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Suspect in Petermann case being charged as accomplice
Faces one felony charge; attorneys give arguments in hearing

Attorneys for both parties in a misapplication of entrusted property case gave arguments in Richland County District Court Monday, Nov. 18.

Kari Lee Heiser, 51, is now being charged as an accomplice in the class C felony case. The state of North Dakota filed amended criminal information on Friday, Nov. 15.

Heiser was kitchen manager of the Wahpeton Eagles Club when she organized a benefit for Jacob Petermann, according to her criminal complaint. It was held June 30, 2018 at the Wahpeton Eagles Club.

At the time of the benefit, Karen Mullin was manager of the Wahpeton Eagles Club. Mullin, 72, is Heiser’s mother. She has also been charged with one class C felony count of misapplication of entrusted property.

More than $1,000 but less than $10,000 in proceeds from the benefit were determined as misapplied, Daily News previously reported. A possible theft of money was investigated by the Wahpeton Police Department, Richland County Sheriff’s Office and North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigations.

Richland County Assistant State’s Attorney Casey Moen represents the state of North Dakota. Public Defender Don Krassin represents Heiser. Judge Bradley Cruff presides.

Moen and Krassin questioned one witness during the approximately 50 minute hearing, Wahpeton Police Department Investigator Brittany Marohl.

Heiser was the benefit’s point person from the beginning, Moen stated. She was the one obligated to protect proceeds and had failed to do so, while assuring the delivery of thousands of dollars to the Petermann family.

Moen also presented the idea that the misapplied money was being used to pay for the Eagles Club’s operations. The club, demolished in July 2019, closed a few months earlier. At the time of the property’s sale in October 2018, the club was nearly $100,000 in debt, Daily News previously reported.

Heiser was not making deposits or writing checks on behalf of the Wahpeton Eagles Club, Krassin stated. The only activity she did on June 30, 2018 that can be shown is counting money collected during the benefit.

It is true that Heiser had the idea for the Petermann benefit, Krassin said. It is also true the Eagles Club was in financial trouble. However, Krassin said, there is no evidence that there was a scheme to keep the doors open, nor that Heiser was part of one.

It’s clear the Petermann family received what was due to them, Krassin said. Judge Cruff, however, said approximately $5,300 of $8,000 is unaccounted for. Because of this, he moved for a felony dispositional conference.

The maximum penalty for a class C felony is five years imprisonment, a $10,000 fine, or both.

Mullin was scheduled to appear in court Monday morning for her own preliminary hearing and/or arraignment. It was cancelled and has not been re-scheduled as of that evening. Mullin is being represented by attorney Jonathan Green.

Heiser’s felony dispositional conference has not yet been scheduled.

Neither Heiser nor Mullin are currently confined in the Richland County Jail.


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‘No place is perfect’

Editor’s Note: In this month’s Point of View, we asked area residents to grade their communities.

People living in a small town don’t expect every amenity taken for granted in larger cities. They may have only one restaurant, gas station, one grocery store, but are quick to say small-town life offers comforts more important than shopping malls and entertainment venues.

Residents prefer a strong sense of safety when living in a small town, where children can play outside without supervision and neighbors know each other, quick to help when needed.

You can’t get that living in a large city, according to area residents who participated in the News Monitor and Daily News’ 2019 civic survey.

For the most part, those who participated in this year’s survey are satisfied living here, many lauding how their community pulls together to help its own during times of crisis, welcoming newcomers with open arms.

Common themes surfaced during this survey:

• People living here are happy and satisfied with their living choices. They say small towns may not have all the options found in larger cities, but they choose to live here because they like being part of a community — their community. Their city strongly resonated with them and the vast majority were quite proud to live where they do.

• Only one resident failed their community, saying all people do in Lidgerwood, North Dakota is talk and there is no follow-up. Even those who pointed out areas in which their communities could improve — Wyndmere, North Dakota streets, Lidgerwood’s lack of a grocery store, few housing choices in Fairmount, North Dakota — residents still graded their communities with typically no less than a C-minus.

• Younger respondents graded higher than older residents. Their average grade was a B, while older residents had an average grade of C.

• Hankinson, North Dakota is the only city that received a majority of A’s from residents.

Hankinson

Hankinson has a strong sense of community. It is the people who keep this town thriving, respondents to the survey said. The most common theme among those who responded to the News Monitor survey was people here work together to keep their small town thriving. Grade after grade was an A or high B among respondents.

“We are progressive. We pretty much have everything we could use,” said Ron German, who graded Hankinson with an A. “Other than a hospital or doctor — which is never going to happen — we aren’t lacking really in anything.”

Three big areas topped the wish list for Hankinson. Continued growth was the first common theme. While residents here graded Hankinson with an A on its business community, they still would love to see more growth, especially getting Post Hardware operational after a fire last month.

