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As BSA announces bankruptcy, it's 'business as usual' for Hutchinson Scouts

The Boy Scouts of America has filed for bankruptcy in the face of about 300 lawsuits from men alleging sexual abuse. And while the future of BSA properties around the United States is still in question, it appears Hutchinson's Boy Scout and Cub Scout troops won't face disruption.

Boy Scout Troop 623, Boy Scout Troop 246, Cub Scout Pack 3246 and Cub Scout Pack 3236, all of Hutchinson, are part of the Northern Star Council.

"In a word, 'no,' there will be no changes," said Brett Rasmussen, scout master of Troop 623. "(Northern Star is) independent and self-sufficient from the national organization."

He said he's heard news reports indicating there may be a trickle down effect from the national organization.

"We'll see," he said. "As of right now, going forward, it's business as usual. ... Everyone in Hutchinson is part of Northern Star Council. It's one of the largest sizewise and for youth numbers. It's top five."

Though the national organization approves Eagle Scout projects, Northern Star Council handles most scout advancements. Rasmussen doesn't foresee any change for the day-to-day operations of his 25-youth troop.

In a statement, Northern Star Council said it was separately incorporated from BSA and financially sound.

"All of our camps, programs, trainings, meetings and activities will continue uninterrupted," reads the statement.

Dean Loncorich, Cubmaster of Troop 3236, confirmed Cub Scout troops had received the same message.

"Nothing is going to change as far as programs or anything like that," he said.

He noted that many of the lawsuits against BSA date back 30 years.

"They have really, really strengthened what they call youth protection," Loncorich said. "There is mandatory, every year, two hours of online training plus background checks of youth leaders. This doesn't downplay what happened. But they are trying to be proactive from stopping it from happening anymore."

He said the Northern Star Council had increased its fee rates to increase troop protection training.

BSA 'devastated' about allegations

BSA filed for Chapter 11, which means it may attempt to create a plan to reorganize and stay together while paying debts over time.

In a press release, St. Paul law firm Jeff Anderson and Associates, which represents hundreds of survivors of sexual abuse in the Boy Scouts, accused BSA of using the Chapter 11 filing to keep perpetrator names and documents secret. It also accuses BSA of having hidden files regarding alleged perpetrators for decades.

In an open letter to victims, Jum Turley, BSA national chair, said he regretted that measures in place today to protect youth weren't in place in the past.

"I am outraged that individuals took advantage of our programs to commit these heinous acts. I am also outraged that there were times when volunteers and employees ignored our procedures or forgave transgressions that are unforgivable. In some cases, this led to tragic acts of abuse," he said. "On behalf of myself and the entire Scouting community: I am sorry. I am devastated that there were times in the past when we failed the very children we were supposed to protect."


As hemp production booms, Rep. Collin Peterson wants to expand the CBD market

In Minnesota, hemp farming looks different these days. Joe Radinovich, the executive director of the Minnesota Hemp Association, has one word to describe it: an “explosion.”

In 2018, only 10 percent of the state’s 700 acres of hemp were used to produce CBD, according to the MHA. By 2019, the state grew 8,000 acres of hemp and used 400,000 indoor square feet of growing space, 78 percent of which was used to produce CBD.

“There’s been this explosion, obviously, in the extraction market,” said Radinovich, who previously ran to represent the 8th District in Congress in 2018 and now leads the MHA.

But there’s a problem for hemp farmers and refiners: Hemp prices are falling as CBD demand isn’t matching production. At the same time, CBD products cannot be marketed as dietary supplements or health products, meaning they have very narrow opportunity to be sold.

Rep. Collin Peterson’s bill H.R.5587, would change the way the Food and Drug Administration regulates CBD-products, allowing CBD to be marketed as a dietary supplement. Additionally, it would require the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study market barriers for hemp.

“I know folks in my district that are excited about the potential for hemp, and while I want them to recognize that there’s still a ways to go yet, I also want to help establish a roadmap to get there,” Peterson, the Chair of the House Agriculture Committee, told MinnPost.

“That’s what the bill is about,” he said, “setting a path to viability for hemp and CBD that focuses on the people who produce it.”

The history

Peterson’s bill is a small chip at much larger barriers for the hemp market.

“One thing that’s kind of holding it back is still a sense that we don’t know where these regulations are going. And I think that Chairman Peterson’s bill is a good step,” said Radinovich.

Hemp is a strain of cannabis specifically grown for industrial use. Unlike the commonly used drug form, hemp has low levels of THC, tetrahydrocannabinol, the primary psychoactive compound in the plant. Any plant with a THC content over 0.3 percent is classified as an illegal drug by the federal government. While extraction from cannabis varieties with higher THC content is illegal, CBD, or cannabidiol, can as of recently be extracted from hemp.

The history of hemp farming has been fraught with regulatory hurdles. Federal law passed in 1937, the Marihuana Tax Act, did not distinguish hemp from other cannabis, effectively making hemp production too expensive. There was a brief government effort to produce hemp during World War II, when the U.S. government released a documentary called Hemp for Victory, to encourage hemp production for the war. All forms of cannabis were banned under the Controlled Substances Act in 1970.

