I’m sad to see Joyce Moran leave the Morrison County Record, sad and maybe a little dismayed. For the short time I worked at the Record Joyce was one of my supervising editors and I appreciated the qualities she brought to the Record. While my other editor was busy sanitizing everything I wrote to make local officials look good sponging out direct quotes from public meeting that he didn’t want the public to read, it was Joyce who ultimately went to bat to retain the integrity of stories that were published. 

With Joyce Moran gone maybe Tom West can just turn the paper over to the GOP make a few minor changes in their lit pieces and add his name to it …errr, or did he already do that?


Olive Rockfish


I’m connecting the dots with a couple of stories that have appeared in recent issues of the Morrison County Record.  In this week’s issue (February 24, 2008), there was an article in the Education section on a Swanville student who had to be out of school for surgery.  (I’d link to the story, but it doesn’t appear to have been put online.)  So that he wouldn’t miss much during his recovery, school district staff Cheryl Johnson and Neal Weisz rigged up a webcam in the student’s home that was connected to his classroom.

What a brilliant idea.  And, according to Johnson, one that hasn’t been done in this area before.  Now that the Swanville district has taken the lead and shown the possibilities for home education through technology, perhaps other districts will get on board.  This would have been a simple solution to implementing the 504 plan for Olive Rockfish’s daughter in the Little Falls district.  (See here and here.)

Aside from innovative uses of technology in the classroom, where else might technology transform our usual way of life?  How about that library folks in Pierz would like to see built?

Technology has already seriously affected how libraries operate and you have to look no further than the Carnegie Library in Little Falls to see that it is so.  When I was a kid, you could check books out of the library, or look at magazines in the library, and that was pretty much it.  Now, you have your choice of not only books and magazines, but books on tape or CD, music CDs, movies, and on-site access to the internet.  The Carnegie is a part of the Great River Regional Library system, which has implemented an online book catalog and check-out system.   This means that if you have internet access at home, you can peruse the library catalog at your leisure outside of regular library hours and place holds on items for check-out at your convenience.

The entire production and distribution of all kinds of media has turned topsy-turvy with the internet, which will naturally cause changes in how libraries operate.  As downloadable audio books and e-books become standard, could it be that the space we devote to books in our public libraries will shrink?  That would seem to be an obvious outcome.

I am not privy to the specifics of Pierz’s library plan, but I do hope the building’s planners are taking all of these factors into consideration.  Building a ‘traditional’ library at this point in time doesn’t seem to be the wisest course of action.  Envisioning a futuristic library, one that would meet needs we can only imagine at this point, is what Pierz should be shooting for.  Think what can be done with webcams nowadays.

Fish is brain food, but I’d prefer it if you didn’t look at me in that light,

Phineas F. A. Pickerel

If you’d like a weighty read on book circulation in libraries over time, check out this study done by Douglas A. Galbi.

Not just any lunar eclipse refracted light will turn the Moon a dusky red and tonight there will be a rare bonus, Saturn will be visible, for those of us in North America. The ringed planet will be 3.5 degrees above and to the left of the moon’s center at midtotality. At the same moment, the bright bluish star Regulus will sit just 2.8 degrees above and to the right of the moon. This double event will be the only one of its kind occurring within the next millennium!

Image Display

Happy Mooning!

WordPress recently listed blogs that have gained the most popularity recently and Morrison County based Fish Wrap ranked number 21 among English language sites. Who knew.

Update: February 4, 2007 – slipped to number 40.

Okay, so it only lasted for 24 hours.  We had fun basking in the sun.

 Bubbling Brooke Trout


In an effort to resolve some of the unanswered questions raised by Brooke Trout’s report, “Jennie-O’s Big Fat Surprise for Swanville”, I decided to jump in to help with the digging.

 Initially everyone I spoke with regarding the spill referenced Mn. Statute 115.061and virtually everyone initially said the spill should have been reported. But after making a few more calls I was eventually directed to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) in Brainerd where I was put in touch with Walt Haas. Haas gathered some additional information and pointed out a couple of places within the statute that is considered a gray area and often interpreted differently.

In the case of Swanville the fat effected the cities sewer system but it is presumed that the spills effect didn’t move beyond the sewer system. If that is the case then officials can decide whether or not to report the spill.

While this clarifies some of the questions raised by the Morrison County Record’s coverage of the story, it doesn’t answer everything.  The Records second story about the spill groups the shutdown of a water tower within the same paragraph as the spill without stating why the tower was shut down. Haas at the MPCA said the shutdown of the tower must have been unrelated, but if that was the case then why was it couched within the same paragraph. Or was the sewer project discussed in that paragraph seperate from the sewer issues discussed prior to that paragraph.  From the article it is simply not made clear.

Also, we still don’t know who is footing the bill for the mess. Did Swanville taxpayers pay for the hauling of 2 truck loads of fat and replacement parts? What about the sewer project that has now been made a priority with Morrison County? 

Haas said that sometimes city or county officials are hesitant to hold the large companies accountable because they tend to contribute to political campaigns. 

So, the digging continues.

Olive Rockfish


This weeks edition of the Morrison County Record and a previous edition, reported on a sizable fat spill at a Jennie-O feed mill that entered the cities sewer system in Swanville. According to the Records initial report in the October 5th, 2007 edition “2 truckloads had to be pumped out of the system. It was 4 feet deep at the lift station.”

The Record went on to report the following: When asked if it had happened before, Zapzalka said, “This is the worst it’s been yet. They are saying it was only 10 gallons. It was a lot more than that. They have been asking for reduced sewer rates. I would suggest upping the rates. I would suggest the city require them to put in a grease trap. The lines are all coated with grease now and the aeration valve is getting plugged. We may have future equipment problems from this.”

When asked if Minnesota Pollution Control had been notified, City Engineer Mark Hallen of Widseth Smith Nolting said, “It never got out of the plant. It was not discharged so the MPCA did not have to be notified.

On November 11th, 2007 the Record reported the following:  

Wipf said one load of fat was removed by American Septic the day of the incident, and showed to be a minimal amount based on inventory the company had taken. “It was between $7,000 and $8,000 worth of product,” Wipf said.

City Engineer Mark Hallan of Widseth Smith Nolting talked about the city’s sewer system, and reviewed the repair of the clarifier. Brian Zapzalka, the city’s maintenance person, was present to provide his input. There had been some difficulty in locating the replacement part, and even if a replacement part was found, it would cost approximately $12,500. Zapzalka has been able to repair some parts, which have helped the system run better.

The sewer project has been put on the priority list for Morrison County. The city also is no longer operating well number two for water supply for the city. “The Department of Health has been notified of this,” said Hallan.

What a big fat mess. MPCA”s fact sheet and documentation on Minnesota Statute 115.016 states: Anyone who spills is required to report.  EVERY person who has “any substance or material under its control” must report spills and leaks. Report spills that may cause pollution, such as spills of toxic, flammable, corrosive and dangerous industrial chemicals. Also report spills of environmentally damaging materials, including milk, coal, animal parts,batteries, etc. Reportable quantities Minnesota has a reporting threshold of greater than five-gallons for petroleum spills. Spills of any quantity of all other chemicals or materials should be reported.

The Health Department was contact? Does that mean there was a water quality issue?

When the paper reports that “the sewer project” was bumped up the priority list…does that mean that the damage is being paid for by taxpayers of the county,  the city or the plant?

Chewing the Fat with Fish Lips,

Brooke Trout

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