kenney was arrested in September for first and second-degree criminal sexual conduct. The Olmsted County Sheriff"s Office says Kenney is accused of sexual contact and communication with a minor. Court documents state the victim is not a relative of Kenney.

    Kenney is scheduled to stand trial beginning May 2, 2022.

    Power 96 News Brief for Tuesday 12-21

    12/22/2021

    In their meeting, the Freeborn County Board of Commissioners declared a local disaster from the severe storms of last week. Six tornadoes were confirmed in the county by the National Weather Service.

    The local disaster declaration allows the county to ask the state of Minnesota for public infrastructure funds for storm cleanup.

    Until last Wednesday, a tornado had never been reported in the state in the month of December. Fifteen tornadoes have now been reported in the state from last Wednesdays storm outbreak.

    Pacelli Catholic Schools announced that it received a $1 million gift. It's the largest gift in the school's 100 plus history.

    The gift was made through the Wiggins Foundation from Steve Wiggins, class of 1974. The gift was made to "create new technology capabilities for students and add additional scholarships for low-income families."

    The Wiggins Family Scholarship Fund will also be established to offer financial aid to low-income students. All students deserve access to high-quality education and this gift will allow more low-income students to enroll at Pacelli.

    Freeborn County Public Health reported 20 new lab confirmed positive COVID-19 cases yesterday. Public Health also reported no new deaths and 6 residents were reported as being newly hospitalized. 1 child under the age of 10, and 2 children between 10 and 14 were included in the total of those who tested positive.

    The number of active cases within the county now stands at 160. In addition to the current numbers, Public Health also reported that there has been a cumulative total of 71 people who have been reinfected with COVID 19.

    With the heating season in full swing fire and rescue officials are stressing the importance of carbon monoxide detectors in homes after eight people were taken to a hospital to be evaluated for carbon monoxide poisoning after high levels were found in a Shakopee townhome.

    Officials said all eight family members were taken to Hennepin County Medical Center, where it was discovered they had mid-range levels of carbon monoxide in their blood. Firefighters say they weren't able to find any carbon monoxide detectors in the home. It isn't clear at this time what caused the high carbon monoxide levels.

    Power 96 News Brief for Monday 12-20

    12/21/2021

    The Albert Lea School Board will be in session tonight at 5 pm in the Boardroom at the Brookside Education Center in order to conduct the official business of the district. In addition to receiving reports from the Superintendent, Board Members, Teachers and Students, the board will be looking at a number of resolutions. The board will hold a public hearing regarding tax abatement for a new home construction program and a construction project on Clark Street East.

    The resolutions to be voted on tonight include both of those items subject to the public hearing. The board is expected to announce the bid results of the 2022 Albert Lea High School partial re-roofing project. There will also be a resolution Establishing Combined Polling Places and Designating Hours During Which The Polling Places Will Remain Open for Voting for School District Elections Not Held On the Day of a Statewide Election for 2022.

    Those locations are expected to be Edgewater Bay Pavilion, First Lutheran Church, United Methodist Church, Grace Lutheran Church, Albert Lea's City Hall, Assembly of God Church, Clarks Grove City Hall, the Hollendale/Riceland Community Building and the Hayward Community Hall.

    An investigation is underway in Mapleton after a man was found Sunday morning shot multiple times.

    According to a press release, the Blue Earth County Sheriff"s Office states that law enforcement was called to the 100 block of 4th Avenue SE around 10:13 am for a reported shooting. Officers and deputies say they encountered a 50-year-old male who had been shot several times. The Sheriff"s Office says the victim was conscious and alert and was taken to a local hospital with serious wounds.

    Investigators say several people were present at the time of the shooting and they are working to confirm the identity of a suspect.

    The owner of The Interchange Wine & Coffee Bistro who was jailed earlier this month after a jury found her guilty of violating the state"s emergency executive orders tied to COVID-19, has filed a petition in U.S. District Court in St. Paul to be released from custody.

    Lisa Hanson petitioned the court for a writ of habeas corpus for what she says is unlawful detention in both Freeborn and Steele counties.

    Hanson was taken into custody Dec. 9 after a jury convicted her of six misdemeanor counts of violating an emergency executive order that required restaurants be closed for in-person dining to limit the spread of COVID-19

    Freeborn County is collecting information from anyone in the county who suffered damage from the weather event of wednesday night. Forms to report damage are available online and is located on the main page of the Freeborn County web site. Those wishing to report damage can go to www.freeborn.mn.us to report damage. The information will be used to determine if Local Option Disaster Abatement, meaning refunding part of taxes paid in 2021, or the Local Option Disaster Credit will be available to property owners. Completed forms will be processed by county staff and referred to the Assessor's office for review and action. Questions can be answered by calling 507-377-5186.

