Laid-off firefighters in Brainerd are suing the city for unfair labor practices and other claims after the City Council voted last year to replace the full-time firefighting staff with a paid-on-call department.

Brainerd once had five full-time firefighters along with dozens of paid volunteers who responded to calls. Eliminating the full-time positions and bringing in more paid-on-call firefighters was projected to save the city more than $260,000 in the first year, a sum the firefighters dispute.

Firefighters fought the change, and the Firefighters Union Local 4725 filed suit last week alleging unfair labor practices, arguing among other points that civil service rules require part-time individuals be laid off before full-time employees. They also claim the change violates the city’s charter.

Brainerd’s city administrator declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Marshall Tanick, an attorney representing the firefighters, said changes at the fire department constitute “a violation of the rights of the firefighters as employees as well as labor union members.”

Pam Louwagie @pamlouwagie



Last ship of the season pulls into Duluth

Last Monday marked the end of the 2015 shipping season in Duluth.

“The Paul R. Tregurtha made a beautiful entry into the Duluth harbor this morning at 9:23. It was her 46th and last visit of the season, as she was the last vessel to come under the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge this season,” the Duluth Shipping News reported last week, posting photos of residents gathered to watch as ice closed the shipping lanes.

The ship will winter in Duluth until the Soo Locks reopen in spring. The locks, off Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., are the last in the Great Lakes to close each season. They closed behind the Paul R. Tregurtha on Jan. 15 and are expected to reopen March. 25.

Jennifer Brooks @stribrooks



Horse rescue closes after criticism over conditions

A horse ranch and rescue in Hawley, Minn., will close this month after allegations of mistreatment.

The board of the Hightail Horse Ranch and Rescue, east of Fargo, announced the closure on Facebook: “The overwhelming negative publicity makes it impossible for an organization that depends on donations and volunteer assistance to survive.”

Last fall, former employees alleged that the ranch was overcrowded and the horses dehydrated and mistreated, prompting the resignation of the ranch’s director and founder.

The Clay County Sheriff’s Office investigated, sending a detective and two veterinarians to the ranch, said Matt Siiro, chief deputy.

“We found no criminal wrongdoing,” Siiro said by phone last week. “However, there were several things they could improve on.”

Jenna Ross @ByJenna