A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.
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BIRD ISLAND — A Bird Island home was destroyed in a fire Monday following a possible explosion. There were no injuries and all the occupants of the house were safe and accounted for, according to Renville County Sheriff Scott Hable. In a news release, Hable said his office received multiple 911 calls at around 4:42 p.m. Monday with reports of smoke coming and reports of an apparent explosion. Upon arrival, firefighters found heavy smoke and fire coming from the single-story home, which sustained heavy fire damage and was deemed a totaled loss.
WILLMAR — Several years of financial stress in the agriculture industry is taking its toll on the emotional health of farmers. Ted Matthews, a rural mental health specialist with the University of Minnesota's Farm Business Management program, said calls to his office have steadily increased in recent years from farmers and people who work with farmers. "I get tons of phone calls," Matthews said. "They're afraid they're going to lose the farm."
GRANITE FALLS — A former baseball coach was sentenced to 60 days in the Yellow Medicine County Jail after pleading guilty to a 2013 sexual assault of a girl he was coaching at the time. Jose Rodriquez, 22, of Hanley Falls, was also placed on 10 years of supervised probation and ordered to pay fines and fees of $575. The court granted a stay of adjudication, under which no conviction will appear on his criminal record if he successfully completes the terms of his sentence.
WILLMAR — With millions of state bonding money on the line when the Legislature reconvenes next month, local officials made the case Monday that several area projects should be funded. Members of the Senate Capital Investment Committee began a 12-day tour of the state Monday to hear pitches for projects seeking state funding. During an hour-long stop at Ridgewater College in Willmar, committee members heard about the nuts and bolts of two major road and bridge projects and maintenance projects at the college.
WILLMAR — A steady stream of vehicles Sunday night drove to the Chad and Angie Koosman home near Willmar to watch the final "Celebrate the Light of the World" light and music display. This was the 10th — and final — year that the family hosted the event as a fundraiser for the Willmar Salvation Army. Chad Koosman said $156,780 was raised this year by people dropping off money in the Red Kettles as they entered or left the display. It was just shy of their $164,000 goal. He said a grand total of $810,000 was raised over the 10-year period.
LAKE LILLIAN. – Wayne Robert Sulflow, 55, of Lake Lillian, was killed in a house fire that broke out early Saturday morning near Lake Lillian. The name of the victim was released this morning. The Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office said the fire was reported at 2:50 a.m. Saturday at a house on Minnesota Highway 7 about two miles east of Lake Lillian.
SPICER — Working in relatively balmy conditions Sunday morning, volunteers manhandled huge blocks of Green Lake ice to create a 20-foot-tall ice castle on Saulsbury Beach in Spicer. Made from about 500 to 550 blocks, the castle will be featured in Spicer's Winterfest activities, which includes fireworks and a lighting ceremony Jan. 20 to kick off the multi-day event. "It's awesome. It's better than could be expected," said Jeff Travis, of Travis Masonry of New London, who coordinated the design-and-build process.
SPICER — Wearing ice-covered boots and wiping away icicles from beards and noses, a crew of about 40 people were busy Wednesday harvesting massive ice blocks from Green Lake. Prized for the crystal-clear ice that reflects a blue hue as the sun filters through the bitter cold air, the 573-pound blocks of Green Lake ice will be the jewels used to build a 70-foot-tall ice castle in St. Paul for the Winter Carnival.
WILLMAR — After the popular "Celebrate the Light of the World" Christmas light and music show ends its 10-year run this Sunday at the Chad and Angela Koosman home, the miles of colorful lights and all of the equipment from the massive display will be taken down, given to a Willmar community organization and moved to a new location for what could be an even bigger show next year.
WILLMAR — Concerned that a recent decision by the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners could have a negative effect on animal agriculture if similar action is taken in the future, a committee has begun planning a forum to increase awareness of the impact zoning issues can have on the ag economy. "Inaction by this committee is not an option," said Dan Tepfer, chairman of the Agriculture and Renewable Energy Committee.