A medical clinic was the second item people want here. While Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy Inc. has a clinic in Hankinson that provides physical, occupational and speech therapy, having a medical doctor would be the next logical step in bolstering the city, many said.

The third area was for residents to continue their civic involvement. Volunteerism has done everything from building the Hankinson Community Center to offering community events like Polka Fest and Oktoberfest. People here want to ensure these events and traditions carry on, hoping younger residents will become more engaged in their city.

“There is so much here compared to other small towns, so much so that the elderly really don’t even have to leave town. Hankinson has people here who want to be successful,” said Laura Dotzenrod, who owns Serenity Salon and gave Hankinson an A.

Wyndmere

Emerson Johnson is a seventh grader at Wyndmere Public School. She lives in rural Wyndmere and graded her city with a B-plus.

“This is a good city. We have what we need — gas station, restaurant, school. Our roads aren’t good though, and it would be helpful to have a walk-in clinic so we don’t have to drive so far to see a doctor,” Johnson said.

Mikel Kern was not raised in a small community, he said. His impression of Wyndmere is how clean and neat the community is, although the roads are a little “bumpy,” he said.

“This community really gets behind the school, like when we had a toy drive for Jessy’s Toy Box. I had toys piled up in my office and we had only been doing the drive for three days. This city is very supportive of what the school does,” Kern said.

Three big areas topped the wish list for Wyndmere. Housing is the top need. Apartments and single-family dwellings are needed here for young singles, families and the elderly who no longer want to live in a big house.

No. 2 on the wish list is streets. It is difficult to excite someone about living here when the streets are in such disrepair that it is difficult to drive the speed limit in many areas, they said.

The third area was an expanded business district. Including Dollar General improved people’s lives as they no longer have to drive elsewhere to purchase groceries and other items, many said. They still want more, especially considering this city used to support an outdoor movie theater, department stores, multiple restaurants and a grocery store.

Lidgerwood

Lidgerwood epitomizes the zeal of small-town life. It has a golf course, swimming pool, restaurants and expanded business district.

John Popp moved here in 1976 to take over Popp Hardware. While this store has been a staple on Wiley Avenue the past 74 years, today large for sale signs line a window leading into the store filled with items like paint, tools, sundry items and more. Popp is looking to sell his store because he wants to retire.

“Based on the retail businesses we have in town, I would grade Lidgerwood with an A,” he said.

A grocery store is the city’s biggest need, Popp said, after Lidgerwood Market closed a year ago after a fire. The lack of a grocery store has hurt his hardware store as fewer people are coming to town, he said. He points to the city’s clinic, pharmacy, dentist and strong retail sector as being great indicators of the city’s health and continued vibrancy.

Three big areas topped respondent’s wish list for Lidgerwood. First and foremost is the proposed grocery store that people today are trying to raise funds to build. It is expected to cost $1.4 million. Once — and if — this store is built, people here are worried the desire to use it will slack off, causing problems once again for downtown.

Civic involvement was the second need among respondents. The creation of the Lidgerwood Community Club a few years ago has bolstered this city and created civic awareness. Flowers now grace downtown during the summer and Santa Day during the holiday draws hundreds of people. But more is needed, especially getting younger people involved in their city, many said.

Cleaning up the dilapidated lots in town was the third most common theme among those who responded to the survey. Many lots already have been cleaned up by the city, but there still are homes in disrepair that can be torn down.

“We do have lots here in town, but no one wants to build an expensive home next to a dilapidated house,” said Dawn Anderson, a lifelong resident of Lidgerwood, who scored her community with a B.

Fairmount

Fairmount is anchored by three services — Farmers Union Oil of the Southern Valley, Fairmount Locker Plant and Fairmount Public School, survey takers said.

FUOSV encompasses this city’s southwestern corner with multiple buildings, including an agronomy center, new business offices and C-store that provides everything from snacks, to daily food specials and gas. Survey participants by far pointed to FUOSV as being the most important business in Fairmount, supporting virtually all aspects of life here.

Tim Campbell is a lifelong resident of Fairmount. He said points of pride are the city’s cleanliness and strong sense of family. “We are there for each other. Like all families, we may not always get along,” he said, grading Fairmount with a B.

While there may not be many services here, the city has what it needs, he said while pumping gas at FUOSV after a morning deer hunt.

There are three big areas topping resident wish lists for Fairmount. No. 1 was the need for more amenities. People can grab a hot lunch at FUOSV or have a meal at the bar — beyond that there aren’t many options. A more formal restaurant is needed here, many said.

Housing was the second concern. There are few apartments or houses for sale that people would want to buy, so people wanting to move here would have few options.

More people was the third area, which ranked fairly close to the No. 2 wish of housing, so much so that either could have been interchanged by those taking the survey. Respondents talked about a close community, but said they would love to see even more people moving here.

