Town elects dog mayor

One northern Minnesota town has gone to the dogs.

Voters chose a 7-year-old Great Pyrenees to be the new mayor of Cormorant in a landslide election this week. Duke the Dog was sworn into office at Saturday's Cormorant Daze Festival.

The office is a symbolic one in a town with just over a dozen (human) residents. Duke will have few mayoral responsibilities, although the job does come with a year's supply of free pet food.

Duke may be the youngest mayor elected in Minnesota since 3-year-old Bobby Tufts was elected mayor of Dorset two years ago. Mayor Tufts lost his bid for a third term earlier this month, losing to a 16-year-old.

Jennifer Brooks @stribrooks


Employees back at rebuilt Wendy's restaurant

A new Wendy's restaurant replacing one destroyed by fire in January is open and 24 of its core employees are back.

Restaurant owner Bob Sullivan made news when he committed to continue paying workers while rebuilding. That took longer than expected, as the new store is one of the hamburger chain's new designs, with a fireplace, television and Wi-Fi.

Sullivan said he continued to pay all of the workers for the first 150 days after the fire, the first 60 days covered by insurance. After that, about 60 percent of the workers got paid, including all of the managers and a lot of the full-time people, he said. Complications in building the newly designed Miller Hill restaurant delayed reopening and he wasn't able to pay some employees, mostly part-timers.

"We had a great staff and we wanted to do our very best to keep them," Sullivan said. "They've got real lives and real families … they have their own bills to pay."

Pam Louwagie @pamlouwagie

St. Cloud

City ups fee for rentals

It will soon cost a St. Cloud homeowner $500 to convert a house into a rental property.

The City Council approved the bigger fee Monday as part of a package of increases meant to cut down on problem properties and offset the cost of staffing the inspections department.

The old fee for converting to rental was $125, according to the council agenda. Other increases include $10 more for rental licenses. The fine for a minor violation of the property maintenance ordinance or the nuisance ordinance will double to $200.

The larger fees and fines could bring in $100,000, the agenda said.

Resident Chester Rorvig said he'd support the increased fees "if they result in better enforcement, because that's the key."

"It seems to me those who are causing the expense — especially the repeat violators — are those who should be paying the cost," he said, according to video of the meeting. Some landlords urged the council to focus on fines against problem property owners instead of raising fees for all.



Communities split $5 million in grants

The Bush Foundation awarded almost $5 million in grants to communities across Minnesota and the Dakotas this week.

The grants went to groups working to solve local issues that range from economic development to water pollution to human trafficking.

Among the recipients was the Region Five Development Commission in Staples as it works to bolster economic development in 22 surrounding communities and "create a more economically stable and culturally resilient place to live." The Red River Basin Commission in Fargo-Moorhead received $198,600 toward its efforts to keep agricultural runoff from polluting the river.

Arts on Superior in Two Harbors received $42,240 toward its effort to revitalize a dying, boarded-up downtown. The Lakes Country Service Cooperative in Fergus Falls received $87,858 to help as it creates a pilot program to pair local school districts with locally grown food.

For a full list of the grant recipients:

Jennifer Brooks @stribrooks