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Paynesville Press - November 19, 2003

Stearns County receives grant for alcohol safety

By Michael Jacobson

The Stearns County Board of Commissioners took the following actions at their meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 5.

*Stearns County received a $35,000 federal grant for alcohol safety. This grant was available to 13 Minnesota counties based on risk factors and statistics relating to alcohol and drug use while driving.

Stearns County has consistently exceeded the state average in chronic alcohol use and drinking and driving. In 2002, statistics from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety show 122 people were killed or injured in alcohol-related crashes in Stearns County, which places the county as the seventh highest among the 87 Minnesota counties. Additionally, 145 drivers who were suspected of drinking and driving were involved in traffic crashes.

In over 20 percent of the total crashes in the county last year, alcohol was either confirmed or suspected to be involved.

Through these grant dollars, the county hopes to increase the use of passenger restraints and decrease the number of fatalities and injuries caused by the use of alcohol and drugs while driving.

*The board agreed to take additional steps to bring the Lake Wobegon Trail - which now runs to St. Joseph - into St. Cloud. The board authorized county park staff to approach the Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railroad Company about sharing the rail corridor from St. Joseph to St Cloud.

This rail corridor is currently used, but train traffic is slow. Sharing the corridor means building the biking and walking trail next to the rail line, a similar arrangement that has been made for rails-with-trails in about 70 places in the country, including Minneapolis. If such an arrangement were made, it would allow the trail to extend to the Mississippi River in downtown St. Cloud.

The park department also announced that the county has received a $113,000 grant from the DNR to extend the Lake Wobegon Trail from Holdingford to the Morrison county line. The county already received a federal grant that will cover 80 percent of the $468,000 cost for this. The county's share of this project - which could take place in 2005 - is between $40,000-$45,000.

The 46-mile Lake Wobegon Trail currently runs from St. Joseph to Sauk Centre with a spur going from Albany to Holdingford.

*The board authorized establishing a citizen advisory committee to look into rock climbing at the county's Quarry Park. Rock climbing is part of the master plan, written in 1995, for the park.

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