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30th January 2015

Bemidji State University President Richard A. Hanson challenged nearly 500 students at a campus-wide gathering Thursday to confront the dangers of alcohol abuse, and they shared their ideas for improving safety and promoting responsible behavior.  Following a Bemidji State student’s alcohol-related death in December and a second serious incident this month, Hanson invited students, faculty and staff to attend the unprecedented “Campus Summit on Alcohol and Student Safety,” yesterday Beaux Arts Ballroom.  Hanson told the crowd that he wanted to make this issue an issue and he wanted people to come together and ask what’s going on, what’s happening, why its happening and what can we do to stop it.  Hanson stressed the dangers of binge drinking, the ethics of personal responsibility and the importance of looking out for the welfare of others. Two BSU staff members also spoke, reviewing the university’s current strategies for alcohol education and prevention, which include a required freshman course, alcohol-free events and alcohol prohibition in residence halls. 

Hanson yesterday announced the formation of a joint university-community task force to develop a systemic approach to addressing the safety threat posed by alcohol abuse. He said that the task force will include students and will be guided in part by an upcoming student survey to better understand alcohol-related behaviors and attitudes.  Hanson said, “It’s hard work, but we must do this.”

28th January 2015

The Bemidji Fire Department, Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office, and the Minnesota State Fire Marshal’s Office continue to investigate the cause of a house explosion Monday evening in Grant Valley Township.  Bemidji Fire Chief Dave Hoefer says the cause does appear to be accidental in nature and investigators believe it may be related to a propane gas leak in the home.  The home was totally destroyed in the explosion – which was felt by people for miles around. Kenneth Swenson was home when the house exploded and emergency crews quickly removed him from the debris.  He was taken to Sanford hospital by ambulance.  There has been no word on his condition.

27th January 2015

The Beltrami County Sheriff’s 911 Center received a number of calls regarding an explosion of some type in southwestern Beltrami County beginning at 5:35 PM on Monday evening,  January 26, 2015.  People living in Hubbard County near N Lake Plantagenet RD SW, Beltrami County in Grant Valley Township near Carr Lake Rd SW and other areas in between to also include callers from the City of Bemidji, reported hearing a loud explosion,  as well as experiencing windows rattling and a force strong enough to dislodge pictures from walls. Emergency responders immediately began fanning out and searching the area to determine the source.

                At 5:49 PM an additional caller reported he was on Buchanan Ave SW and that a house had exploded and smoke was coming from the residence.   Emergency crews immediately responded to the location.

                One person was injured and taken by ambulance to the hospital. 

                Emergency responders from the Hubbard County Sheriff’s Office, Minnesota State Patrol, Leech Lake Ambulance, Bemidji Ambulance, Bemidji Police Department and North Country First Responders assisted the Bemidji Fire Department and Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office at the scene.   

                An additional press release from Bemidji Fire Department Chief Hoefer will be forthcoming Tuesday morning. 

26th January 2015

Bemidji Fire Department responded to a residential structure fire early Saturday morning. The fire, which was reported at 6:30 am was located on the 800 block of Second Street SE. Bemidji Firefighters arrived on scene to find heavy fire on the first floor of the home, extending into the second floor and attic. Bemidji Firefighters encountered zero visibility and high heat upon entry but were able to quickly contain and extinguish the fire. 21 firefighters used three fire engines, three squads and a ladder truck on scene. No injuries were reported; however four dogs were lost. The fire department was on scene for approximately 3 hours. The fire caused extensive damage to the main floor, second floor and attic. The cause of the fire is currently under investigation by the Bemidji Fire Department; however it does not appear to be suspicious in nature.  The fire department was assisted at the scene by the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office, Bemidji Police Department, Ottertail Electric, and the Bemidji Ambulance Service.

20th January 2015

Sheriff Tom Burch reports that the Cass County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call for assistance on Friday January 16, 2015 at approximately 9:20 PM from Steamboat Bay on Leech Lake. A caller reported a vehicle had gone through the ice and 4 people were attempting to get out. The Cass County Sheriff’s Office and the Walker Fire Department responded to the area and located a full size SUV that had gone through thin ice with just the rear of the vehicle exposed. Four people did successfully escape from the vehicle and were able to get on a trailer that was attached to the vehicle, which did not break through. The Walker Fire Department’s hovercraft was used to rescue the parties. Two adults were transported to Bemidji Sanford for observation. No other injuries were reported.

The Cass County Sheriff’s Office continues to urge extreme caution to be used on all area lakes.  Even through cold temperatures have helped ice conditions there are still many vulnerable areas around ice heaves, rivers and springs. Several known dangerous areas have been marked with thin ice signs, but conditions to change rapidly. All ice should never be considered 100% safe.

16th January 2015

Sheriff Tom Burch reports that on January 16, 2015 at approximately 7:49AM the Cass County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a vehicle partially through the slush and ice in the area of an ice heave near Sand Point on Leech Lake.  Officers and Walker Fire Department responded and located a full size pickup stuck in the slush and ice with two parties in the bed of the pickup, uninjured, but unable to safely get away from the pickup due to thin ice. The Walker Fire Department, using their hovercraft, successfully rescued the parties. The Cass County Sheriff’s Office urges strong caution to be used on all area lakes, even through cold temperatures have helped, ice conditions there are still many vulnerable areas around ice heaves, rivers and springs. All ice should never be considered 100% safe.


The Cass County Sheriff’s Office and the MN DNR reminds everyone travelling on ice about the following safety tips.

