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The Regional Report: Who's new at the zoo?

AITKIN COUNTY

• A master sergeant with the Aitkin County Sheriff's Office announced his candidacy for the top law enforcement officer in the county, the Aiktin Independent Age reported. Dan Guida has been part of the sheriff's office since 1994 as a deputy, boat and water recreational officer and patrol sergeant before obtaining the rank of master sergeant. He's a military veteran, serving for 20 years in the U.S. Army and Air Force reserves, including a deployment to Afghanistan.

• A state forest in Aitkin County was expanded, thanks to a habitat protection project led by the Mississippi Headwaters Board, the Aitkin Independent Age reported. The Savanna State Forest grew by 160 acres, including 1.25 miles of Mississippi River frontage in Verdon Township, north of McGregor. The land was originally for sale on the private market, but will instead by added to the holdings of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. It will be open to the public for hunting, fishing, camping and other outdoor recreation, in line with other state forests.

LITTLE FALLS

• Visitors to the Pine Grove Zoo in Little Falls will soon be greeted by some new furry creatures, the Morrison County Record reported. After two years of preparation, the zoo will add an otter exhibit to its offerings. Plans call for a new large pool with viewing windows both into the pool and into the land habitat. The pool will also contain two protruding glass tubes, allowing visitors to be surrounded by the underwater habitat.

Zoo Director Marnita Van Hoecke said otters are a popular exhibit at many zoos, because the animals are playful and active.

CUYUNA

• Residents of Cuyuna will see increases to their water and sewer rates, the Crosby-Ironton Courier reported. The city council discussed needed improvements to the city's water infrastructure, some of which is more than a century old. A pumphouse needs upgrading, City Engineer Tim Houle told the council, and a second well will need to be added at some point. The city of Cuyuna is eligible for state funding for its additional water well, but would need to prioritize the project to be considered, Houle said.

STAPLES

• City and economic development officials in Staples decided to move forward with two new tax-increment financing projects, the Staples World reported. The TIF districts—which are intended to incentivize development by permitting developers to retain money they'd otherwise spend on property taxes for a set period of time—will be designated as part of plans to construct both an apartment complex and a professional building.

The council will host public hearings on both projects at 7 p.m. April 24 at Staples City Hall.

-- Compiled by Chelsey Perkins, community editor. Perkins may be reached at 218-855-5874 or chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com. Follow her on Twitter @DispatchChelsey or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dispatchchelsey.

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