The growth of hemp on such a large scale is a recent development. Pilot programs were only recently authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, which allowed states to develop limited amounts of farm to grow and study the production of hemp in coordination with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. More recently, the 2018 Farm Bill, championed by Peterson, went further: allowing the transfer of hemp products across state lines and placing no restrictions on the sale or possession of hemp-derived products. It also created a legal pathway for creating products containing CBD.

In 2016, the Minnesota pilot program allowed six participants to grow hemp, the first time hemp was grown in Minnesota since the 1950s. By 2018, there were 51 participants.

Relaxing of CBD regulations

Peterson said that he recently visited a plant in western Kentucky, in an area that’s represented by Rep. James Comer, R-Kentucky, where they’re making flooring out of hemp.

“There’s a lot that we can do, but not much clarity on how we’re going to do it,” he said. “Farmers deserve a straight answer to the question of what’s standing between them and developing this market.”

His new bill has support from both sides of the aisle, with three initial co-sponsors: Comer, Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, and Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Kentucky.

“I think I’m the only member of Congress that said in a committee hearing that I take CBD oil,” Comer told Bloomberg News. “After the meeting, members in Congress from both parties started coming up to me, whispering in my ear they take CBD oil, too.”

While the relaxing of regulation for CBD is new, so is the research into what exactly CBD can effectively treat. There is not a lot of scientific consensus on what CBD is effective for, nor conclusive suggestions on how much of a dose should be taken for therapeutic use.

Under the Trump administration, Radinovich described a double edged sword. He said that while the 2018 Farm Bill signed by the president has undoubtedly allowed hemp to go from a pilot program to a full-scale program, recent interim rules issued by the USDA for hemp could damage the industry.

The key issue in the new proposed rules: requiring fields to be tested within 15 days of harvest and tested in a lab registered by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Advocates for the industry, like the Minnesota Hemp Association, say that’s entirely untenable when compared to the current 30-day rule. Additionally, the new rules require that the crop cannot be harvested until the results are returned.

The proposed rules are “extremely problematic for hemp farmers,” said Radinovich. “And in my opinion, represent a clear step backward from the pilot program rules that we were operating under here, at least in Minnesota.”

Peterson echoed Radinovich.

“I appreciate USDA’s work getting the rule out, but folks I talk to say it misses the mark for a workable program,” he said. “That‘s why pioneering states like Minnesota and Kentucky are choosing to operate under the authorities contained in the 2014 Farm Bill. I have concerns with guidance USDA issued on testing, sampling, and the involvement of the DEA.”

“We need a program that will work for states and growers,” he added, “and we aren’t there yet.”


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ON STAGE
Help your young star become a triple threat at spring theatre workshop

While school breaks often mean family vacations and weekend excursions, it can also be a time of learning and personal enrichment.

If you're a student in fourth through ninth grade and your spring break involves a staycation in town, jazz it up with YoungStars director Cassie Jurgenson's second Youth Musical Theatre Intensive workshop. The three-day class is 9:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, March 11-13, at the Hutchinson Middle School. The fee is $30.

The second workshop is open to all students whether you're a first-time actor or a stage veteran. Jurgenson said 26 students participated in the winter session Dec. 30-31.

"I believe the first segment of this intensive went very well considering it was the first run of the opportunity in Hutchinson," she said. "It seemed like the participants were having a lot of fun while learning many great techniques in musical theater, in the safe space we strived to provide."

Jurgenson must have delivered because returning students are already registered for the upcoming workshop.

"I'm hopeful to see many new participants register in these next few weeks," she said.

Following the same format as the earlier session, a minimum of 20 students is needed, with a maximum of 40 allowed. Jurgenson plans to have two rotation groups: grades 4-6 and grades 7-9. Rotations include specific instruction on voice, dance and acting, reflecting the difficulty level within the grade/age of each group.

If you're wondering what the difference is between the two sessions, Jurgenson said the spring offering of the intensive is a continuation of the goals of the winter workshop: introducing and growing basic skills — the 'triple threat' of musical theater including dance, singing and acting. The spring session also offers new instructors and will run three days rather than two.

"The additional day will allow for more time for large group, small group and individual exploration through different master classes," Jurgenson said. "There will be time as well for a small, private showing for parents/guardians. We are looking forward to lots of musical theater fun."

Instructor Shelby Loften is a new face joining the spring workshop. She is a vocalist, pianist and experienced teacher living in Hutchinson. She directs a number of men's choirs at Dassel-Cokato Public Schools and operates a private in-home music studio where she provides voice and piano lessons to students of all ages and abilities. If her name sounds familiar, it might be because she can often be found playing keyboard on Friday nights at Zellas in downtown Hutchinson.