Check for known thin ice areas with a local resort or bait shop.
Test the thickness yourself using an ice chisel, ice auger or even a cordless 1/4 inch drill with a long bit.

Refrain from driving on ice whenever possible.
If you must drive a vehicle, be prepared to leave it in a hurry--keep windows down and have a simple emergency plan of action you have discussed with your passengers.

Stay away from alcoholic beverages.
Even "just a couple of beers" are enough to cause a careless error in judgment that could cost you your life. And contrary to common belief, alcohol actually makes you colder rather than warming you up.

Don't "overdrive" your snowmobile's/ATV’s headlight.
At even 30 miles per hour, it can take a much longer distance to stop on ice than your headlight shines. Many fatal snowmobile through-the-ice accidents occur because the machine was traveling too fast for the operator to stop when the headlamp illuminated the hole in the ice.

Wear a life vest under your winter gear.
Or wear one of the new flotation snowmobile suits. And it's a good idea to carry a pair of ice picks that may be home made or purchased from most well stocked sporting goods stores that cater to winter anglers. It's amazing how difficult it can be to pull yourself back onto the surface of unbroken but wet and slippery ice while wearing a snowmobile suit weighted down with 60 lbs of water.

9th January 2015

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Red Lake Nation and Bureau of Indian Affairs signed a new five-year memorandum of understanding (MOU) today that outlines continued cooperative management of the walleye population in the Upper and Lower Red lakes. The signing took place during a brief ceremony in Red Lake.

“Red Lake Band members are pleased that our walleye have come back and our fishing community is revitalized,” said Darrell Seki, chairman of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians. “We are committed to ensuring that Red Lake walleye are managed sustainably in the future.”

Renewing this agreement will enable the Red Lakes Fisheries Technical Committee to continue its work to help protect this valuable resource, added Seki.

The new MOU closely parallels previous 1999-2014 agreements that facilitated restoration of high-quality walleye fishing to Minnesota’s largest inland body of water. The agreement states that each entity will support the Red Lakes Fisheries Technical Committee, a joint panel of experts that recommends policies and practices to maintain a healthy fishery.

“We’ve come a long way in the past 15 years,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr, noting that the combined state and tribal harvest approached 1 million pounds in 2014. “By renewing this agreement, we are reaffirming our commitment to a successful process that has delivered excellent results.”

Historically, Upper and Lower Red lakes were outstanding walleye fisheries, but they collapsed in the mid-1990s due to over harvest. The technical committee was formed in 1997. Since then, the regulations, policies and other actions this joint body has recommended have led to a healthy walleye population and a resurgent walleye fishing economy.

9th January 2015

Around five hundred people attended a hearing yesterday in Bemidji on the proposed Sandpiper Pipeline.  The Sandpiper Pipeline, if approved, would transport light crude oil from Enbridge Energy’s Beaver Lodge Station in North Dakota through Clearbrook to Superior, Wisconsin. The hearing was broken into 3 – 90 minutes sessions, presided over by Administrative Law Judge Eric Lipman – who allowed people about five minutes each to speak their mind and have their testimony entered into the record.  Those in favor of the project talked about job creation and reducing our countries dependence on foreign oil. Opponents talked about environmental concerns and potential effects on tourism. The hearing – part of a series hosted by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to possibly help decide the fate of the proposed pipeline.  There is another hearing – taking place this afternoon in Crookston and the final hearing for the week takes place tomorrow afternoon in St. Cloud.

9th January 2015

The Beltrami County Board of Commissioners met Tuesday for its first session of the new year.  County Attorney Annie Claesson-Huseby took the oath of office as well newly elected District 1 Commissioner Keith Winger, re-elected commissioner Richard Anderson, Auditor Treasurer JoDee Treat and Sheriff Phil Hodapp.  Keith Winger was elected to serve as Board Chair for 2015.  Commissioner Joe Vene will serve as vice chair this year.


In other news from the Beltrami County Commission meeting, Commissioners yesterday selected community groups to share in over 102-thousand dollars in grant funding - awarded through the annual development grant.  During their work session, commissioners reviewed various projects, evaluating the applications based on the whether the application request would serve an agricultural, tourism or industrial development need.  The Beltrami County Ag Association application for 35-thousand dollars for improvements to the county fairgrounds was the first application commissioners agreed to fund – with Commissioner Jim Lukacheck saying that the application definitely meets all three criteria. Other groups receiving funding: Greater Bemidji, the Bemidji Community Food Shelf, the Headwaters Science Center, the Boys and Girls Club of the Bemidji Area, the Blackduck History and Art Center, and the Beltrami County Historical Society.

9th January 2015

At Monday night's Bemidji City Council meeting, Bemidji Mayor Rita Albrecht, Ward 4 Councilman Reed Olson, and Council Member at Large Dave Larson took the oath of office.  It was first council meeting of the new year. 

The Bemidji City Council Monday night appointed a management team to share the duties of City Manager to fill in for former City Manager John Chattin who retired at the end of last year. In a memo to the council, Mayor Rita Albrecht recommended the council appoint City Attorney Al Felix, City Engineer Craig Gray, and City Finance Director Ron Eichens as interim city manager - saying that between the three of them, they are familiar with or involved in most of the ongoing issues the city has. Albrecht added that it’s important the City maintain this continuity, especially considering the number and complexity of issues they have on their plate. Felix, Eichens and Gray will be compensated an additional $15-hundred dollars per month – and City Clerk Kay Murphy will be compensated an additional $5-hundred dollars per month for the extra duties they are taking on.  Mayor Albrecht said that if a new city manager is hired by April, interim manager compensation and search costs will be within budget.

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