A wizard rock musician gave children and preteen “muggles” an excuse to shout at the Buckham Memorial Library Wednesday.
By a stroke of luck, children’s librarian Deni Buendorf booked Steph Anderson, lead singer of Tonks and the Aurors, to perform on Harry Potter’s birthday — July 31. The event, intended for older children, drew guests decked out in wizard cloaks and ties representing the Hogwarts houses. A few even brought their wands.
Clearly Potter fans, these concert-goers proved that J.K. Rowling’s series continues to enchant young readers over a decade after the final installment’s release in 2007.
“I like that they’re a higher reading level,” said Teegan Embury, 11, of the Harry Potter series. “It’s hard to find books on my level.”
Embury, who attended the event dressed in wizard garb and even brought a doll in matching attire, said her favorite characters in the series are the eccentric Luna Lovegood and Harry’s good friend Hermione Granger.
Mackenzie Graves, 11, also wore Hogwarts attire to the concert, including black rimmed Harry Potter glasses and the iconic Potter “scar” on her forehead. She said she likes the series “because of all the magic” and most enjoyed the Tonks and the Aurors song about the seventh book, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”
With her hair dyed pink and a Hufflepuff tie around her neck, Steph Anderson portrayed Harry Potter side character Nymphadora Tonks in her library performance. She spoke to the audience as if she came directly from the Potter world and left the “aurors” behind because their job of protecting the wizarding world is a huge responsibility.
From Tonks’ perspective, Anderson described what inspired the lyrics to each song, whether it was her first day at Hogwarts as an 11-year-old (“Welcome to Hogwarts”) or her relationship with Remus Lupin (“I’m in Love With a Werewolf”).
Tonks called for audience participation for a few of her songs, especially “Yes All Witches,” a song about equal representation in the wizard world.
Anderson sold copies of her CDs, including the most recent “Huffleriot” at a table after her performance along with T-shirt and other Potter memorabilia. Guests signed up for a prize drawing and posed for photos with Tonks.
The Buckham Memorial Library is among numerous venues where Anderson has performed as a soloist or with her full band over the past 12 years. More information on the band is available at tonksandtheaurors.com.
HealthFinders Collaborative has received a $65,000 grant from MNSure to help people enroll in and keep health insurance that they can afford and that meets their needs.
The grant is a part of MNsure’s 2019 Navigator Outreach and Enrollment Program. Twenty-four grants have been granted to 43 community health organizations across the state, for a total of $4.2 million.
Last year, 42,000 Minnesotans found coverage with the help of organizations receiving MNsure grants. According to HealthFinders Executive Director Charlie Mandile, HealthFinders helped more than 3,000 area residents get quality, affordable health coverage.
Established in 2005, HealthFinders provides community health services at its clinics in Faribault and Northfield. Both offices are staffed largely by volunteer providers, nurses and interpreters.
With health providers fluent in English, Spanish and Somali, HealthFinders works closely with area hospitals to promote health and wellness in marginalized communities. In addition to helping families get enrolled and stay enrolled in health insurance, HealthFinders’ clinics provide basic health care for families in need.
Earlier this year, HealthFinders received a $1 million gift from the Delta Dental Foundation of Minnesota, enabling it to purchase a significantly larger building in Faribault. The new facility, located at 1415 Town Square Lane, just east of Lyndale Avenue S, is currently being renovated to better meet the needs of HealthFinders patients. Once it opens later this year, the new facility will have 9,000 square feet of space, compared to just 2,000 square feet at HealthFinders’ current location, 223 Central Ave.
The Town Square Lane location previously housed an architectural and design firm.
At the new location, the number of dental chairs will increase from two to six, accommodating rising demand for one of HealthFinders’ most popular programs. The new facility will also have more room to provide patients with basic medical services including mental health care and treatment for opiate addiction, as well as a community kitchen for nutrition classes and a wellness room.
Mandile believes the new facility, designed with significant patient input, will enable HealthPartners to better achieve its mission of providing families with the assistance they need to live healthier, happier lives.
