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Lutheran School honors veterans with hybrid celebration
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While many schools opted out of in-person Veterans Day programs this year, Faribault Lutheran School’s smaller population allowed for a safe opportunity to thank veterans for their service.

On Tuesday morning, FLS welcomed veterans from the community to a socially distanced Veterans Day program in the Trinity Lutheran Church chapel. The program consisted of music, prayer, talks and recognition of those who served this country.

Faribault American Legion Post 43 veterans retrieved the colors at the Faribault Lutheran School Veterans Day program Tuesday morning. (Misty Schwab/southernminn.com)

Faribault American Legion Post 43 veterans posted the colors and retrieved the colors, and stood for recognition according to the branches of the military in which they served. FLS eighth graders led the singing behind glass barriers, but most students joined a livestream in their classrooms to make social distancing easier for community members in attendance. A number of pews were roped off, as they have been for weekend services.

Faribault American Legion Post 43 veterans posted the colors at Trinity Lutheran Church in Faribault as part of the Faribault Lutheran School’s Veterans Day program. (Misty Schwab/southernminn.com)

Faribault Lutheran School third grader Haddie Munger led a verse of “My Country Tis of Thee” during her school’s Veterans Day program Tuesday morning. (Misty Schwab/southernminn.com)

Col. James Johnson took the podium as a guest speaker, speaking about his military experience and offering ideas for other ways to serve.

Johnson, who has served in the military 30 years total, spoke about being a commander of the C-130 Air Reserve Station in Minneapolis-St. Paul and how the C-130 airplanes transport people and cargo around the world.

For the elementary students specifically, Johnson explained the difference between Memorial Day, which honors those who died while in service to the military, and Veterans Day, which recognizes all veterans past and present. He also provided a brief history lesson about Veterans Day, which was initially called Armistice Day to honor veterans of World War I. He explained that the word armistice means “an agreement to stop fighting,” and it took effect on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour. World War I was said to be “the war to end all wars,” he said, but that wasn’t the case, and so the holiday was eventually renamed to recognize all veterans.

Retired Col. James Johnson, a veteran who has served over 30 years in the military, explained to Faribault Lutheran School students the origin of Veterans Day during their school’s program. (Misty Schwab/southernminn.com)

Johnson said most veterans have a heightened sense of service, and for many, that is the reason they joined the military. Even after returning home, he said, “That sense of service lasts your entire life and oftentimes remains embedded in your heart.”

As commander of the C-130 Air Reserve Station, Johnson received a letter from a 75-year-old helicopter crew chief who volunteered to visit the base and train the pilots to better combat ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). Although Johnson couldn’t take advantage of the invitation to its fullness, he still invited the retired veteran to talk to over 1,000 members of his wing as a reminder of the importance of their service.

For non-veterans, Johnson listed several ways to be of service to others without enlisting in the military. He referenced the Biblical message to feed the hungry and look out for those in poverty, and for those without the resources to do that, he encouraged random acts of kindness.

In closing, Johnson encouraged listeners to thank a veteran, or anyone who serves to improve the community and make it safer, including firefighters, health care workers, law enforcement and pastors.

He also encouraged program attendees to ask themselves two questions: “When was the last time I did something to help someone else and when will be the next time I do something to help someone else?”

Trinity Lutheran’s the Rev. Brent Klein, provided the chapel message about military service. Klein served as a chaplain for the U.S. Navy and spoke about his experience aboard the USS Vella Gulf (CG-72) as well as CREDO (Chaplains Religious Enrichment Development Operations), Okinawa. He conducted worship services, held group counseling and also provided support to military families during his years of service.

Rev. Brent Klein of Trinity Lutheran Church in Northfield delivered the chapel message during the Faribault Lutheran School Veterans Day program Tuesday morning. (Misty Schwab/southernminn.com)

During the program, Klein educated students about the history of the word chaplain, which is derived from the Latin word cappellanus, or a keeper of a sacred military cloak St. Martin of Tours cut in half to give to a beggar. Over time, any priest who served in the military was called a chaplain.

Klein explained that the Trinity Lutheran synod has sent out chaplains since the Civil War so those on active duty can be strengthened spiritually.