    Power 96 News Brief for Thursday 12-16

    12/17/2021

    Damage reports are coming in out of Freeborn County today.

    Hartland took a big hit Wednesday night as storms with wind gusts of around 80 miles per hour hit the area.

    Rual parts of Alden were also reporting damage to farm buildings and barns in the area. According to the Freeborn County Sheriff, Kurt Fritag, Conger, Glenville and Hayward also sustained damage from the fast moving storm. In Hartland, the Arcadian bank building appeared to have its roof ripped off while significant damage was visible to many other structures.

    The National Weather Service will be in Hartland today to determine if a tornado or straight line winds caused the damage. Results of their assessment should be completed later today.   

    While no injuries were reported in Freeborn County, one person was killed in Olmsted County after being hit by a falling tree.

    Keith Dickman, 65, of Rochester, died around 8 p.m. in Haverhill Township last night. A witness said the victim went out to have a smoke just after the tornado sirens went off. After the sirens stopped, witnesses noticed he had not returned and found that a tree had fallen on the victim"s truck. He was found next to the truck underneath a tree. A deputy estimated the tree was 40 foot tall and broke off about 10 feet above the base.

    Freeborn County Public Health reported 6 new lab confirmed positive COVID-19 cases yesterday. Public Health also reported no new deaths and 1 residents were reported as being newly hospitalized. no children under the age of 10, and no children between 10 and 14 were included in the total of those who tested positive.

    The number of active cases within the county now stands at 182. In addition to the current numbers, Public Health also reported that there has been a cumulative total of 68 people who have been reinfected with COVID 19.

    The Floyd County Sherriff"s Office Facebook page shared a post from the Floyd County Iowa Emergency Management Agency Thursday morning to report that Rudd, Iowa was hit by a tornado Wednesday evening.

    Power lines and trees are down, and multiple buildings including the water treatment plant were heavily damaged.

    As of Thursday morning, Rudd will be without power and water for a few days.

    Power 96 News Brief for Wednesday 12-15

    12/15/2021

    Freeborn County Public Health reported 60 new lab confirmed positive COVID-19 cases as of 4 am Monday. Public Health also reported no new deaths and 3 residents were reported as being newly hospitalized. 4 children under the age of 10, and no children between 10 and 14 were included in the total of those who tested positive.

    The number of active cases within the county now stands at 205. In addition to the current numbers, Public Health also reported that there has been a cumulative total of 69 people who have been reinfected with COVID 19.

    Weather conditions will be breezy throughout the day, but it will be manageable. The real weather concerns arrive after dark today. Severe Storms after dark look to enhance the already strong wind with gusts potentially as high as 75 mph. There is a tornado risk with these storms as well. After the storms depart, high winds will continue to be a concern, gusting 55-65 mph overnight. Property damage and tree damage is possible.

    Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is expected to change his plea to guilty in a federal civil rights case today. Court documents show he is charged with depriving George Floyd of the right to be free from unreasonable seizure and liberty without due process of law.

    A Freeborn County man will soon go to trial after being accused of having over 100,000 images of child porn on his computer.

    James Alan Rambo, 38 of Alden, is charged with 11 counts of possession of pornographic work of a minor under 13.

    The Albert Lea Police Department searched the home where Rambo lived in June and seized several laptop and desktop computers, phones, flash cards, and hard drives. A digital forensic examiner from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension says one of the hard drives had more than 100,000 child porn images and over 29,000 of them were of victims known to the Internet Crimes Against Children task force.

    Rambo's trial is set to beginning April 14, 2022.

    Charges are expected soon for a Minnesota grocery delivery worker accused of driving over sacks of food meant for an elderly couple because she was angry about their sign supporting law enforcement.

    The incident happened after the couple ordered $50 worth of groceries from Cub Foods to be delivered by Instacart to their home in Blaine. Police said the couple stepped out to meet the driver, who first told them to check the wreath hanging on their front door and then drove back and forth over the groceries.

    The driver allegedly scribbled a note on the receipt that complained about the delivery service pay and called police “racist pigs.”

    Blaine police have identified the driver as a 36-year-old woman from a nearby suburb.

    Power 96 News Brief for Tuesday 12-14

    12/15/2021

    The Albert Lea City Council will be in session this evening in the Council Chambers in City Hall beginning at 7 pm.

