20October 2021

Staff-short nursing homes squeeze hospital capacity

WINONA Minn. – A severe shortage of nursing home workers is delaying transfers of recovering patients out of hospitals. The result, said Winona health executive Rachelle Schutz, is that hospitals are backed up and in some cases running out of available beds.  In short, the clog at nursing homes is contributing to the state’s shrinking hospital capacity, Schuktz said in a KWNO radio interview. Statewide, she said, long-term care beds are down 25% from before the Covid pandemic. “So what happens is then there are patients in hospitals that are ready to be discharged and there’s no place to go,”  Schultz said. “There’s no long-term care bed anywhere.” The hardship is rippling through the Minnesota health-care system, she said: “You look for where is there a bed available? And that could be one of two states away. Her Winona hospital, Schultz said, has been spared from a full-capacity back-up so far but some transfers have been to far-away long-term facilities. “ We have seen that where people are being moved far away from family because there’s just no long-term care bed available.”

Schultz. Nursing homes are operating with Covid-crippled staffing and not accepting hospital patients ready for discharge.

19October 2021

College scores

Volleyball (women): St. Scholastica 3, UW-Superior 0

More scores  (more…)

19October 2021

Minnesota prep

Volleyball (girls): Winona Cotter Ramblers 2, Dover-Eyota Eagles 0

More scores  (more…)

19October 2021

Walz runs again for governor with unity message

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Democratic Governor Tim Walz launched his campaign for a second term in a YouTube video. His theme, Walz said, will be “One Minnesota,” the same as in 2018.The video was shot on a football field, a familiar setting for a former Mankato West High school coach. Walz who earlier was elected six times to Congress from southern Minnesota, said his running mate again for lieutenant governor will be Peggy Flanagan.

Earlier: Right-wing senator seeks governorship


Walz: “I’m running for re-election with Peggy Flanagan to keep moving Minnesota forward. Our fight against Covid isn’t over, but we’ve got the ball rolling. Together, as One Minnesota, we can rebuild stronger than before.”

Teaming again. A campaign poster photo.

19October 2021

Eagle Center down for winter to expand

WABASHA, Minn. – The National Eagle Center will close until spring for Phase 1 of a $27 million expansion. The last day for visitors: Sunday 10 to 4. Phase 1 will add space for eagle “ambassadors.” These are permanently injured eagles who are permanent residents. The expansion will create space for three more. There now are four. “That will be really instrumental in us being able to expand the educational outreach we do,” said Ed Hahn, marketing manager. The expansion also will open a larger exhibit space for the multi-million dollar Preston Cook collection with iys 25,000 pieces of eagle memorabilia. Planned too is an amphitheater, an outdoor program and exhibit space, and improved dockage along the Mississippi River. Phase 2, to come later, will enlarge the indoor auditorium and create new entryway.

Magnet for tourists. The National Eagle Center attracts 80,000 visitors in a typical year. Image: Heidi Wigdahl

19October 2021

Air Guard has first woman chief sergeant

ST. PAUL, Minn. – A 32-year Air Force veteran, Lisa Erikson, has become the first woman to be command sergeant major for Minnesota Air National Guard. Hers is the highest enlisted rank in the 2,000-person state Air Guard. She has responsibility for two separate wings and the command headquarters. At one point she was with the 148th Medical Group that deployed to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom.

Erikson. Began career as an engine mechanic on C-141 cargo planes.

19October 2021

WInona middle-schoolers learn subsistence skills

WINONA, Minn. – An eighth-grade science teacher at Winona Middle School, Joseph Cynor, is taking students outside the classroom for immersion experiences living off the land. Nobody goes too far though. Students in Cynor’s elective class mostly stick to the school neighborhood, but they learn  possibilities for securing food from their own backyards and nearby public land. The emphasis is on hunting, fishing and gathering.

CYNOR. He taps his experience in the outdoors from living in Alaska and learning  he Yup’ik subsistence living culture.

19October 2021

WSU provost: Students the priority amid statistical gloom

WINONA Minn. – The chief academic officer at Winona State, Darrell Newton, says the university should be judged less by plummeting enrollment than by the institutional commitment to student success. Newton said the university is evolving and innovating, no matter the enrolment, to better support both prospective and current students. “Today’s college students have different needs than any generation that came before them,” said Newton. “Their lived experience is vastly different. Their preferences and perspectives are unique, as are their life circumstances and individual challenges.” Newton’s comments coincided with the release of Winona State fall enrollment data – down 9.7% from a year earlier. Newton offered examples of Winona State’s  flexibility and innovation to meet student needs:

> Online course delivery during the Covid pandemic.

