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REGIONAL ROUNDUP Students debate timely issue in Lanesboro

LANESBORO -- Whether the nature of humanity is good or evil will be formally debated by four high school students from North Carolina, New Jersey and Massachusetts at 7 p.m. Saturday in Lanesboro, though the question has been on local people's minds for more than a week.

The event is the second annual Kids Philosophy Slam, which asks youths nationwide to submit their ideas. The best four -- two on each side -- are invited to debate the issue in Lanesboro. Last year, the question was what is stronger, love or hate. Love triumphed.

This year, however, the question of good and evil has more meaning for the town because former Lanesboro Police Chief John Tuchek is accused of starting a fire April 7 that destroyed three buildings and damaged two others; the loss was about $500,000.

John Davis, president of the Lanesboro Chamber of Commerce and head of the philosophy slam, said because of the fire and felony charges, the question "is a topic people are talking about. …; I believe that more people will come to this event because of what happened in Lanesboro and to show support for the local event as well."

The students who contend that humanity is basically good are Dimpel Patel, 17, of Charlotte, N.C., and Vineetha Joseph, 17, of Nutley, N.J. Taking the position that humanity is basically evil will be Kaitlin Crosta and Adam Holmes, both of Abington, Mass.

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The slam is a way for youths to think about more philosophical questions. In the event, a finalist for the good side and one for the evil will be chosen, and the audience may ask questions. The audience then votes on who has the strongest argument.

The debate will be at the Lanesboro community center. Doors open at 6 p.m.; seating is limited. Tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for students.

-- John Weiss

Couple's gift helps St. Elizabeth's reach goal

WABASHA -- A second gift from Sandy and Bob Klas of the Twin Cities helped St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Wabasha reach its fund-raising goal of $2 million.

The two donated $200,000 to reach the goal, said Jenny Schlagenhaft, St. Elizabeth's spokeswoman. The Klases began the campaign with a $500,000 gift, she said.

Bob Klas grew up in Wabasha, and the couple has a house there.

The fund-raiser began as a way to upgrade the hospital's emergency room, operating room and other facilities. The project was completed last year, but the rest of the money wasn't raised until the Klases' second gift, which was announced last week, Schlagenhaft said.

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Still, the campaign "was definitely a communitywide effort, even beyond Wabasha into surrounding areas," she said.

-- John Weiss

St. Charles schools going mercury-free

ST. CHARLES -- St. Charles High School is one of 92 schools in Minnesota to participate in the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Mercury-Free Zone program. It is the only district in this area to participate.

The agency is trying to get other public and private high schools to take a pledge to get mercury out of their schools. Mercury can show up in lab equipment, sink traps and floor drains. Schools have an average of 2.5 pounds of mercury in equipment and storerooms. Mercury, according to the pollution control agency, can affect the way people feel, see, hear, taste and touch. The mercury from one thermometer can contaminate a 20-acre lake, the agency said.

For more information, call 1-800-657-3864.

-- John Weiss

Wabasha on flood-study waiting list

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WABASHA -- Wabasha escaped major spring flooding this year when the Mississippi River, which was projected to peak today, scarcely got out of its banks.

But the river will likely rise higher in coming years, as it did with a vengeance last year, and the city has asked the U.S. Corps of Engineers to look into a way to help reduce water and damage.

The corps has put Wabasha on a list with about a dozen other cities in the Upper Midwest that also want some help, said St. Paul corps spokesman Mark Davidson. The corps doesn't have enough money to even do a study, let alone make changes, he said. The only way Wabasha could get a study soon would be if someone in Congress ordered it, he said.

A study would take 12 to 18 months, Davidson said. After that, the corps would determine how serious the problem is, how much it would cost to fix it and whether the benefit is worth that cost.

If a project is done, the corps could pay no more than $7 million, Davidson said. The federal share would be 65 percent, with the city and county, and perhaps the state, providing the rest, he said.

Tom Crump of the corps, who has toured Wabasha, said one idea is to remove the old railroad bridge over a slough that goes through the town. A new bridge would be built that could drop a gate during high water so the Mississippi wouldn't back up behind the town and flood areas away from the river bank, he said.

If the corps gets more funding next fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1, it will decide which cities would get studies first, he said.

-- John Weiss

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Regional Roundup appears Friday in the Post-Bulletin. If you have comments or news items, call John Weiss, regional reporter, 285-7749.

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