Katrina Styx has been a reporter for the Hastings Star Gazette since 2010. She has a bachelor's degree in English with a minor in journalism from the University of Wisconsin - River Falls. Prior to coming to Hastings, Katrina reported for weekly newspapers in Jordan, Minn., and River Falls, Wis.
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Warm weather conditions this week aren't a guarantee of high water levels this spring, but they're not easing fears of bad flooding either. "It's not an ideal condition," said Hastings Public Works Director Tom Montgomery. The reason it's not ideal is that snow and ice has been melting continuously, rather than intermittently. "Ideally we'd have freezing overnight, or we'd have a period of freezing to slow things down," he said. How the warm-up will affect flood levels will depend on what sort of weather comes next.
Cities scrutinize their development trends every year regardless of the economy, but the nation's most recent recession has had some places eyeing development even more closely, as it can serve as an indicator that things are starting to turn around. In Hastings, the city council heard its annual community development report at its meeting Monday.
In 2001, the Mississippi River reached a flood stage of about 22 feet. In 1997, it crested just nine inches lower. This year, National Weather Service predictions are already preparing Hastings for even higher waters. As of Monday, flood forecasts estimated a 50 percent chance that the river would crest at 24.5 feet. If it does, it would be the second-highest flood on record in Hastings, second only to the historic 1965 flood, which crested at 25.9 feet.
As of March 18, roughly 50 employees at Smead Manufacturing's Hastings location will be out of work. The layoffs are a direct result of high unemployment, which has adversely affected Smead's sales. "It's no secret that unemployment remains exceedingly high," said Smead's vice president of marketing, Jim Riesterer. Smead makes products to help people stay organized - items that often find primary use in businesses. "Our level of sales is very much tied to the unemployment rate, as well as the overall economy," Riesterer said. Another factor is the level of competition Smead faces.
Having his knee ruined may have just been the best thing to happen to Jake Kranz. He had been the captain of the football team at Hastings High School and could have played Division I or Division II college football if he had wanted to leave Minnesota. Instead, he decided to go to St. Cloud State University after graduating from HHS in 2006. The first year on the team there he was ineligible to play - a common practice for first-year players, called redshirting.
Hastings residents are no strangers to the value of the Mississippi River, but they might not be as familiar with the human factors that have changed it. To help them understand it better, the Hastings Environmental Protectors (HEP) is sponsoring the showing of "Troubled Waters: A Mississippi River Story," a documentary film about the Mississippi River. The film will be shown at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 10, in the Pleasant Hill Library. "Troubled Waters" is about the state of water due to man's influence along the country's waterways.
Since the days of prohibition, Minnesotans have been accustomed to buying their liquor six days out of the week. When it comes to Sundays, they have to plan ahead or go without. In towns along the border, however, Sundays can mean lost revenue both for Minnesota liquor stores and the state budget, as buyers hop across the state line when they forget to stop at a local store earlier in the week. A bill has been introduced in the state legislature that could, if passed, allow off-sale liquor stores to sell on Sundays.
While trying to clear snow away from the sides of Pine Street, a Hastings plow driver damaged 30 mailboxes early last week. It was just after 5 a.m. Feb. 22, said Public Works Superintendent John Zgoda. The darkness was one factor in the accident; the other was the buildup of ice along the curb, which allowed the plow to ride up onto the curb.
Parents know how tough it can be to make ends meet on a limited income. Their kids, however, often don't fully grasp the idea. That's where Reality Check comes in. Every year, Hastings Middle School puts its eighth-grade students and those from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School through the national financial awareness program.
In 2005, Lanoga Corporation, the parent company of Pro-Build in Hastings, entered into an agreement with the city, allowing Lanoga a subsidy to move into the Hastings Industrial Park. In exchange, Lanoga had to create at least four full-time jobs at $13 per hour and stay open for at least five years. Pro-Build did create new jobs - more, even, than they were required to. The business added eight jobs at a minimum of $18 per hour plus benefits by 2008.