> Recruiting shifts to virtual visits so prospective students could visit at appropriate comfort comfort levels.

> New online support services as well as telehealth and telecounseling appointments.

> Helping students toward their academic goals, and potentially reduce overall college debt.

> A winter “mini-semester” for students catch up, keep up or get ahead.

Earlier: Prez lays out vision for WSU to weather numbers woes

Earlier: WSU looks at bright side: Graduate growth

Earlier: WSU enrollment still on downward spiral


Newton: “Given what we know about the challenges facing today’s college students, we need to acknowledge that the typical college student journey is no longer typical. Similarly, colleges and universities are somewhat in uncharted terrain. What a student needs and where we meet them on their educational journey might look different moving forward. But what remains the same is that Winona State will.”

Newton: In second year as Winona State provost.

19October 2021

Halloween approacheth on Stockton Hill

STOCKTON, Minn. – The Bronks keep lifting pumpkins from their field atop Stockton Hill to replenish the stock at their roadside enterprise on Highway 14. Countdown to Halloween: 12 days.

Pumpkins plus. There are more where these came from. Image: Steve Lunde

18October 2021

Cops SWAT-ed by fake murder call

ROCHESTER, Minn. – Rochester police were duped into dispatching a SWAT team by a fake report of a shooting and a holed-up gunman in a southwest residential neighborhood. They set up a perimeter about 10:30 p.m. and shouted with a megaphone to rouse anyone inside to come out. A 44-year-old man, unarmed and befuddled, emerged and gave police permission to enter. Meanwhile, the call that set the SWAT team into action had been traced at police headquarters to an internet address in Australia. It had been a fake call – something cops call “SWAT-ing.” What happened:

> A police dispatcher received an emergency message from a person claiming to have shot his  uncle and that the uncle was no longer breathing. The caller said he had an AR-15 rifle and would shoot police if they approached.

> Police calls to the address, in the 3500 block of Birchwood Lane Southwest, went unanswered.

> The man at the house speculated that a nephew living in another state played a lot of online video games with other players throughout the world might have upset someone enough to prompt the SWAT-ing.

> Why hadn’t the man answered police calls while the SWAT team was en route? His cell phone was turned off for the night, he said.

> Investigators are working to identify the responsible party. Police spokesperson Casey Moilanen said it unlikely came from Australia.

18October 2021

College scores

Soccer (men): Carleton 2, Lake Forest 0

Soccer (women): UW-Platteville 4, North Park 2

18October 2021

Minnesota prep

Volleyball (girls): Lake City Tigers 3, Red Wing Wingers 0

More scores  (more…)

18October 2021

WSU Covid cases climb to 16

WINONA, Minn. – Sixteen positive Covid cases were reported among Winona State students the week ending October 10, bringing the total number of cases reported on campus this semester to 81 students and six employees. The immediately previous weekly reporting period included four student cases and one employee case. The new total students on-campus and off-campus quarantining stands at 11 and those isolating at 41. NOTE: Because the university has changed the day of the week for its updates, numbers don’t square precisely.

Earlier: WSU Covid infections, at 9, drop dramatically

18October 2021

A story of persevering, pain, saving a chihuahua

SOUTH HAVEN, Minn. — The family of Cameron Hazzard has launched a crowd-sourcing charity site to help his fiancee and two young sons while he recovers from a collision north of Tomah late the night of October 3. His brother Nick described Hazzard, 24, a truck driver, as a hard-worker but now needing help., Hazzard was hauling heavy equipment when a minivan traveling westbound in the eastbound lanes ran into his truck. The truck flipped. This, according to the brother, is what happened next: Despite being scared and disoriented, Hazzard removed his seat belt; located his small chihuahua Luna, who acts his travel companion; and crawled to safety with a shattered hip. At a safe distance from the truck, he laid in the ditch and waved his phone in the air for help. It took15 minutes before someone spotted him.

Earlier: Four-vehicle I-94 pileup leaves lots of injuries

GoFundMe organizers. Brother Nick Hazzard and Makayla Meier call their fund drive “Help Cameron Walk Again.”

18October 2021

SMU invites kids, indeed everyone, to hockey event

WINONA, Minn. — The Saint Mary’s University men’s and women’s hockey teams will play exhibtion games Saturday at an open house called Cardinal hockey Ice Breaker Day. Free events include:

> 2 p.m.: Women’s hockey game against Marian. WNB Financial providing free T-shirt to the first 50 kids.