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Morristown to consider legalizing chickens
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After declining to do so on numerous prior occasions, the city of Morristown is again considering allowing residents to own chickens within the city limits.

The ordinance, which went through a public hearing last week and will be voted on at next week’s meeting, provides the most comprehensive regulatory framework of any chicken legalization ordinance to come before the city, according to its supporters.

It’s also the first proposed ordinance to secure the backing of the city’s Zoning Board. Councilor Tim Flaten, who supports the proposed ordinance, gave credit to Zoning Board member Tyler Velske for doing the research needed to produce the ordinance.

“There’s a group of 12-15 people who have wanted us to do it, but this is the first time the Zoning Board has been in favor of it,” he said. “Tyler put a lot of time and effort and research into it.”

Velske said he wrote the ordinance with an eye on keeping enforcement both “pretty strict” and simple. The ordinance’s basic framework, which Velske reviewed with the city attorney, is based on those enacted by neighboring cities.

Under the proposed system, residents who want to own chickens would be required to apply for a permit from City Hall and receive the consent of at least 75% of their neighbors. No more than five chickens could live at any one residence. The ordinance would also put strict restrictions on where and how chickens can be kept. Coops would be required to be somewhere between four square feet per chicken to 10 square feet in chicken per square foot, and set back at least 10 feet from any neighboring adjacent dwelling.

Under the ordinance, chicken owners would be required to keep their flocks confined at all times. Only female chickens and hens would be allowed within city limits; keeping roosters is strictly prohibited.

The ordinance would be enforced by the city through the designated Animal Control Officer, a member of the council appointed by the mayor to deal with such issues. Currently, the councilor assigned to that task is Flaten.

Flaten argued that the ordinance makes sense for a city like Morristown with a strong rural identity. Noting that some neighboring towns have passed similar ordinances, he said it could makes sense given the unique situation posed by the pandemic.

“A lot of people are interested in producing their own food right now,” he said.

Not everyone is convinced. Mayor Tony Lindahl suggested that he was likely to vote no. Lindahl said that he worries about the issue of enforcement and believes that investing the time and effort to enforce the ordinance wouldn’t necessarily be worth it.

“I think we’ve got bigger issues to think about than chickens,” he said. “It’s just one or two individuals in town that are very outspoken about this.”

Longtime Councilor Lisa Karsten, who is leaving the council after declining to run for re-election, said she is undecided on how she would vote. In the past, she’s opposed similar proposals.

Karsten said that while the proposed ordinance is better written with its predecessors, she still has significant issues with it. In addition to the question of enforcement, Karsten is concerned about the issue of waste dumping.

“I’m very concerned that the waste from the chickens could end up at our public brush site,” she said. “It’s very tough for the city to maintain that brush site. People abuse it on a daily basis.”


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Locals react to governor's new COVID restrictions: worry, acceptance
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Amid a wave in new COVID infections across the state, Gov. Tim Walz on Tuesday announced new restrictions on bars, restaurants and other businesses.

Set to go into effect Friday, the changes most prominently includes a 10 p.m. curfew for in-person service at restaurants and bars. In addition, bar seating and counter service will be prohibited; standing games like pool and darts will be limited. In addition to those restrictions, larger group gatherings will be strictly limited over the next few weeks. Beginning Nov. 27, wedding receptions and other events will be capped at 50 people, which will be further reduced to 25 by Dec. 11.

“I feel like the guy in Footloose — no dancing, no fun,” the governor quipped, referring to a classic 1980s movie. “That is not my intention. My intention is to keep you safe so you can all dance a lot longer and our neighbors don’t get put at risk.”

Local businesses and chamber directors expressed concern over the restrictions and relief that they would be somewhat limited. Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism President Brad Meier noted that this is a crucial time of the year for many restaurants and urged area residents to support them.

“Our businesses are really working hard at creating a safe environment,” Meier said. “Even though restrictions are tightening, it doesn’t mean you can’t go to (local businesses).”