    Area State Representative Peggy Bennett and 37 other state lawmakers are urging Mayo Clinic to end its COVID vaccine mandates for employees.

    Bennett said, “To be clear, none of us are opposed to vaccines, but most of these frontline workers willingly sacrificed and stepped-up last year, exposing themselves and their families to a then-unknown virus without any protection of a vaccine. Many were sickened by the virus and now have natural immunity. Mayo is no longer under any obligation to enforce a vaccine mandate on its staff, and we are urging them to give its staff the freedom to decide if they want to receive the shot.”

    The 38 lawmakers sent the letter following the Biden administration"s decision to back away from vaccine mandates for facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid.

    The Mayo Clinic has stated that all employees are required to receive at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by the Jan. 3 deadline or risk being terminated.

    The Freeborn County Fair Board announced the Grandstand Entertainment for the 2022, 6 best days of summer. Performing in the grandstand in 2022 on Tuesday, August 2nd - country artist Neal McCoy, Wednesday, August 3rd - country legend Lee Greenwood, Thursday, August 4th -classic rocker Ted Nugent, Friday, August 5th - southern rockers .38 Special and Saturday, August 6th - For King and Country.

    This year's fair runs from August 2 thru 7th, 2022.

    Freeborn County Public Health reported 37 new lab confirmed positive COVID-19 cases yesterday. Public Health also reported no new deaths and 2 residents were reported as being newly hospitalized. 7 children under the age of 10, and 7 children between 10 and 14 were included in the total of those who tested positive.

    The number of active cases within the county now stands at 295. In addition to the current numbers, Public Health also reported that there has been a cumulative total of 69 people who have been reinfected with COVID 19.

    Minneapolis has rolled out a pilot program that would send unarmed mental health professionals to residents who call 911 about behavioral or mental-health related crises.

    The behavioral crisis response teams — which aim to provide counseling, crisis intervention and connection to support services — will be staffed by professionals from Canopy Mental Health & Consulting. The company was awarded a two-year, $6 million contract by the city"s Office of Performance and Innovation.

    Power 96 News Brief for Monday 12-13

    12/14/2021

    The Albert Lea City Council will be in session this evening in the Council Chambers in City Hall beginning at 7 pm.

    During the meeting, the council is expected to pass and accept motions establishing the tax levy for 2022.

    Approve Albert Lea Housing And Redevelopment Authority final property tax levy for fiscal year 2022.

    Adopt The 2022 General Fund Budget.

    Adopt The 2022 – 2026 Capital Improvement Plan.

    Accept the Amending Fee Schedule For 2022 – Excluding water and sewer

    utility rates as well as amending the fee schedule For 2022 water and sewer utility rates and the council is also expected to adopt the 2022 Water, Sewer, Solid Waste, Senior Center and Airport Budgets.

    In new business, the council will hold a Public Hearing Regarding Tax Abatement Housing Assistance Policy. Hold a public hearing regarding proposed tax abatement for the VFW Lofts, and hold a public hearing regarding a fee increase for 3.2% Off-Sale Beer And On-Sale Wine Licenses.

    The Minnesota State Patrol tallied 286 car crashes across the state during a wintery storm that brought as much as 20 inches of snow in some places.

    The highway patrol reported that 21 of the crashes resulted in injuries, including one that was fatal.

    A car driving on Highway 61 in Maplewood jumped the curb late Friday and struck a pickup truck traveling in the opposite direction.

    A 52-year-old passenger died.

    Lisa Hanson, the owner of the Interchange Wine and Coffee Bistro, was found guilty of violating emergency powers and sentenced to 90 days in jail, is now filing her case in the Federal Court.

    In 2020, Hanson refused to close her restaurant during the second round of COVID related shutdowns. Now, just weeks ahead of the holidays, Hanson will spend Christmas behind bars.

    Hanson represented herself in the less than a week long trial and was found guilty in Freeborn County court Thursday.

    The federal suit is expected to be filed today.

    A person affiliated with Minnesota State University, Mankato has the state"s second confirmed coronavirus case involving the omicron variant. University President Edward Inch has sent a letter to faculty, staff and students telling them that the Minnesota Department of Health had notified school officials that the omicron variant was confirmed in a vaccinated person at the university and that individual had recently tested positive. Inch says the infected person is doing fine and is isolating.

    One person was hospitalized following a three-semi crash Friday on wintry roads on Interstate-35.

    The Minnesota State Patrol said the crash happened at 7:27 p.m. near milepost 17.

    All three vehicles were southbound when they collided. The crash resulted in Raymond Toot, 71, of Hartland, being taken to the hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.