“We believe health happens in communities, not necessarily in clinics, and we design our programming to support patients,” Mandile said. “This has led to measurable improvements in health, particularly for chronic disease patients and supports care across our entire healthcare system in Rice County.”
A surprise decision from the state's Department of Corrections could put a major crimp in the Rice County budget come November. That's when it will consider the county's main jail a 90-day facility.
In a report received late last month, DOC officials found that the facility doesn't have adequate recreational space and programming for inmates.
That put Rice County Sheriff Troy Dunn and Chief Deputy Jesse Thomas in front of county commissioners Tuesday, asking for a jail study, the first step in deciding how to solve its space problem.
A 90-day facility means that no prisoner can be held in the main jail for more than 90 days. Anyone needing to be jailed for longer than that would have to be held at another facility, likely in Steele or Le Sueur County. Dunn estimated that could cost $500,000 annually.
While the county has a jail annex on Hwy. 60, it's designed for minimum security prisoners and isn't set up to accommodate the higher security and special needs inmates the main jail on Third Street NW houses.
Dunn said state guidelines are unclear on how much rec space is required. The main jail, which was built in 1975 and houses up to 36 prisoners, has two 10-foot by 14-foot spaces that are used for recreation.
A Department of Corrections spokesperson was unable to provide specifics on the requirements by press time.
All Rice County prisoners get an hour a day for recreation, and except for those in solitary confinement, they're able to move about in their dorms during the remainder of the day. Dunn says inmates are only locked in their cells during the evening or if they're being disciplined.
But it's not just housing Rice County prisoners outside the county that could bust the 2020 budget, the cost to transport prisoners to and from an out-of-county facility and the personnel costs that go along with them also need to be factored in.
According to the sheriff, any time a Rice County inmate in jail in another county needs to be brought to court in Faribault or taken to an appointment, a Rice County deputy is required to do the driving. That means paying for a deputy and Sheriff's Office vehicle to travel from Faribault to Owatonna or Le Center, waiting to check that person in or out of jail and coming back to Faribault.
The county now has nine part-time staff and four vehicles to transport inmates. Dunn expects that that number will need to go higher come November.
"There are days (now) when all four of those vehicles are out doing transports," he said.
Using other deputies isn't the answer, he said, as that would reduce the number of officers on patrol or in the courthouse.
Dunn said he was surprised that the department didn't give Rice County more notice of its decision. Last year, he said, the DOC report noted that certain issues could lead to a 90-day designation, but nothing signaling a change in 2019.
Dunn believes a new DOC commissioner may have led to the decision. Paul Schnell, who was appointed commissioner shortly after Gov. Tim Walz's January inauguration has been a strong advocate for improved programming and options for the state's incarcerated men and women.
In March, Schnell toured the Minnesota Department of Corrections-Faribault, pointing to the importance of educational programs and other opportunities for inmates.
“These programs change the trajectory of families,” Schnell said in March. “These men will go home and talk about the value of the diploma they received. We talked to a man earlier. We talked about the fact that on that day when he graduated, on that cap and gown, that he sent that picture home, he felt a sense of pride… I think when he goes home and talks to his own children, and he talked to his own daughter, that education will have a fundamentally different value and this is helpful for not only his daughter, but it’s helpful for him.”
Dunn said the county has maintained the jail throughout its nearly 44-year life. But it's expanded into every closet and storage space available.
"We can't keep putting Band-Aids on an old building," he said.
A jail study, which needs to be approved by the county board, will give the county options for expanding and projected costs. Even if the board OKs a new jail, Dunn expects it would take three years before its complete.
"I'm not asking for a new facility yet," he said. "I want to see what will work. A new jail will come at significant cost."
Le Sueur County's new Justice Center, which includes a 40-bed jail as well as office space for the sheriff's department and corrections staffers, cost over $30 million. It's set to be completed this fall.
County Administrator Sara Folsted is also thinking about costs.
"…The important thing from my perspective going forward is that we do our due diligence in the study to evaluate our current operational gaps and evaluate all options so the board can make a decision that meets the needs of the population served in a way that is financially responsible," she said in an email to the Daily News.