WINONA — The City of Winona will host its first Virtual Live @the Levee event from 4 to 6 p.m. Jan. 17.

The event will include music curated by Treedome Studios, featuring local musicians on virtual stages, and attendees will be able to move from one group to another, talking virtually among themselves.

Attendees can sign up at www.cityofwinona.com/531/Virtual-Live-the-Levee. Attendees will need a laptop computer, desktop computer, smartphone or tablet.

For more information, visit cityofwinona.com or the WINONArts Facebook page.

Mower County SWCD offering trees for landowners

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AUSTIN — The Mower County Soil and Water Conservation District is offering a variety of trees to be used as windbreaks and wildlife habitat.

The annual program, available online at mowerswcd.org/tree_seed_sales, features bundles of bareroot trees and shrubs — mostly sold in bundles of 25, or there are four types of evergreens grown individually in containers — that can be ordered through the winter. Those interested can print the order form for mailing with a payment to Mower County SWCD or place an order online through the website. Limited quantities will be available after Feb. 28, and order cancellations will not be accepted after that date.

All orders must be placed and fully paid by April 1 with Mower County SWCD.

“Orders are on a first-come, first-serve basis, meaning that the sooner you place your order, the more likely you will get the trees you want,” said James Fett, tree program coordinator.

Varieties available this year include Common Chokeberry (small tree) and American Plum (shrub), along with two that used to be on the tree list: American Cranberry bush (shrub) and White Pine (evergreen tree).

Landowners who have questions or need help with planning a windbreak are encouraged to contact Larry Callahan at larry@mowerdistrict.org. For more information, call 507-434-2603, ext. 5.

New COVID-19 testing hours in Winona begin Monday

WINONA — Beginning Monday, Winona Health will offer new hours for COVID-19 walk-in testing at the testing site is on the first floor of the Parkview Office Building, 825 Mankato Ave.

Those coming for COVID-19 testing are encouraged to dress appropriately for the weather in the event that the line extends outside the building. Masking and distancing precautions are required. People who would like to be tested at Winona Health outside of those hours will be directed to Urgent Care to see a provider.

For more information, visit www.winonahealth.org.

SMIF donates $180,000 for early childhood care

OWATONNA — Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Education, approved 18 grants through its Early Care and Education Wrap Around Grant program totaling $180,000.

The program helps fund early care and education services for children birth to age 8 from underserved populations in SMIF’s 20-county region impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recipients in Southeast Minnesota include Big Brothers Big Sisters of the 7 Rivers Region in Winona, Boys & Girls Club of Rochester, Dover-Eyota Public Schools, Families First of Minnesota in Olmsted County, Kasson-Mantorville Schools, Rochester YMCA, Saint Charles Public Schools, Stewartville Public Schools Community Education and Winona State University Children’s Center.

"It has always been SMIF’s mission to respond to early childhood needs in the region," said Rae Jean Hansen, vice president of early childhood at SMIF. "The pandemic has put new strains on the programs and people who care for young children. We are honored to partner with MDE and the GEER Fund to support children who rely on these organizations for their overall well-being."

Mower County Board will hear proposed changes to septic regulations

AUSTIN — At its meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday, the Mower County Board of Commissioners will hear the proposed revisions to the subsurface sewage treatment systems ordinance.

In late December, the Mower County Planning Commission voted to forward the proposed changes for adoption by the county board, which launched a septic initiative a year ago to complete the final phase of the county’s long-running initiative to achieve septic compliance countywide.

"Poorly functioning septic systems are threats to human health and the environment,” said Angela Lipelt, Mower County Environmental Services supervisor. “These proposed revisions will better help us find and fix systems that likely are not removing pathogens, nutrients and other chemicals from wastewater before it enters our groundwater, lakes and streams.”

In 2020, Mower County made record progress working with property owners to get their septic systems into compliance. Overall, 128 new systems were installed, topping a previous record of 125 systems a decade ago. Another eight septic systems already have approval for construction in 2021, Lipelt said.

Proposed changes to the ordinance include additional compliance-inspection prompts; commercial and industrial septic systems needing to maintain constant compliance either through inspections or operating permits; and septic systems (if not compliant) needing to be upgraded before transferring property or an escrow will need to be established to transfer the property.