A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.
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SPICER, Minn. — Sweeping his arm across as he viewed the sprawling property — 71 acres of thick woods, sandy beach, rolling prairie, trails, campsites, a 6,600-square-foot gym, a house, numerous cabins, a dining hall, shower house and shop — Pastor Steve Bakke said his congregation members at Open Door Christian Church are not the new owners but the new "caretakers." The possibilities for using the land and facilities are exciting and overwhelming, Bakke said.
WILLMAR, Minn. — A growing market for industrial hemp as food, fiber and nutraceuticals is gaining ground in west central Minnesota and could find a place in Kandiyohi County. There's at least one field of hemp planted this year in Chippewa County and a food-grade processing facility is being established in Olivia—about 25 miles south of Willmar. Yes. It is legal. And, no, industrial hemp is not intoxicating.
WILLMAR, Minn. — A former employee of a licensed community residential facility in Willmar and a vulnerable adult who lived there have been charged with 14 burglary- and theft-related charges for allegedly taking property from garages and vehicles while delivering newspapers. Both individuals made court appearance this week.
PAYNESVILLE, Minn. — Crews were finishing up the final details and getting ready to demobilize equipment Wednesday afternoon at a 108-acre solar farm by Paynesville. With about 48,600 solar photovoltaic panels tilted to the west, the Paynesville farm started producing 10 megawatts of direct current in June. It was one of the last of 16 sites in the Aurora solar project to go online in what is currently the state's largest solar project that will produce a total of 150 MWdc of renewable energy that is being sold to Xcel Energy.
GRANITE FALLS, Minn. — A crew leader for a Sentencing to Service program remains on administrative leave after accusations he coerced a female inmate to have sex in exchange for special privileges. Michael John Martin, 47, of Wood Lake, faces three felony counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct — force or coercion, and three felony counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct — a correctional employee. He appeared on the charges in Yellow Medicine County District Court last week and has since posted bail.
NEW LONDON, Minn. — Requests from citizens to have a book removed from the New London-Spicer School District curriculum have been denied. In a 3-2 vote Monday the central Minnesota school board agreed to follow the recommendation of the school administration and allow "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" to remain as an option for teachers to use in the classroom. The action doesn't mean the book must be part of the curriculum, but that teachers can use it if they choose.
WILLMAR, Minn. — Calling his actions "animalistic" and evidence of "how evil a person can act," Judge Jennifer Fischer sentenced Joseph Alan Schleeter to 42 months in prison for a gruesome attack on his former girlfriend that included forcing human feces into her mouth and urinating on her face. The sentence is an upward departure of the sentencing guidelines. "We were able to obtain justice for this victim," said Kandiyohi County Attorney Shane Baker.
WILLMAR, Minn. — A Willmar man was sentenced Monday to 45 months in prison for a long list of felony theft and burglary charges for taking nearly $30,000 worth of items from farm sheds and garages in his rural Kandiyohi County neighborhood and pawning or selling them on Facebook. Jordan Anthony Brede, 23, cried in court Monday as he pledged to change his ways while in prison. "I want to take this time to apologize to the community and victims of my crime," Brede said.
PENNOCK, Minn. — A family dairy operation west of Willmar was hit hard by a powerful storm that rolled through west central Minnesota early Sunday morning. Nearly every barn on the Carlson Dairy was damaged by the high winds that punched the early morning with a wallop around 7 a.m. According to the National Weather Service, a trained spotter estimated winds at 60-70 mph in the Pennock area, where the farm is located.
GRANITE FALLS, Minn. — A corrections officer who supervised Yellow Medicine County jail prisoners on a Sentence to Service work crew is facing charges of coercing a prisoner to have sex with him in exchange for special privileges. Michael John Martin, 47, of Wood Lake, faces six felony counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct. During a bail hearing Tuesday in Yellow Medicine County District Court, unconditional bail was set at $100,000 and conditional bail was set at $10,000.