For a bedroom community, Fairmount still has a strong sense of community, where people help people, they said.


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Minnesota sets maximum property tax levies

The Minnesota Department of Revenue released a list of preliminary property tax maximum levies on Thursday, Nov. 14 reported by local governments and passed by school referenda.

Statewide preliminary property tax levies will increase to $540.4 million, a 5.2 percent increase.

Minnesota cities 2020 preliminary levies will total approximately $2.71 billion compared with a final levy of $2.52 billion in 2019, a 7.5 percent increase. Breckenridge City Council will hold a 6 p.m. Truth in Taxation meeting Monday, Dec. 2 at City Hall.

Counties’ 2020 preliminary levies will total approximately $3.455 billion compared with a final levy of $3.295 billion in 2019, a 4.9 percent increase. The Wilkin County Board of Commissioners will hold their 6 p.m. Truth in Taxation meeting Thursday, Dec. 5 at the Wilkin County Courthouse.

Schools’ 2020 preliminary levies will total approximately $3.323 billion compared with a final levy of $3.106 billion in 2019, a 7 percent increase. Breckenridge School Board will hold its 6 p.m. Truth in Taxation meeting Monday, Dec. 16 at Breckenridge Elementary.

The initial levy amounts will be used by counties to determine property tax estimates for 2020. Minnesota property owners will be mailed this information and will have the opportunity to attend a Truth in Taxation meeting.

The meetings will provide the opportunity for property owners to provide input to their local leaders about how and how much they are spending their tax dollars.

After the meetings, local leaders will set their final 2020 property tax levies by Monday, Dec. 30. The final tax levies can be set lower, but may not exceed the preliminary property levy.

For more information, visit https://www.revenue.state.mn.us/.


News
4 Things to Know Today

1. Impeachment hearings continue this week in Washington, D.C. Four witnesses are scheduled to testify Tuesday, Nov. 19. Eight individuals are scheduled to testify by Thursday, Nov. 21.

2. A new, thought-provoking poll is offered each week in Daily News. To learn more — and how you can share your opinion — turn to page A4.

3. Today in History: U.S. President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address at the military cemetery dedication ceremony in Pennsylvania.

4. Today’s Birthdays include former U.S president James A. Garfield (1831-1881); TV personality Larry King (1933-); media magnate Ted Turner (1938-); fashion designer Calvin Klein (1942-); Academy Award winners Allison Janney (1959-) and Jodie Foster (1962-) and “Star Wars” star Adam Driver (1983 -).


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Saving energy at a low cost

Breckenridge Public Utilities Commission met on Monday, Nov. 18 at City Hall and approved promoting the ability for citizens’ energy sources to become 100 percent renewable for a minimal cost through Missouri River Energy Services.

MRES’s Bright Energy Solutions is a cash incentive program to help residential and business customers become more sustainable and energy-efficient.

In the city of Breckenridge, 78 percent of electricity is renewable energy. For up to an additional 0.005 cents per kilowatt-hour, that leftover 22 percent will come from renewable energy resources. This is a voluntary program for citizens to opt-in.

“They’ve (MRES) got a great program. It allows some of the folks that are very carbon-conscious, if they want to say that they are using 100 percent clean, green, renewable energy, they can pay up to an additional half a cent per kilowatt-hour and MRES will buy that additional renewable energy on their behalf,” Public Utilities Director Neil Crocker said.

According to Crocker, Breckenridge is one of the greenest communities in Minnesota. Of that 78 percent, approximately 73 percent is hydropower and the remaining is a blend of solar and wind energy.

Finance Officer Laurie Christensen and Croker estimated that for most citizens, it will only be an approximate $4 increase to their total bill to become 100 percent renewable.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Commission President Dennis Larson said.

In other public utility news, Crocker provided water plant and electrical updates.

The new water plant will undergo chemical testing on Tuesday, Nov. 19 to increase capacity before looking at mechanical changes that may need to be done for the plant to reach its full capacity at 1000 gallons per minute.

“Right now we are at 700 gallons per minute on the well-side, but we are reclaiming about 100 gallons per minute so we are closer to 800. We still need 200 to get to that 1000 gallons per minute for full capacity,” Crocker said.

Weather permitting, the city’s electrical crew will be decorating the Christmas tree. Tree lighting will be done by Mayor Russ Wilson during a 5-7 p.m. ceremony Tuesday, Dec. 3 at Veterans’ Memorial Park. Cookies and cider will be available and sponsored by Bell Bank. Christmas music will be played by the Breckenridge Music Department.

The electrical crew will also be placing Christmas decorations in the city before Thanksgiving. Lit garland has been purchased and will be placed on light posts along the Highway 75 bike path.

Public Utilities Commission will hold their next meeting at 2 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 2 at Breckenridge City Hall.


Brenek Peterson is a student in Lori Randall’s second grade class at Breckenridge Elementary.