Sartell officials expect construction to begin on a new community center this summer.

The City Council voted last week to pay for the planned $11 million building through bonds funded with sales tax.

The 53,000-square-foot structure will contain a senior center, gymnasium, elevated walking track and community space that includes meeting rooms and a resource center. Is it slated to be built on the south end of town on Scout Drive near Pine Cone Road.

Officials expect the project will be finished in mid-2017.

Pam Louwagie


Meire Grove

Family sponsors petition to fight town’s 2-dog limit

Tens of thousands of people have signed an online petition, pleading with a small central Minnesota town to let a family keep all five of its dogs.

Ashley Theiler launched the petition drive after the town passed an ordinance limiting its 179 residents to two dogs per household. The Theiler family has five dogs — four sled dogs and one dog she says serves as a therapy dog for her young son, who suffers from anxiety and depression. The family argues that its dogs should be grandfathered out of the ordinance.

As of Thursday, the online petition had almost 40,000 signatures. But it wasn’t enough to sway the City Council, which later voted not to grandfather in the Theilers’ dogs.

Theiler said Friday that she plans to continue the fight. “We are not giving up,” she said.

Jennifer Brooks



First towboat marks start of shipping season

The first towboat has reached St. Paul, marking the start of this year’s shipping season along the Mississippi River.

Pushing a dozen barges, the Ronald Wagonblast passed through Lock and Dam 2 near Hastings on March 13, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

That’s earlier than last year, when the first tow arrived on March 25. The average start date of the navigation season is March 22.

“So arguably, we’re a full week ahead of schedule,” said Lee Nelson, president of Upper River Services Inc. in St. Paul, which moves and maintains barges on the river.

The end to shipping’s hibernation is welcome news for folks selling bulk commodities, he added.

“This year, there’s a lot of grain that’s going to move to export market, which is good for Minnesota, good for the country,” Nelson said.

Oftentimes, the ice on Lake Pepin is the last linchpin in moving commodities up and down the river. But because of this year’s unseasonably warm weather, work on Lock and Dam 9, near Lynxville, Wis., dictated the key date.

That work was scheduled to run until March 17 but wrapped up early.

Jenna Ross