Statewide: December 19, 2011 Archive
Betty Fletcher Mast remembers she had a week to organize a handbell choir in an African village.
While traveling with her husband on business years ago, she looked for something to do. When someone suggested that she teach young people to ring bells, she latched on to it.
To make a long story short it worked, even though a local photographer documenting the event nearly derailed the final performance. He arranged the performers by height -- shortest to tallest -- disrupting Betty's placement of ringers.
It's a memorable but by no means singular challenge faced by Betty over more than 50 years of leading ringers.
Another came when she took a group of Minnesota boys whohad never seen the ocean to a national handbell convention in Maine.
Betty remembers the boys wanted to stop. One after another they ran into the water -- with their clothes on.
Betty Fletcher Mast has led boys, girls, men and women ringers. Here she is admiring her novelty bell collection from around the world.
She also founded a touring group called the Ding Dong Dollies, ringers who dress in ethnic costumes from around the world.
As a ringleader, you should pardon the expression, Betty has had quite an impact.
One of her early students, Cammy Carteng, now leads her own group, the Plymouth Church handbell choir in south Minneapolis.
The reason Cammy's ringers aren't looking at the camera is they're busy.
Counting. Then ringing.
Unlike piano players who can touch all the keys for the pieces they perform, ringers are assigned a note or two or three and wait their turn.
Ringers with the busiest parts are responsible for several notes so their hands fly as they place bells on padded tables and grasp the next one with gloved hands.
Gloves so as not to tarnish the polished copper and tin bells with nasty body oils.
The metal recipe for making the bronze bells is 80 percent copper and twenty percent tin, more or less.
That doesn't really do much to explain, though, the science and art of making the bells.
Statewide readers can take an affordable Web trip to the Whitechapel bell foundry, in London, England, the world's oldest handbell manufacturer, to get a feel for the process.
A trip to hear ringing is much closer, often a nearby church. Scads of houses of worship around Minnesota feature handbell choirs.
But not all. You not only need a dedicated director and corp of ringers willing to take on the peculiarities of the music.
You need some cash. It can cost upward of $50,000 to buy a five octave set of bells.
Posted at 7:30 AM on December 19, 2011
by Michael Olson
Filed under: Around MN
Wind projects prompt fight in Congress over subsidies
"Fused together by political necessity," farmers Ann and David Buck "have been joined by an improbable mélange of worried farmers, subsidy-averse Tea Party activists and environmentalists worried about the potential effect on bald and golden eagles that nest along the river gorge," reports the Star Tribune.
Minn. counties struggle to pay for empty jail cells
In the last decade, a boom in jail construction and dropping crime rates have left thousands of jail cells empty around Minnesota. The combination has left many counties in the state trying to figure out how to make money on this unused space (MPR News).
Duluth city councilors push for vote on gay marriage issue
"The issue of gay marriage will come before the Duluth City Council tonight when Councilors Jeff Anderson and Sharla Gardner introduce a resolution opposing an amendment to the state Constitution that would allow Minnesota to legally recognize only opposite-sex unions," reports the Duluth News Tribune.
Minn. GOP looks for path forward
Minn. GOP left shaky after Sen. Koch steps down
Republicans in the Minnesota Senate are reeling following Sen. Amy Koch's announcement Thursday to step down as majority leader, after GOP senate leaders confronted her about allegations that she engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a male staffer (MPR News).
State GOP staggered by debt, scandal
"Beset by big debts and sudden scandal, Minnesota's Republican Party is in the throes of extraordinary turmoil on the cusp of a pivotal election year," reports the Star Tribune.
Sen. Geoff Michel on Koch, Brodkorb's resignations
WCCO: "After Sen. Amy Koch and Senate Republican Caucus spokesman Michael Brodkorb announced their resignations, rumors have swirled around a possible inappropriate relationship between the two. Sen. Geoff Michel is now the interim leader of the Minnesota GOP, Esme Murphy reports."
Senjem considers run for majority leader
Rochester Post Bulletin: "Rochester GOP Sen. Dave Senjem said on Sunday he is considering running for Senate majority leader.'I am considering it. I am getting a fair amount of encouragement -- a number of calls over the last several days to do it,' he said."
Also on MN Today
Lake Superior research center making progress in Superior
"A Lake Superior research center is acquiring its first lakeshore facilities as the University of Wisconsin Regents approved leases this month with the city of Superior," reports the Duluth News Tribune.
South Dakota Hutterite colony to build in Traill County despite protests
"Despite protests from some neighbors, a Hutterite colony likely will start construction in the spring in southern Traill County," reports the Forum of Fargo Moorhead.