> 4 p.m.: Bring your skates for an hour on the ice with Cardinal players. With an autograph session.

> 5 to 7 p.m.:  Pumpkin carving, yard games, fire pits, hot beverages, adoptable puppies.

> 7 p.m.: Men’s hockey e game against the University of Wisconsin-Stout. More free WNB Financial T-shirts for first 50 kids.

Terrace Heights hockey arena. Behind Toner student center.

18October 2021

Teacher admits enticing kids for lewd selfies

ST. PAUL, Minn. – A substitute teacher pleaded guilty to soliciting lewd pictures of his school kids and then blackmailing into supplying more. It had gone on for years, according to the federal criminal complaint. Mitchell Ottinger, 25, of the southwest Minneapolis suburb of Carver, admitted to two counts of child porn production and attempted production and one count of interstate communication with intent to extort. It was a scheme that prosecutors call “sexploitation.” Ottinger, who also was a school paraprofessional, used fake personas online to obtain the sexually explicit images and videos. More than 10 children he knew from school were victimized, as well as adults, according to the criminal complaint.

Ottinger. Used fake name to “sexploit” his school kids.

18October 2021

Winona tanker train slices into truck

OWATONNA, Min. – A Canadian Pacific freight train that originated in Winona smashed into a truck and semitrailer at a U.S. Highway14 crossing three miles east of Owatonna. No one was hurt. The impact broke the truck from its trailer as the locomotives sliced into the rig. The truck and the trailer ended up on opposite sides pf the track. The truck driver, Hernan Francisco Orteg Rodrigues, 29, of Granada. apparently crossed into the train’s path at a narrow-angle blind crossing. Whether crossing lights were blinking red wasn’t immediately ascertained. The crossing has no gate barriers. The trailer behind the 2012 Freightliner truck was loaded with heavy rock. The train had two crew members — Andres Moreno, 55, and Dustin Dennis Stoks, 43, both of Des Moines. The crash occurred about 8:15 a.m. The highway was expected to be closed six hours.

Canadian Pacific crossing. The train was hauling empty ethanol tankers that are regularly ferried to and from biofuel plants across southern Minnesota. Image: Minnesota State Patrol

18October 2021

Prez lays out vision for WSU to weather numbers woes

WINONA, Minn. – The president of Winona State, Scott Olson, believes the university is on the right course for the future despite major enrollment losses. The university’s focus, Olson said, is to maintain standards that will serve students and society long term.  “We know we play a critical role meeting the workforce needs of Minnesota communities and employers — nurses, teachers, IT professionals, and all manner of business administration professionals,” said Olson. Enrollment has fallen 2,700 from a 2013 peak of 8,450. This fall enrollment loss was especially severe – 9.7%. Olson faulted some rival  colleges for short-term band-aids to downward enrollment trends: “A number of colleges and universities in the Midwest have relaxed admissions standards and abandoned enrollment caps in an attempt to ward off dips in enrollment, he noted “While this approach may solve the temporary enrollment problem it creates a much bigger problem in the long-term,” Olson said.” Winona State instead has opted to maintain admissions standards because we recruit for student success — not for enrollment reporting.”

Earlier: WSU looks at bright side: Graduate growth

Earlier: WSU enrollment still on downward spiral

Olson. In his annual guest dis-jockey schtick at campus radio station KQAL.


Olson: “There’s a reason WSU consistently reports the highest rates of student success among the 37 state colleges and universities in Minnesota. Why our related-employment rate is 98%. Why a degree from WSU provides the largest return on investment of all public colleges and universities in Minnesota. Our reputation is built on a record of student success that far exceeds expectations.”

18October 2021

1-2-3: Truck stolen , then copper, then arrest

ROCHESTER, Minn. – A Rochester woman was arrested for what police believe was the predawn theft of cooper pipes and wire. In the process, cops recovered a pickup truck that had been stolen four days earlier from a Mayo patient staying at a hotel. Arrested in the pickup was Laurissa Bale, 36. In the vehicle, police said, were items stolen in a burglary of the Leitzen Concrete burglary in northwest Rochester. A companion in the tuck was not immediately charged. In sequence here’s what happened:

> Wednesday: The Mayo patient reported his truck stolen from Days Inn at 3595 Commercial Drive Southwest.

> Saturday: Employees reporting for work at Leitzen Concrete, at 4019 Highway 14, found a person inside one of the buildings. The person fled.