Meier’s counterpart at the Faribault Chamber, Nort Johnson, noted that across the state nearly 200 businesses have been investigated for suspected patron transmission of COVID and 117 have met the outbreak threshold and had their names publicly released. None of the 117 restaurants are located in Faribault, Owatonna or Northfield. Johnson said that’s a testament to the efforts of local businesses to keep patrons safe but added that even those restaurants named in reports are trying their hardest.

“Sometimes even the best efforts can fall on deaf ears with some patrons,” he said. “It’s a really hard time for restaurants and bars that are trying to make some sort of a comeback after a difficult year.”

Don Clayton of Basher’s Sports Bar and Grill in Faribault said that the effect of restrictions on his business are likely to be minimal. Clayton said that Basher’s has already had limited seating and is typically very quiet by 10 p.m.

“I’m fortunate that that’s all (the governor) decided to do and didn’t decide to do something more drastic,” he said.

Targeting the young

Walz says he’s implementing the restrictions with a particular eye to reducing the rate of infection among 18- to 34-year olds. Minnesotans in that age bracket have seen skyrocketing rates of infection and many pass it onto others while remaining asymptomatic.

As the numbers of cases have risen, the amount of available critical care beds throughout the state has plummeted. According to the governor’s numbers, 97% of critical care beds in the metro and 91% in southeast Minnesota are in use. The biggest driver of the skyrocketing rate of infection has been social events. According to the state, more than 70% of COVID outbreaks over the last several months can be traced back to private social gatherings, weddings or late nights at bars.

In his Tuesday afternoon press conference, the governor expressed frustration that with the rising number of cases, but warned that lax COVID restrictions have led to massive outbreaks in Minnesota’s neighboring states. Should the state let down its guard, he warned that a similar spike is likely to occur.

“If we want to get back to the things we love, we need to take some control over this (virus) and do what we can to contain the spread,” he said.

Walz said he feels for the state’s hospitality businesses, who have had to bear the brunt of the harshest restrictions throughout the pandemic. Still, he said that his approach has been guided by the science, and as deeply unfortunate it is, it’s hospitality businesses that have been most at risk.

While the bar curfew may be unprecedented, Walz said that state data shows it’s particularly important. According to the Governor, the transmission risk more than doubles after 9 p.m., as people become increasingly inebriated and let their guard down.

“This isn’t happening because (hospitality businesses) have been lax, but because this is where there’s the most spread,” he said.

Rice County Public Health Director Deb Purfeerst says the governor’s restrictions make sense. She noted that with cases rising dramatically across the state, the time to “dial back” the state’s opening has come.

“We know that community spread is at an all-time high right now,” she said. “We need to make sure we are protecting vulnerable populations.”

The governor has also declared his intention to extend his Peacetime State of Emergency Declaration for another 30 days and has called another special session, as required by the Minnesota Constitution, to give lawmakers a chance to block it.

‘Not going to let this bring me down’

Roger Warheim of Owatonna’s Foremost Brewing Co., expected to open later this month, said that the governor’s restrictions haven’t altered his bar’s plans significantly. According to Warheim, the only significant change is that the business will have to close at 10 instead of 11 as originally planned.

“As far as counter seating is concerned, we were planning on not having people at the bar,” he said. “When people imbibe while they’re facing the bartender, we know that can be a risky situation.”

Jeff LeBeau, longtime owner of Faribault’s Depot Bar and Grill, expressed frustration with the governor’s actions. LeBeau said he takes COVID deeply seriously, but feels singled out by the restrictions aimed mainly at bar and restaurant owners.

To keep his patrons safe, LeBeau said that he does everything to spread patrons out and bar riskier activities like dancing. Despite the challenges, he vowed that the Depot would survive COVID and continue to operate long into the future.

“I’m not going to let this bring me down,” he said. “We’ll do what we need to do.”

Scott Boldt of Faribault’s Boldt Funeral Home said that the pandemic has been particularly hard for many families, and especially crushing for those who have lost a loved one to COVID and have not been able to see them in their final moments.

“It’s so sad when an individual cannot be with a person that’s dying due to COVID,” he said. “It makes their stress and grief even harder.”

Boldt noted that Walz’s new restrictions will only apply to funeral receptions, not the funeral itself. That makes it more limited than previous restrictions implemented by the governor while still providing additional safety and peace of mind.