    Power 96 News Brief for Thursday 12-09

    12/10/2021

    Freeborn County Public Health reported 35 new lab confirmed positive COVID-19 cases yesterday. Public Health also reported no new deaths and 2 residents were reported as being newly hospitalized. 8 children under the age of 10, and 2 children between 10 and 14 were included in the total of those who tested positive.

    The number of active cases within the county now stands at 286. In addition to the current numbers, Public Health also reported that there has been a cumulative total of 66 people who have been reinfected with COVID 19.

    The criminal trial for Albert Lea restaurant owner Lisa Hanson continues today. Hanson is facing 9 misdemeanor charges, and this trial covers six of them - for defying Governor Tim Walz's executive order.

    This comes after she re-opened her restaurant - The Interchange - during a mandated COVID-19 shut-down last winter. Each misdemeanor could result in a fine of up to 1,000 dollars or 90 days in jail.

    Prosecutor and Albert Lea City Attorney Kelly Martinez supplied a brief opening statement, outlining that she has to prove Hanson knowingly defied emergency orders, and that The Interchange was open and serving customers during the shutdown.

    Hanson chose to waive her right to an attorney. She's representing herself.

    The judge said he is expecting the trial to wrap up by the end of the week - Monday at the latest.

    The Mower County Sheriff"s Office responded to a two-vehicle accident involving a county snow plow and a pickup truck Wednesday afternoon.

    Chief Deputy Sheriff Mark May reported that deputies responded to the accident scene at the intersection of 610th Ave. and 220th St. in Red Rock Township at approximately 2:18 p.m. Wednesday afternoon. The driver of the pickup truck stated that he was traveling on County Road 19 and was unable to stop for the stop sign due to the snow and ice covered road.

    The pickup truck and the snow plow both sustained minor damage in the accident. No injuries were reported.

    The man charged with driving drunk and killing an 18-year-old woman in a crash in southeast Rochester has changed his plea to guilty.

    35-year-old Sterling Haukom amended his plea on Wednesday to be guilty to criminal vehicular homicide.

    Back in March, Haukom pleaded not guilty to criminal vehicular homicide and DWI charges in relation to a crash that killed 18 year old Erika Cruz in southeast Rochester.

    A sentencing hearing will be scheduled at a later date.

    Power 96 News Brief for Wednesday 12-08

    12/09/2021

    Freeborn County Public Health reported 111 new lab confirmed positive COVID-19 cases yesterday. Public Health also reported no new deaths and 5 residents were reported as being newly hospitalized. 9 children under the age of 10, and 11 children between 10 and 14 were included in the total of those who tested positive.

    The number of active cases within the county now stands at 271. In addition to the current numbers, Public Health also reported that there has been a cumulative total of 67 people who have been reinfected with COVID 19.

    The Albert Lea Convention and Visitors Bureau along with the Main Street Project will host their holiday bazaar on Thursday, December 9th from 4-6:30pm on Broadway Ave in downtown Albert Lea.

    The CVB is planning for a fun night of holiday cheer with live reindeer, horse drawn trolleys, carolers, free books for kids, hot cocoa stand, photos with Santa, mini donut truck, and there will be the first ever Santa Cruise on Broadway beginning at 6 pm.

    A winter storm watch is in effect for the listening area from Friday afternoon through late Friday night.

    Heavy snow possible. Total snow accumulations of 4 to 6 inches possible.

    The hazardous conditions could impact the Friday evening commute.

    Jury selection wrapped up for a case involving the owner of The Interchange in Albert Lea, Lisa Hanson. She faces nine criminal misdemeanor counts including public nuisance and violating an emergency powers rule. This comes after she re-opened her restaurant, The Interchange, in Dec. 2020 and Jan. 2021 during a mandated shutdown.

    One large topic of contention in the court Tuesday was the potential juror's ability to put aside personal opinions about the pandemic, mask mandates and shutdowns in order to reach a verdict based solely on evidence and law.

    The court selected six jurors and two alternates. The jury is about half men and half women. Most aren't avid news readers. Now that the jury has been fully seated, the judge can will begin hearing opening statements today.

    Hanson doesn't have a defense attorney, so she will be making her own defense case.

    An Austin woman was injured Tuesday after a single-vehicle rollover crash in Mower County.

    The Minnesota State Patrol said 45-year-old Jessyca Marlen Leon Torres was heading west on Highway 56 just before 8 a.m. when she entered the ditch and rolled.

    Torres was taken to Mayo Clinic Health Systems in Austin for non-life-threatening injuries.