> Sunday. Police received a video of the stolen pickup, parked was behind a business on Civic Center Drive. When police arrived Bale and a man were in the truck.

> Monday. Bale was charged.

Bale. Cops: Stolen items were in the stolen pickup.

18October 2021

Police scotching “thin blue line” symbol

VIROQUA, Wis.– The Viroqua Police Department will remove a “thin blue line” symbol from its new police car after community objections to the racist implication. Police Chief Rick Niedfeldt, who is white, said no offense was intended and acknowledged different emotions that the symbol holds for many people.

Squad car decal. To many the the imagery suggests support for police. For others it endorses police solidarity to cover up excessive force and brutality.

18October 2021

Horse dies of dreaded West Nile virus

PRAIRIE DU CHIEN, Wis. – A horse in Crawford County died from West Nile virus — the first confirmed case in a Wisconsin horse in more than two years. The state Agriculture Department said the horse was a 9-year-old Belgian/Standardbred gelding. The animal had not been vaccinated, the agency said. Although West Nile virus can be fatal to humans, it cannot be contracted from horses. Transmission comes directly from mosquitoes. The state’s advice to horse-owners: Vaccinate your animals and keep them keep them in a barn from dawn till dusk. Also: Dump and drain stagnant water where mosquitoes breed.

18October 2021

The sun still rises also on St. Borromeo’s

ST. CHARLES, Minn. – When the good Catholics of St. Charles Borromeo Parish chose a knoll just out of town for a new church, an attraction was the bucolic setting. Such a calming and fitting backdrop for worship for a town seeped in its agricultural roots. Less so now. Beyond the parking lot a vast solar array has been installed and intrudes on the site’s original pastoral purity. Look carefully, though. Corn still grows in the back Back 40.

Sign of the times. The view is now oh so 21st century. Image: Steve Lunde

St. Borromeo. On Highway 14.

18October 2021

Enbridge: We’re cooperating over Line 3 damage

EDMONTON, Alberta. – The Enbridge pipeline company claimed to be “fully cooperating” with Minnesota regulators about groundwater contamination at Clearbrook from its controversial Line 3 project. A company spokesperson, Julie Kellner, didn’t elaborate. Enbridge has a major Line 3 terminal at Clearbrook, north of Bemidji. Line 3, which runs from Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin. The company has been under state Natural Resources Department scrutiny for numerous construction accidents, ruptures and leaks in the Mississippi River headwaters and the Red River drainage.

Earlier: Enbridge pipeline mess at Clearbrook not fixed

Enbridge profile

Enbridge, based in Edmonton, Alberta, employs 6,000 workers and ranks 18th of Canada’s largest companies in revenue. It operates the world’s longest crude oil pipelines, through which it transports 12% of U.S. oil imports. Between 1999 and 2008 Enbridge recorded 610 spills that released 132,000 barrels of hydrocarbons into farms, wetlands and waterways on the continent. The spills equal about half of the oil that the tanker Exxon Valdez lost in Prince William Sound in Alaska in 1988.

Enbridge Tower. The company is headquartered in its namesake 25-story skyscraper in Edmonton.

17October 2021

Deere parts: Possibly as scare as hen’s teeth?

WATERLOO, Iowa – A strike by 10,000 John Deere factory workers may put 2021 harvests in jeopardy. So warned Lance Lillibrudgi, president of the Iowa Corn Growers Association. Farmers may find their local Deere dealers short of parts when tractors and other harvest machinery need repairs. The strike by the United Auto Workers has entered a fourth day.

Earlier: Strike hits John Deere; 5% pay offer not enough

Ironic tagline. “Nothing runs like a Deere.” Such has been the giant manufacturer’s advertising tagline. Not running now.

17October 2021

College scores

Soccer (women): Winona State 6, UM-Crookston 0

More scores  (more…)


The worthiest goal of journalism is to promote intelligent citizen involvement. Such is our goal with Winona Journal. We focus on local issues so you can go about your daily activities with confidence that you can be a genuine and valued part of informed public dialogue on the kind of community we’re building.

Although Winona-centric, we are attentive also to regional issues. Our community doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

You will find opinion here. We quote and paraphrase with attribution so you know the source and can assess ideas and thoughts. Sometimes you will find our commentary but always clearly labeled.

As journalists we are committed to accuracy but not perfect. Please let us know if you spot an error, whether substantive or even just a dumb typo. We’ll get errors squared away promptly.

We’re glad you’re with us.

John Vivian, editor