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2009 Year in Review: Jan-March


Jan. 2: Richard Allen Mortensen, 54, of Lake Wilson, landed a 42-month sentence earlier this week after Judge Jeffrey Flynn revoked a stay of execution during a recent probation violation hearing.

Mortensen was on probation in Nobles County for driving while impaired in 2005. He was arrested in September 2005 after driving a John Deere tractor from Lake Wilson to Worthington, finally stopping at McDonalds. At the time of his arrest, authorities found an open bottle of whiskey and Mortensen had a blood alcohol concentration of .23. His driving privileges had been revoked in 2003.

Jan. 3: Only once during his 30-year career in the Army Reserves has Robert O'Connor been deployed to an area outside the United States.

That is about to change.

The Jackson County Attorney received mobilization orders that will take him to Iraq within a few months for what will be his longest deployment. His scheduled June 1 retirement has been pushed back indefinitely.

 Jan. 8: The Nobles County Commissioners approved per capita funding for the Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force Tuesday, which prompted a sigh of relief from more than one person involved.

Jan. 12: The snow and ice caused a variety of crashes, rollovers and fender benders over the weekend, including a fatality.

Jan. 13: The winds were relatively tranquil early Monday morning, and the temperature comfortable -- but both changed quickly, as blizzard conditions prevailed by afternoon across southwest Minnesota and northwest Iowa.

A number of schools opted to close Monday in advance of the forecasted nasty weather, and the prognosticators were right. The temperature in Worthington was 28 degrees at 11 a.m.; by 5 p.m., it was 6, with winds howling from the northwest at roughly 40 mph.

Jan. 14: Minnesota West Community & Technical College has already laid off two campus CEOs, and will lay off a total of about six employees by the time the college reacts fully to a cut in state aid, said President Rick Shrubb.

Jan. 14: About 6,000 photocopied documents were shipped out of the Nobles County Auditor-Treasurer's office Tuesday afternoon in response to the latest request in the ongoing saga over Minnesota's U.S. Senate seat.

Jan. 16: Temperatures plunged across southwest Minnesota and northwest Iowa. Above-zero readings were a (frozen?) pipe dream, as highs never made it above zero.

Worthington's temperature as of 4 p.m. Thursday was minus-9 -- fortunately, the winds were only between 5 and 10 mph.

Jan. 23: Northland Mall has been sold for $1.8 million to mall developer Mike Kohan of Queens, N.Y. The transfer of ownership from Developers Diversified Realty (DDR) to Kohan became official Dec. 31, 2008.

Jan. 26: A Rushmore teen organized a luncheon for more than 70 women, invited local businesses to promote their products and offered guests a chance to tour the historic Dayton House in downtown Worthington Saturday -- all to earn the highest honor available to a Girl Scout, the Gold Award.

Whitney Behrens logged more than the required 65 hours of independent work that goes into earning the Gold Award, taking steps that focus on creating, building, exploring, gathering information and serving her community. Her adviser for the project was Paula Steve of Worthington.

Jan. 29: Jerry Benson, an eighth-grade American History teacher at Luverne Middle School, was named as Minnesota's American History Teacher of the Year by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

Jan. 31: "The economy is on a crisis not seen since the Great Depression. Credit is frozen, consumer purchasing power is in decline. In the last four months the country has lost 2 million jobs and we are expected to lose another 3 to 5 million in the next year."

So reads the first few lines in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Legislative Summary, handed out by Rep. Tim Walz's staff during a stop in Luverne on Friday afternoon.


Feb 3: The Nobles County Integration Collaborative celebrated a milestone on Monday afternoon with an open house and brief program about the agency.

It was 10 years ago that the collaborative opened its doors -- the result of a state directive that districts with a proportionately larger population of ethnically diverse residents establish a desegregation plan.

Feb. 7: Brian Dykstra of Worthington, an employee of Sioux Falls-based Jerke Construction, was injured at about 8:15 a.m. Monday while working at the Suzlon Rotor Corp. in Pipestone. Dykstra was run over by a 15-ton crane during a work accident Dykstra is in stable condition, according to a Web site being updated by his family.

Feb. 12: An armed standoff in Murray County Tuesday night ended with the arrest of two rural Woodstock men.

