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Cows and Contentment: A look at what’s been happening lately around Northfield

Wellstone Organization Reborn?

State Representative David Bly told a group of Carls on Wednesday night that he hopes to revive the late-US Senator Paul Wellstone’s Organization for a Better Rice County (OBRC).

Bly plans to work on the project over the summer with Representative Patti Fritz (who represents much of southern Rice County including Faribault). Although he would help restart the organization, Bly expects that someone else from the community would lead the organization if it gets off the ground.

The OBRC was Wellstone’s first foray into local politics and community organizing as an assistant professor at Carleton in the early 1970’s. The organization took a conflict-oriented approach to involve poor people as well as Carleton students in issues like housing, and welfare. Wellstone briefly lost his teaching job at Carleton for his role in the controversial organization, but after a successful student protest he was rehired and additionally became the youngest Carleton professor to receive tenure.

Representative Bly fittingly brought up the subject of reviving the OBRC at the Wellstone House of Organizing and Activism (WHOA), where campus activists had gathered to discuss the future of campus activism following the defeat of the MPIRG reusable/refundable fee in last week’s referendum. The meeting brought together leaders of both sides of the campaign in an atmosphere that oscillated between tense and reconciliatory.

Depot Dealings

Northfield’s 1889 passenger train depot is for sale for $1. The catch is that the Canadian Pacific Railroad wants the historic building moved off of its land along the railroad tracks behind the Quarterback Club.

This past week Northfield’s Historical Preservation Committee discussed Canadian’s offer. Due to the City’s current budget crunch, the committee has no immediate plans. But the committee is currently looking to partner with a business or a non-profit organization to preserve the building. Restoration of the building would include asbestos and lead abatement.

Another possible buyer is Farmer’s Insurance Agent Rob Martin who said that he is “very preliminarily” considering moving the property. Martin has a new site chosen for the building, but is still waiting to see how much the lead and asbestos removal would cost before he takes further action.

Officially known as the Missouri Road Depot, Northfield’s passenger station was built following an 1888 fire that consumed the previous building. A brick veneer construction, the depot originally contained an ornamental railing along the roof and separate waiting rooms for men and women. The depot was still in heavy use in the 1960’s when hundreds of students used it to come to college. The depot took its last passengers in 1981.

This is not the first time the building has been up for adoption. In 1983, Northfield Historical Society volunteer Chip DeMann came forward to move the building in the face of likely demolition. He withdrew his offer when the railroad company decided to use the building for freight storage instead of demolishing it.

Nevada Street Arson?

The fire that consumed an unoccupied residence three blocks from Parish House early Sunday morning may have been arson, say authorities.

The three bedrooms single bath home was built in 1873 and is valued at $73,000. The fire began sometime before 2:50 a.m and burned the building beyond repair.

The property belongs to Tammy Hildebrandt Chorlton of Hastings, MN, who purchased it in 2005 and subsequently used it as a rental – although not always with the correct permits.

In the past few months, the home has attracted attention for its unkempt appearances. Two neighbors complained about it at a February Council, and last week Chorlton missed a court date about making repairs to the house.

Despite the building’s flaws, the city prosecutor tasked with last week’s case said that there is nothing in the building inspector’s reports to suggest a fire hazard. The house has been unoccupied and without electricity since the first of the month.

Lab tests that are expected back sometime next week should confirm the cause of the fire.

Source: The Northfield News

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