Oil boom leads to demand for more officers
"North Dakota's economy continues to churn, but energy isn't the state's only boom industry. ... Lake Region State College sets new record with 92 law enforcement graduates in 2011," reports the Forum of Fargo Moorhead.
Posted at 3:00 PM on December 19, 2011
by Michael Olson
Filed under: Around MN
A look at what is making news around Minnesota.
Police surround Lake City home after officer shot
Law enforcement officers from local, county and state agencies are creating a perimeter around a house in Lake City after a police officer was shot in the head this morning (MPR News).
Man faces charges in NE Minn. courthouse shooting
A 42-year-old Grand Marais man was charged Monday with attempted murder for allegedly opening fire on the Cook County prosecutor and a trial witness at the courthouse last week (MPR News).
Minnesota Sun newspapers will be acquired by rival ECM
"ECM Publishers, the community newspaper chain former Gov. Elmer L. Andersen founded, will acquire the rival Minnesota Sun Newspapers, ECM and Sun owner American Community Newspapers announced Monday afternoon," reports MinnPost's David Brauer.
Eagle baiting alleged in ongoing wind farm debate
"Carl Denkinger, an agricultural specialist with the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, has investigated six complaints of eagle baiting in the past month within the 32,000-acre wind project footprint," reports the Rochester Post Bulletin.
Bloggers mull the future of the Minn. GOP
The path forward
Let Freedom Ring: "If a snapshot were taken right now, people would undoubtedly predict that the Republican Party of Minnesota was heading for a steep cliff. That's a fair assessment. While it's a fair assessment, it isn't a fait accompli."
So now what do we do about the MNGOP?
"About the Koch kerfuffle: calm down. People make mistakes; sometimes they do the wrong thing," writes Mitch Berg. "Conservatives know this (although Republicans don't always)."
Also on MN Today
FOX News moderators insert themselves at GOP Debates more than any other outlet
"A Smart Politics content analysis of the 10 Republican presidential debates conducted since September finds that those moderated by FOX News rank 1-2 for the amount of time consumed by moderator questions, comments, and admonishments," writes Eric Ostermeier.
Lake Superior region eyed as potential nuclear waste storage site
"The likely death of a planned nuclear waste site at Nevada's Yucca Mountain has left federal agencies looking for a possible replacement." The Washington Post reports the Lake Superior region of Wisconsin and Minnesota is attractive since due to "having little to no seismic and volcanic activity."
Utility dispute casts shadow on Minnesota solar project
"A 600-kilowatt community solar project" in Willmar "could become a casualty of unspecified personnel issues within a rural Minnesota utility," writes Dan Haugen with Midwest Energy News.
Editorial: Complete review of Willmar's Municipal Utilities is needed
West Central Tribune: "The recent turmoil at the Willmar Municipal Utilities has now boiled over onto the public stage as its General Manager Bruce Gomm was placed on paid administrative leave Monday pending an investigation of 'activities disruptive to utility operations.'"
A dysfunctional City Council in Moorhead?
Forum of Fargo Moorhead: "The City Council here has repeatedly found itself divided when it comes to passing major issues this year. A special meeting Monday will bring the divide to light once again as the council attempts to pass its 2012 budget."
MnDOT to pay contractors at least $1.2 million for stoppages during state shutdown
Saint Cloud Times: "The Minnesota Department of Transportation will pay contractors at least $1.2 million -- and possibly much more -- for work stoppages caused by this summer's state government shutdown."
As sediment flows downriver, resentment builds upriver
"Already hamstrung by tight budgets, communities across much of Minnesota are bracing for what could be an $843 million bill - this one aimed at reducing the amount of sediment reaching Lake Pepin on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border," reports the Pioneer Press.
Posted at 4:02 PM on December 19, 2011
by Michael Olson
Filed under: Courts
By Elizabeth Dunbar
Among rural Minnesota counties that have metal detectors for their courthouses, most only use them for certain court cases and do not have a permanent staff person dedicated to overseeing the metal detector.
Chisago County bought a new metal detector for its courthouse a few years ago and paid about $4,000 for it, Sheriff Rick Duncan said.
Duncan said it's used so infrequently that the cost of staffing it just comes out of the sheriff department's regular budget, and he did not have a breakdown of how much Chisago County has spent staffing it in the past year. But he said if it were specifically billed, staffing it would involve paying two sheriff's deputies an overtime rate of $42-$44/hour each. One deputy monitors the people going through the metal detector to see if they set off the alarm; the other visually inspects purses, briefcases and metal items court visitors remove from their pockets.
The cost of staffing a courthouse metal detector varies greatly based on how often and for what purpose it is used. Duncan said if it's used for an entire trial, it might need to be staffed for long hours as visitors, attorneys and jurors go in and out of court.
MPR News: Metal detectors not a given at Minn. courthouses