Beltrami County

Board’s vote on refugees still roiling

More than two dozen people lined up at a meeting of the Beltrami County Board last week to share their views on the board’s Jan. 7 vote that rejected the settlement of refugees in the county.

Video from the meeting was posted online by the Bemidji Pioneer newspaper.

Most who spoke criticized the commissioners for voting on the measure without a public hearing. Several speakers complained about a commissioner who had asked for a “show of hands” before the board voted 3-2 against refugee resettlement in the county. They argued that doing so effectively made the matter a public hearing without legal notice.

The board had voted against accepting refugees pursuant to an executive order by President Donald Trump in which he said states and counties could opt out of refugee resettlements. A federal judge later ruled that Trump’s order was unlawful because it usurped federal authority.

Commissioner Reed Olson said at the meeting that in retrospect, he wished the board hadn’t voted on the issue.

One speaker drew applause and cheers when he asked the board to void its vote and hold a public hearing on the issue. He said the federal judge’s decision hasn’t undone the damage of the publicity around the board’s vote.

“I want my reputation back. I want Beltrami County’s reputation back,” the man said.

Board members did not respond, county officials said.

Dan Browning


Milk plant to close, eliminating 126 jobs

After more than 60 years, Kemps is closing its milk processing plant in Rochester, leaving 126 employees without jobs.

“It’s a huge blow to the employees,” said Wayne Perle­berg, business agent and vice president of Teamsters Local 120, which represents the workers.

“They’re good jobs and a lot of [employees] are wondering what they’re going to do. It’s hard to look in their faces and see the shock.”

Kemps, based in St. Paul, is shutting down the operation in June because the building it leases is being sold. The building’s owner, AMPI, is selling it after shutting down its cheese operation there.

Kemps will distribute the milk volume produced at the plant to its other facilities in the Twin Cities, Fargo and Milwaukee, said company spokeswoman Rachel Kyllo.

The closure doesn’t affect Kemps’ ice cream manufacturing facility in Rochester.

“Business decisions that impact people’s lives are difficult,” said Greg Kurr, Kemps’ president and chief executive.

Mary Lynn Smith