Richard Leo Derksen, 66, of rural Cameron Township, was charged Derksen Wednesday with second-degree assault and terroristic threats. Richard Edwin Hardy, 38, was arrested on suspicion of an order for protection violation and a felon in possession of firearms. He had not been formally charged as of Wednesday afternoon.

Feb. 13: Of all the reasons to attend this Saturday's Healthy Heart Celebration at the YMCA, the chance to see YMCA Director Andy Johnson in a red dress might be the most compelling one.

Feb. 18: It is has been more than 30 years since several young men on a work crew found a woman's body in a roadside ditch in Lyon County, Iowa. It wasn't until 27 years later the woman was identified as Wilma June Nissen of California.

Authorities still do not know how Nissen's body ended up in a ditch in Iowa, or who left her there. Or if they do know, they are not ready to talk. Lyon County Sheriff Blythe Bloemendaal said there is new information in the case, but is not yet willing to release the data.

Feb. 24: The Worthington City Council Monday authorized a study of Prairie View Golf Links and the Worthington Country Club that will aim to improve course operations. The $7,000 study, to be completed by Effective Golf Course Systems, will analyze the courses and other golfing alternatives in the area, examining them in terms of the golf market, revenues, expenses and operations.

Feb. 27: Neighbors of the proposed sites that will house a 1-million-gallon water tower and a metering system for the expanding Lincoln-Pipestone Rural Water project in Nobles County voiced objections to the plans during a two-hour-long meeting of the Nobles County Planning and Zoning Commission Wednesday night in Worthington.

Feb. 27: Even though many knew it was coming, Thursday's blowing snow and sleet was a snap back to reality after several days of sunny skies and 30-plus degree temperatures.


March 3: At least two area school districts are joining others around the state in calling for reform of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). Jackson County Central and Worthington District 518 recently sent a resolution to the state legislature urging Congress to change the way it is administered.

March 4: Nobles County Commissioners on Tuesday accepted the low bid on the third floor remodeling of the Nobles County Government Center in Worthington, and will move forward with the project this year. Salonek Concrete and Construction, Inc. of Springfield submitted the low bid for the work, at $153,426 -- an amount was $78,500 less than the engineer's estimate of $232,000.

March 4: The roughly 50 business owners who came to a meeting about the local option sales tax Tuesday brought plenty of questions about how and when the tax would be collected.

March 5: Southwestern Mental Health Center of Worthington is among 25 Minnesota agencies approved for federal funding in the 2009 omnibus appropriations bill. Nearly $7 million will be coming to Minnesota to help fund veterans, education and health care projects in the state. SWMHC will receive $190,000 to help fund construction of a new mental health facility in Worthington. The funding was outlined in the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education section of the omnibus appropriations bill.

March 7: The Osceola County Conservation Board has been gifted more than 200 acres of land in the last four years, the most recent of which is an 80-acre parcel near Harris that has an estimated value of more than half a million dollars. Ron Spengler, OCCB director, said the land was bequeathed to the board by Rachel Sorenson Forbes, a long-time educator and Osceola County resident who died in February 2007.

March 7: The Round Lake-Brewster school district will participate in a University of Minnesota Extension pilot program that aims to boost student achievement through parent-school cooperation.

March 9: One of the oldest, and without a doubt the smallest, city in Nobles County will remain just that -- an incorporated city. The eight residents of Kinbrae recently gathered at the home of Mayor Glen Grunewald, where they successfully filled an open seat on the city council and appointed a city clerk. Had the positions not been filled, residents would have faced the potential dissolving of their city.

March 10: Merck & Co. is buying Schering-Plough Corp. for $41.1 billion in a deal that gives Merck key new businesses, access to a promising pipeline of new products and the chance to further cut costs, including eliminating about 16,000 jobs.

Intervet Inc., located in Worthington, is part of Schering-Plough. The sale is the second in two years for Intervet, as the company was part of Akzo Nobel's sale of its subsidiary, Organon Bio-Sciences (OBS), to Schering-Plough in March 2007.

March 11: The criminal case against Kenneth George Neilson, accused of firing the weapon that caused the death of Worthington man Marlan Lutterman, has been dismissed. Judge Patrick Carr, who presided over the trial in which Neilson was convicted of involuntary manslaughter by a reckless act, filed an order sustaining the defendant's motion for a directed verdict of acquittal, dismissing the case and exonerating Neilson's bond.

