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Four more years of free fairs

About six months ago, the McLeod County Board approved $100,000 to make the 150th anniversary of the McLeod County Fair free for all. This past week, it agreed unanimously to keep the change going for a few more years.

The original $100,000 investment came from American Rescue Plan Act funds, and the same is true for the $400,000 needed to offset the entrance gate revenue for 2023, 2024, 2025 and 2026. The figure is based on the average revenue generated in gate admission fees. Free fair attendance was originally discussed by the board as a one-time investment, but a positive year of attendance had members speaking enthusiastically of extending the investment.

“The success was pretty easy to see this year,” said board Vice Chairnan Paul Wright. “We’re at the point where we can allocate dollars. I think it’s a great way to get the community out and enjoy what is all there.”

“You think when somebody gives you some money, it’d be pretty easy to spend it,” said Chairman Doug Krueger. “Well, it’s easy to spend it, but it’s hard to spend it in the right places and try to do the best you can to benefit everybody. ... I think what we’re doing here is good for all of McLeod County.”

The fund allocation passed unanimously.

A report regarding the 2022 fair was originally scheduled to be reviewed by the County Board this past week but was delayed until the next meeting.

ARPA funds are federal dollars given to state, local and tribal governments hurt by the coronavirus pandemic. The $1.9 trillion stimulus bill, which was designed to aid public health and economic recovery, was signed by President Joe Biden in early 2021. McLeod County’s share was $6.9 million. Funds have been allocated to numerous expenses over the past year.


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County makes major parks investment

The McLeod County Board agreed this past week to set aside major American Rescue Plan Act funds for upcoming projects and plans, the largest being a $2.7 million allocation for fairgrounds and parks.

Those funds would target eligible enhancement and improvement projects.

“This is undoubtedly a lot of money, and it should catch peoples’ attention,” said board Vice Chairman Paul Wright. “We’ve had long range planning on the fairgrounds, we’re in the process of the parks plan. These are public assets, amenities, that we have here not only for our constituents, but also bring people through McLeod County.”

While the county often looks at project ideas, when it comes to figuring out how to fit them in the budget, there is no room.

“This is a way to definitely do some improvements, some repairs, without having to use levy funds,” Wright said, “and be able to devote some time into planning some of those projects without wasting a lot of time planning a project and then at the end we don’t have money for it. This is an opportunity to cover a lot of ground.”

The $2.7 million will be set aside, with individual expenditures reviewed as each project is brought to the Board.

“We’ll cross the projects as they come,” said board Chairman Doug Krueger.

Another major investment was $45,000 for the County Ditch 11 wetland project in Winsted. It will help match a Clean Water Grant secured by the Mcleod County Soil and Water Conservation District for $50,000, with Winsted providing the additional funds to meet the $96,000 cost. Winsted will also cover additional project costs, such as engineering, and work time.

“It’s clean water, and when we’re judged on clean water, we’re not judged on Winsted, Brownton or Hutchinson,” Krueger said. “It’s overall. Our SWCDs work hard to keep working that forward. It’s a necessary evil that we take all the steps to run McLeod County’s drainage in a prudent and legal way. I’m also very satisfied with it.”

The county also set aside $50,000 for the Buffalo Creek Watershed clean water project on County Ditch 15. Renville County is contributing $25,000. The Buffalo Creek Watershed District is providing matching funds of $75,000. Also approved was $5,270 for ARMER radios in Hutchinson and Silver Lake. Matching funds will be provided by each city for the cost of additional equipment. Following a busy 150th anniversary of the McLeod County Fair, during which admission was free following a $100,000 ARPA investment, another $400,000 was set aside to provide free admission for four more years.

These fund allocations were approved unanimously.

ARPA funds are federal dollars given to state, local and tribal governments hurt by the coronavirus pandemic. The $1.9 trillion stimulus bill, which was designed to aid public health and economic recovery, was signed by President Joe Biden in early 2021. McLeod County’s share was $6.9 million. Funds have been allocated to numerous expenses over the past year.


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Election results (copy)

Voters went to the polls in McLeod County and throughout the country Tuesday with many key races on the ballot for local, state and federal office.

Hutchinson voters saw contested races for two city council seats, three school board seats, county attorney and others on the ballot.

Meanwhile, there were contested races for state House District 17A and Senate District 17 to be considered, in addition to the full slate of constitutional offices, from governor to auditor. Voters also were confronted with a choice in U.S. House District 7, as well as some judicial seats.

This edition of the Hutchinson Leader went to press before polls closed. However, election results will be reported online at www.hutchinsonleader.com as results become available. In addition, full coverage will be provided in the Nov. 16 print edition of the Leader.


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Beyond the Yellow Ribbon committee seeks new members

The McLeod County Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Committee hopes to revitalize itself with some new blood.

During a McLeod County Board meeting this past week, new BTYR steering committee chairman James Entinger said that at a Nov. 16 stakeholders meeting, a change from monthly to quarterly meetings will be discussed in response to dwindling participation. The secretary position on the committee is open.

“When I was appointed in April, the former chairman had to step down for medical reasons,” Entinger explained.

Shortly after, the committee took on its annual task of distributing flag pins — donated by the Hutchinson DAV — to graduating seniors who have committed to military service. This year, 15 seniors from Hutchinson, Glencoe and Lester Prairie received the pins.

“One of our main workers also had to step down for medical reasons. So, it was basically me and Cassandra (Carrigan),” Entinger said.

In the future, BTYR hopes to have a small presentation, and present the flags in person to each graduating senior who has made a military commitment.

Overall, Beyond the Yellow Ribbon’s goal is to provide support and resources to returning veterans who extend beyond that first “welcome back.” It compiles veteran resources, and information for groups, individuals and organizations that want to support veterans. Among its offerings, BTYR maintains an extensive benefits list that includes business names and contact information. More information can be found at tinyurl.com/mcleodbtyr.

The group can be reached by phone at 320-864-1454 or by email at mcleodbtyr@gmail.com.

During the McLeod County Fair, the local BTYR hosted its eighth annual Welcome Home event. Donations were made by 53 military organizations and private businesses, as well as by 37 county employees. Eighteen gift bags were distributed to returning veterans.

“This is the most veterans we have had returning at one time in anybody’s memory,” Entinger said. “We usually have between six, seven and eight.”

He said that without the help of Cassandra Carrigan, “I probably would have sunk. But we kept everything going.”

Though the McLeod County BTYR is seeking more helping hands, veteran services across the county are, overall, something to be proud of, Entinger said. As an American Legion officer, he travels across the state for meetings, and has had a look at services in other counties.

“Counties are hurting to try and help veterans,” he said. “We have two excellent (Veteran Service Officers).”

They are Carrigan and Jim Lauer.

“We have van programs, we have assistance funds ... there is that special fundraiser in Hutch every year, Hometown Heroes,” Entinger said. “McLeod County can be damn proud of what they do for veterans, and I sincerely believe that.”

McLeod County Administrator Sheila Murphy said she frequently sees Entinger busy at community events.

“You do a great job,” she told him. “We’re grateful for Cassandra, too, we’re lucky to have her.”


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