Why is Jurgenson, a University of Minnesota student, investing her time and energy to deliver theater instruction to hometown students? It grew out of her involvement with Hutchinson Theatre Company's YoungStars program. Jurgenson was a participant, teen mentor and is now directing the summer offering. Students and families who participated wanted more theater opportunities for their children. So Jurgenson stepped up.

“I really enjoy the teaching aspect of it,” she said in an earlier Leader interview. “I love teaching about acting and theater in general.”

YOUNGSTARS 2020

In addition to the spring theater workshop, Jurgenson is once again directing the four-week YoungStars theater educational workshop June 8 through July 1 in the multipurpose room at New Discoveries Montessori Academy in Hutchinson. This program is open to area youth going into grades 5-9.

This year's play is "Caught in the Web" by Brian D. Taylor. It stars phone-obsessed teens Sarah and Derek who have heard their parents' cautionary nagging before: "One of these days you're gonna get sucked up into that phone!" And then one day, it happened. The two teens find themselves trapped in the internet and taking a wild ride through the World Wide Web. Expect to meet memes, viral videos, games, dating sites, social media and more.

The play performance dates are 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 1, and Tuesday, July 2.

Registration for YoungStars opens Monday, May 4, and is limited to the first 35 students. For more information, visit hutchtheatre.org or email Jurgenson at youngstarshutch@gmail.com.


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McLeod County Board presses on with $7M Morningside project

The McLeod County Board is moving closer to the launch of a roughly $7 million project to extend Morningside Drive in Glencoe.

At its meeting Tuesday, board members approved two items related to the project that were tabled for review two weeks prior. Those items are toward the end of a checklist that will lead to the county seeking construction bids.

One item sought the approval of a maintenance agreement with Twin Cities and Western Railroad Co. not to exceed $1.29 million. Funds will come from the highway construction budget but ultimately be split with Glencoe. The maintenance agreement includes improvements to safety with railroad siding extensions and emergency vehicle access for which TCW will largely pay. The agreement is required for state aid for a railroad crossing.

The board also approved an additional $74,010 to reimburse engineering firm Short Elliont Hendrickson for additional work as a result of the project's increased scope.

During the Feb. 4 meeting, Board Vice Chair Doug Krueger said his support and constituent support for the project had eroded as costs went up. He pushed for the items to be tabled for further discussion.

The project would extend Morningside Drive to 16th Street on the northeast side of Glencoe, near Coborn's grocery store. It was pitched as a $2 million undertaking in 2005, but the price tag grew as the project grew to take on wetland mitigation, property acquisitions and easements and maintenance required to cross the railroad. Engineering and testing costs doubled over time due to the growing scope.

Between the two County Board meetings, the budget committee met to review the project's scope and cost, and its funding sources, and met with project partners. McLeod County and Glencoe split the largest share of project costs ($1.97 million each) with another large contribution from the state ($2.35 million). Federal rail funding will add $180,000 and the Brown Creek Watershed District will pitch in $75,000.

Krueger said the meetings gave him a chance to check in with Glencoe city officials.

"I wanted to make sure the city was still on board," he said.

Though the two items passed Tuesday without discussion, Krueger said he still had the same concerns.

"But it's all been said," he said. "This is the third leg of a project that just needs to get done. We can't keep discussing it. I'm not happy with the amount of money being spent."

The project was designed to give motorists passing through the city a faster route with fewer turns to and from U.S. Highway 212, improve safety by moving traffic from the high school, and allow motorists to avoid downtown Glencoe. Though the route was originally planned in the 1960s, a 2003 study conducted by state and local governments named it as an ideal passage for regional traffic, including vehicles traveling between Hutchinson and the Twin Cities. The route also provides a direct line from U.S. Highway 212 to State Highway 7.

Data reviewed by the budget committee shows the largest projected cost increases were due to road, trail and storm sewer work. Costs in that category rose from $1.7 million in 2005 to $3.8 million in 2020. The cost of projected railroad work expenses also grew from $150,000 to $1.65 million in that time period. Wetland mitigation added on $13,974, and engineering came to $607,085. Property acquisitions and land easements, such as for the relocation of two residences, added up to $787,184 that has already been paid. All told, the project's estimate sits at $6.9 million. 

As the project costs went up, new benefits were included. Union Avenue to the west doesn't meet state safety standards, but Morningside will have a median, new gates and arms, and meet state standards. The addition of railroad siding is expected to virtually eliminate train switching and blocking roads. Drainage for McLeod County Housing Redevelopment Authority homes along the Morningside corridor will be improved, as current storm ponds don't have an outlet. Plans include improved drainage for Glencoe related to its North Central Storm Ponds. The improvements should address emergency overflows during large storms.

A new trail system will also be added along Morningside Drive between 11th Street and 16th Street and connect to the existing system for safer pedestrian travel.

"I think it's good for Glencoe," Krueger said. "It's quite a cost to pay, but it's more than just a road. There are two crossings out of compliance, there are a whole bunch of drainage issues that should be resolved in this. It's a big issue."