March 12: Of the two men arrested last week in Luverne for passing counterfeit $100 bills, one's case is now being handled by the federal courts, while the other case remains in Nobles County District Court. Dennis Prater, 29, is charged federally with two counts of passing a counterfeit $100 Federal Reserve note which he knew to be counterfeit.

March 13: Preaching a message of fiscal responsibility, Gov. Tim Pawlenty touted ideas for improving the state's economy and efficiency during a luncheon Thursday at the Travelodge Hotel. The event, hosted exclusively for members of the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce, was the governor's latest stop in a series of visits to Minnesota communities in recent weeks.

 March 13: Area folks are pitching in to create a little "Extreme Makeover" magic right here in Worthington. Their focus is the family home of Brian Dykstra, a Worthington man who was injured during a work accident in early February.

March 14: The Nobles County Pheasants Forever chapter will celebrate the recent purchase of two parcels during the organization's annual banquet later this month in Worthington.

The newly acquired land includes a nearly 18-acre parcel purchased from John and Yolanda Donkersloot and a 23.4-acre parcel purchased from Gary and Virginia Drost. Both properties are located in Section 26 of Bigelow Township.

March 17: An influx of new and part-time students means enrollment is up nearly 4 percent within the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, and Minnesota West Community and Technical College is no exception.

According to a MnSCU news release, the headcount of new students taking creditbased courses on the 30th day of the 2009 spring semester was up 8 percent from spring semester 2008, while part-time enrollment increased by 5 percent. Overall enrollment was up 3.7 percent this year.

March 18: The District 518 Board of Education Tuesday approved the creation of a full-time activities coordinator position, which would likely also include teaching or other duties as determined by the district.

The coordinator will spend roughly 75 percent of his or her time arranging for transportation to games, scheduling games and the like, while about 25 percent will be spent on other duties.

March 19: Shore up the paper-mâché volcanoes. Prairie Elementary will host its first-ever science fair Saturday at the school gymnasium.

March 20: After a month of gathering, sorting, building and working, the Murray County Clothing Shelf volunteers proudly opened their doors Wednesday afternoon to begin the distribution of their wares.

March 21: Worthington Middle School Assistant Principal Jeff Luke's contract as the school's next principal was approved Tuesday by the District 518 Board of Education. He replaces Clete Lipetzky, who has served as the interim principal for about a year.

March 24: Some round bales and a message to the Adrian girls' basketball team wishing them good luck were reduced to ashes early Saturday morning when the bales were ignited during an act of arson.

March 25: Nobles County Commissioners gave their approval to Lincoln Pipestone Rural Water's plan to expand rural water service to residents in the southern and western areas of the county during Tuesday morning's board session.

The unanimous decision was made following a lengthy discussion that included testimony from two neighboring property owners -- one who owns land adjacent to where the water metering site will be located, and one who resides in the vicinity of the site where the 1 million gallon water tower will be constructed.

March 26: Three businesses in downtown Worthington were burglarized sometime after 10 p.m. on Monday, according to Det. Sgt. Kevin Flynn of the Worthington Police Department.

March 27: Ongoing state cuts to local government aid (LGA) hurt the quality of life in rural Minnesota cities, according to more than 90 percent of mayors surveyed for a report released by Minnesota 2020, a nonpartisan, progressive think tank.

Minnesota 2020 board chair Matt Entenza stopped in Worthington Thursday afternoon to talk to city council members about the report, "Bleeding Communities Dry: How LGA Cuts are Hurting Rural Minnesota."

March 30: With even more booths and more to offer than last year, the Daily Globe's second annual Women's Expo Health and Home Show was a crowd pleaser. And though official numbers aren't available yet, many second-time event goers said the turnout was also larger than last year's.

March 31: Agents of the Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force seized more than four pounds of methamphetamine Friday afternoon after conducting surveillance on a Worthington residence.

Ronald Joseph Soules, 41, of Worthington, was charged Monday with both first-degree sale and possession of a controlled substance, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Kari Lynn Baumann, 31, also of Worthington, was charged with one count of first-degree controlled substance possession.

Ryan McGaughey

I first joined the Daily Globe in April 2001 as sports editor. I later became the news editor in November 2002, and the managing editor in August 2006. I'm originally from New York State, and am married with two children.

(507) 376-7320