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SOFTBALL: Local team finishes second at state tournament

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DOGS OF WAR: A feature on dogs that served in Vietnam


Gardeners gather at grillout

The Twin Town Gardeners’ Market hosted their annual Local Foods Cookout on Thursday, Aug. 22. It’s the 10th year the gathering’s been hosted and entices members of the community to see what locally-grown products are available to them.

Burgers, corn, pickles, coleslaw and a wide assortment of desserts were dished out for $5 plates. All the food came from TTGM vendors.

Heartland Insurance Agency and Edd Goeger, a former vendor, provided the grass-fed burgers, which were cooked by Cliff Howey of Turn and Burn BBQ. Howey also cooked the corn donated by TTGM vendor Bill Erbes. Another vendor, Jessica Kostuck, made the coleslaw from her vegetables and the pickles were made by Kairoaun Moffet’s cucumbers.

While most of the vendors manned their stands, Southern Valley Health Watch committee members handed out the food. The volunteers also helped set up and pick up the tables from nearby the Sears parking lot where the event was held. Children of the vendors helped out in all those areas as well, while also shucking the corn.

T21 ordinance takes effect Sept. 1

In an effort to reduce teenagers’ ability to buy tobacco products or access them through social sources, Wilkin County passed the T21 ordinance in June, which goes into effect Sunday, Sept. 1. The initiative was brought to the county board by Wilkin County Public Health, the county’s We Care Coalition and Partnership 4 Health.

Wilkin County is one of 40 counties and cities which has raised the tobacco purchase age to 21. The ordinance targets tobacco retailers, not the users. Retailers in the west-central Minnesota county can be fined if caught selling tobacco to people under age 21 beginning Sunday. Those found in violation of the ordinance can be fined, can have their tobacco retail license suspended or revoked, and even face a misdemeanor charge, depending on the level of violation.

The ordinance has support from school administrators, as well as health professionals. Although cigarette and chewing tobacco use by youth has been dropping, vaping and electronic cigarette use by teens has skyrocketed due to slick marketing campaigns that highlight the fruity and candy flavored e-juice that’s an alternative to cigarettes. The four dominant e-cigarette manufacturers are JUUL Labs, Fortem Ventures, Japan Tobacco International and Reynolds American.

School response

Breckenridge High School Principal Craig Peterson said he became aware of vaping only about a year and a half ago.

“Last year was an eye-opening, different year in terms of our deterrents on tobacco usage,” he said.

The school identified areas where vaping was occurring and took steps to monitor them, including the use of security cameras and vape detectors.

He’s also been working with We Care Coalition Coordinator Ashley Wiertzema to educate both students and parents to the harmful effects of vaping and what parents should know about various vaping devices. Minnesota for a Smoke-Free Generation has created a flyer for parents that explains what the new tobacco products look like and how they’re designed to look like innocuous items such as candy and school supplies.

“We’re talking to our seventh and eighth grade families, that’s when addictions start,” Peterson said. “I’m a parent myself, I have a middle schooler and I ask her about vaping. The average age some kids are starting is 12.”

He said he’s intrigued to see what the results are from the Minnesota Student Survey, which was taken in the spring. That data is expected to be released in either September or October.

Wiertzema is also awaiting the survey results, as it will help the coalition target their public awareness campaigns in the future.

“Will the data show that 75 percent of our kids are vaping or have tried? I don’t know, but I’m curious to see those results,” she said.

Health concerns

According to the CDC, most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, an addictive drug found in regular cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products.

E-cigarette use poses a significant health risk to young people due to the possibility of addiction and long-term harm to brain development and respiratory health, the U.S. Surgeon General’s office states. Even breathing e-cigarette aerosol that someone else has exhaled poses potential health risks. Health risks youth who use e-cigarettes face nicotine addiction, mood disorders and permanent lowering of impulse control. Nicotine changes the way synapses are formed which can harm the parts of the brain that control attention and learning, the Surgeon General’s office states.

Just this month, the CDC stated they are providing consultation to the departments of health in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, California and Indiana about a cluster of pulmonary illnesses linked to e-cigarette use, or vaping, among adolescents and young adults.

The latest information shared is that there are 94 possible cases of severe lung illness associated with vaping reported in 14 states from June 28 of this year to Aug. 15. The CDC has notified U.S. health care systems and clinicians about the illnesses and what to watch for.

Utah health officials reported this week that five people were recently hospitalized with serious breathing problems after vaping or using other inhalation drugs. A Texas teen spent 18 days in the hospital for a collapsed lung that doctors believe was caused by vaping.

Patients report experiencing shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain, cough and weight loss, and have also reported vaping in the weeks prior to hospitalization, the Wisconsin Health Department states. The products consumed may have included a number of substances including nicotine, THC, synthetic cannabinoids or a combination of them.

Wilkin County’s ordinance may be found online at https://www.co.wilkin.mn.us/vertical/sites/%7B6E7AB7CB-4769-4357-B6C8-90E546FFE488%7D/uploads/2019-02_Wilkin_County_Tobacco_Sales_and_Tobacco.pdf/.

For more information about T21 in Minnesota, visit http://clearwaymn.org/tobacco-21/.

For information and tools to help you quit smoking, visit https://teen.smokefree.gov/become-smokefree/tools-for-quitting/.

In the Community
In the good old summertime
Loran Hudson and Three Cs play Music in the Park

“I heard some hee-haws,” Connie Foster said Wednesday, Aug. 21.

Foster is one of the vocalists in Loran Hudson and Three Cs, the latest Music in the Park headliners. From June-August, 7:30 p.m. concerts are held each Wednesday.

