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Becker County's economy is a mixed bag: Employment is up and the poverty rate is down, but but there's a need for a larger workforce and higher wages, according to Economic Development Snapshop 2016, put out by the West Central Initiative. Becker County's unemployment rate has dropped to less than 3.7 percent, compared to a statewide unemployment rate of 3.7 percent and a national rate of 4.4 percent in June, the most recent month for which data is available.
Becker County is under a cyber attack that has taken down its website, disabled its printers and is now slowly corrupting its entire IT network, according to Becker County Administrator Jack Ingstad. "Apparently we got the ransom request from whoever's doing it to pay them off," he said. No dollar amount has been demanded yet, and the county likely won't have to pay to save its files because it has secure, uncontaminated backup data saved from the night before, he said.
The storm that blew into Detroit Lakes on the evening of July 11 brought straight-line winds of 80-100 mph that knocked down hundreds of trees and power lines. The worst-hit areas were the Floyd lakes and lakes Sallie and Melissa, and total cost to clean up the damage and restore power in Becker County was nearly $535,000.
A man who was struck and killed by a train Sunday was born and raised in Detroit Lakes, loved spending time with his 8-year-old son, and had been looking forward to foraging for wild mushrooms with his brother. Joseph Merten Mackner, 41, of Detroit Lakes was reportedly walking southbound on the Canadian Pacific Railway tracks about a mile north of Detroit Lakes when he was struck by a southbound train just after 5:30 p.m. Sunday. Mackner was pronounced dead at the scene, and the incident remains under investigation.
Becker County will soon have a new building to process recyclables, replacing an older, smaller building at the transfer station north of town on Highway 59. Bristlin Construction Inc., of Detroit Lakes was the lowest of nine bidders on the project at just under $1.18 million, with the building to include a heated concrete floor and liner panels for the walls and ceiling. To pay for it, the county will use about $625,000 that remains on a $2.65 million state grant that helped pay for the new transfer station.
The "Tobacco 21" push to get city councils in Detroit Lakes, Frazee and Perham to raise the tobacco-sale age to 21 is part of a nationwide effort to prevent young people from getting hooked on tobacco. Although it's been tough sledding in Minnesota (the Legislature shot it down last session and only two cities—Edina and St. Louis Park—have approved it so far) the measure has had more success elsewhere.
It's WE Fest time again, and local law enforcement and retailers are ready for the crowds. Randy Buhr, who manages Detroit Lakes municipal liquor store, Lakes Liquor, hopes for a good sales week from the thousands of country music and camping fans that flock to WE Fest, saying sales this summer have been good so far. "We had a great Fourth of July," he said. The city liquor store brought in more than $686,000 in June, a 6.4 percent ($41,000) hike over June of 2016.
As Becker County begins work on next year's budget, several major projects will be front and center—funding for the new jail and a major airport improvement project. The county will begin construction of the $20 million, 186 bed jail facility later this summer. Bonds to finance the jail project were sold at an interest rate of 2.39 percent.
Bronc riding, bull riding, steer wrestling, team roping, barrel riding—a first-ever rodeo at an outdoor arena near Detroit Lakes in August will have it all. The Double S Arena Rodeo will start at 6 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday, Aug. 18-19. The rodeo will be part of the Wojo Rodeo of Greenbush and will feature regional competitors vying to score enough points in the 15-rodeo series to move on to the finals at the Sanford Center in Bemidji.
Should Detroit Lakes follow in the footsteps of Edina and raise the legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21? Should it simply change the minimum age and keep its existing ordinance, which is comparatively simple? Or should the city go further, like Edina did, and revamp its entire ordinance to include vaping and to push users 20 feet from any door or window in a public building or place of business?