    Power 96 News Brief for Tuesday 12-07

    12/08/2021

    The Albert Lea School Board making some adjustments last night allowing one virtual learning day a month to allow teachers more planning time for their classes. The virtual learning days will be Dec. 15, Jan. 26, Feb. 16, March 2, April 6 and May 4. Students will be given assignments prior to each virtual day.

    The school board also approved a slight decrease in the levy payable in 2022, which should equate to lower taxes for taxpayers.

    The board set the levy at $9,057,748, a decrease of almost $32,000. In other actions, the board approved a 2% increase to Superintendent Mike Funk"s salary for the next three years.

    The scool board accepted and approved the 2020-21 audit report, and increased substitute teacher pay to $150 a day for short-term substitutes starting Jan. 1 along with approving numerous increases for district officials and services personnel.

    MNDOT has released details on the Highway 65/Main Street project scheduled to begin in April 2022.

    The project is set to reconstruct Highway 65/Main Street in Albert Lea from Newton Avenue to Sorenson Road. The goal is to reduce road flooding and serious right-angle crashes. Construction will include repaving Highway 65 from Shell Rock River Bridge to Sorenson Road, installing two “reduced conflict intersections" between Garfield Avenue and Prospect Avenue, installing new lighting, adding a new traffic signal at Garfield Avenue, and making ADA and safety improvements like new sidewalks and median refuges.

    The construction will be divided into two sections, Newton Avenue to the Shell Rock Bridge and from the bridge to Sorenson Road.

    That project is expected to be completed in early October of 2022.

    Freeborn County Public Health reported 45 new lab confirmed positive COVID-19 cases yesterday. Public Health also reported no new deaths and 1 resident was reported as being newly hospitalized. 2 children under the age of 10, and 3 children between 10 and 14 were included in the total of those who tested positive.

    The number of active cases within the county now stands at 206. In addition to the current numbers, Public Health also reported that there has been a cumulative total of 66 people who have been reinfected with COVID 19.

    A home in Austin is considered a 'total loss' after a fire Friday evening.

    Around 8:30 p.m., an Austin Police officer responded to a 911 hang-up that pinged to 1005 3rd Ave Northeast.

    Upon arrival, officers observed heavy smoke while approaching and flames were seen coming out of the windows of the home. The home was almost fully engulfed

    While checking the area, a woman approached an officer and advised she was the daughter-in-law of the owner of the home.

    The daughter-in-law told the officer everyone was out and at her nearby home. Firefighters were able to extinguish the fire. The home appears to be a total loss and damage is estimated at $80,000.

    Fire officials said the fire started when an individual lit a piece of paper using the stove top and then light their cigarette. The paper was then dropped in a trash can which extended and caused fire and smoke damage to both floors of the home.

    Power 96 News Brief for Monday 12-06

    12/07/2021

    Governor Tim Walz has directed all United States and Minnesota flags at all state buildings in the state of Minnesota to be flown at half-staff effective immediately until sunset on Thursday, December 9, 2021, to remember, mourn, and honor the life of United States Senator Robert Joseph Dole.

    The Albert Lea School Board will hold a special meeting tonight at 6:00 pm in the Boardroom at the Brookside Education Center. The special meeting is in order to hold the Truth in Taxation hearing. After that, the board will hold a special meeting to vote to approve the 2021 Pay and 2022 Final Levy.

    The board is expected to receive and approve the 2020-2021 School District Audit Report. The school board is also expected to set the Superintendent salary for the 2021 through 2024 school years. Numerous other contracts and agreements regarding district personnel will also be voted on. The board will receive a COVID Finance Update and take action on proposed 21-2022 School Year Calendar Adjustments.

    Minnesotans who need health coverage have until next week to get signed up on the state health exchange.

    MNsure"s deadline to enroll for coverage that starts on the first of the year in 2022 is Wednesday, December 15. Even if residents are currently covered, MNsure says it might be a good idea to shop and compare plans before the deadline. Coverage will begin on January 1 for anyone who switches plans by the deadline. After the deadline, new coverage would begin on February 1.

    MNsure"s Contact Center will provide help leading up to the deadline, or residents can find a local broker or navigator at www.mnsure.org.

    The Minnesota State Patrol was busy over the weekend responding to crashes and spin-outs.

    From 5 p.m. Saturday until 11 a.m. Sunday, State Patrol reported 261 crashes and 115 spin-outs. Although no crashes were fatal, 26 did result in injury, State Patrol said.

    About 1 inch of snow was reported around the Twin Cities metro, with higher snow totals up north.

     

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