Music in the Park concerts are traditionally held at the Chahinkapa Park band shelter, Wahpeton. Each year, there’s also a concert in the Wahpeton High School auditorium.

“I can’t even acknowledge the excess gratitude,” Chuck Reiff said following the concert. “They’re tapping their toes, singing along and telling us they’re going to come back.”

The act is completed by singer Carol Omundson and keyboardist Loran Hudson. Nearly 40 music lovers heard favorites including “Tiny Bubbles,” “My Wild Irish Rose” and “In the Good Old Summertime.”

Pleasant temperatures and an already setting sun ensured that it was a good old summertime night for the singers and audience.

“I’m going to add something to the song,” Foster joked. “‘I was strolling through the park one day’ — and making sure to look where I was stepping.”

The fun continued through the “Tiny Bubbles” performance, which included a blowing machine. There was also room for more serious numbers, like “I Fall to Pieces.”

“I love being in Wahpeton,” said Reiff, formerly from Kent, Minnesota.

Loran Hudson and Three Cs started performing four years ago, Reiff said. Hudson didn’t start playing the keyboard until he was in his 60s.

“As long as Loran can play, we’ll continue,” Reiff said. “It’s just so fulfilling and we hope we can do this a while longer.”

Music in the Park concludes its 2019 season with another recurring act. Kroshus & Krew are scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 28.

4 Things To Know Today

1. Penny’s Pup Crawl: WCCO Belting invites the community to bring their dogs out for the 3K Penny’s Pup Crawl walk. Registration is at 5 p.m. Monday, Aug. 26 and the walk starts at 6 p.m. from WCCO Belting. Donations of pet supplies for the Humane Society of Richland-Wilkin are encouraged.

2. Ruby’s Pantry: The monthly pop-up pantry food distribution is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 26 at Inspiration Church in Breckenridge. More info on A2.

3. Rural broadband support: The FCC authorized nearly $591 million in support in North Dakota over the next 10 years for maintaining, improving and expanding affordable broadband for 41,578 rural homes and businesses. Richland County will receive nearly $4.8 million.

4. Today’s Birthdays: Sean Connery (1930-), actor; Regis Philbin (1931-), TV personality; Tom Skerritt (1933-), actor; Rachael Ray (1968-), TV personality; Alexander Skarsgard (1976-), actor; Blake Lively (1987-), actress.

Wahpeton Public Schools
“SEEC”ing some information
School board questioning need of cooperative membership

Wahpeton Public Schools leadership is questioning the value of being in the South East Education Cooperative (SEEC).

Between $23,000-$24,000 is deducted each month from Wahpeton’s per-pupil payments from the state of North Dakota, Superintendent Rick Jacobson said. That money goes to SEEC, who ended the 2018-2019 education year with between $320,000-$350,000 in unused funding from the year. The carryover money is on top of an estimated more than $1 million in reserve funding.

Despite all of the cash on hand, Jacobson said SEEC isn’t interested in helping pay for district inservice days. Wahpeton Public Schools is also paying separately for SEEC’s services including training, Jacobson said during a Wednesday, Aug. 14 school board meeting.

The gap between money coming in and money coming out, as well as the questionable value of a membership, has leaders frustrated.

“What does that buy us if we have to pay for everything?” Board Director Jake Kubela asked.

“That’s the million dollar question,” Jacobson said.

“We are paying to be able to buy things?” Kubela continued.

Paying a fee is one thing, but Jacobson also disagrees with tactics like SEEC charging attendance to meetings and conferences.

“One thing that irritates me is that they’re having a surplus of money and they don’t want to do anything with it and they hold the purse strings,” Board Director Mike Hauschild said.

Wahpeton Public Schools is one of 36 total partners in SEEC. The cooperative is one of seven regional education associations (REAs) in North Dakota.

There is a difference of philosophy regarding REAs, Jacobson said.

“Their business model is to make money,” he said to board directors.

“Are they a for-profit?” Kubela asked.

“They’re not supposed to be,” Jacobson said.

As for inservice days, Jacobson disagrees with SEEC’s position that providing financial assistance isn’t beneficial.

“Go tell the 500 teachers that are there that it’s a waste of time,” Jacobson said. “We’ve got to work through this.”

North Dakota state Sen. Kyle Davison, R-District 41, is SEEC’s executive director. While Davison could not confirm figures given in Wahpeton, he did confirm SEEC’s attitude toward funding inservice.

“If we start covering Wahpeton’s professional days, we’d have to do that for everybody. It’s not what we do. Our mission or our goal is not to write checks for schools. We just don’t. It’s not a service we provide, providing grants to schools,” Davison said.

According to Davison, SEEC has 25 full-time employees and about 100 part-time employees.

“We use our reserve funding like a school district,” he said. “The districts keep about 15 percent. Like school districts, we gotta have cash flow.”

Wahpeton’s contribution to SEEC from per-public funding, Davison said, is .002 percent of the district’s payment from the state. If Wahpeton wasn’t part of a regional education association, it wouldn’t get to keep that money. The amount would go to the state’s general fund.

The Wahpeton Public Schools-SEEC relationship has had successes. Both sides mentioned how well they worked together regarding Medicaid for special education students. But there’s still issues of serving members and general lack of information.

“What are the odds of getting this fellow down here so we can ask some questions?” Hauschild asked. “From a budgeting standpoint, how are you benefitting us? Why should we waste money on something that doesn’t benefit us?”

Davison said he’d be happy to visit Wahpeton.

Board Directors Art Nelson and Susan Rittenour were absent from the meeting.

The next Wahpeton Public Schools board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 11. Board meetings are held at the district office within Wahpeton High School, 1021 11th St. N. in Wahpeton.