State champs again
THUMBS UP: Congratulations to the Marshall High School volleyball team on winning this year's Class AA state title and to the Minneota Vikings for taking home the third-place trophy in Class A. The Tigers and Vikings this year continued a strong tradition of Independent-area teams not only representing the region at the state volleyball tournament, but excelling there as well - a tradition that stretches back for decades. Marshall's championship is the fourth in school history and fourth in the last eight years, but its tradition of dominant volleyball started in 1977 when the Tigers made their first of five straight trips to state. After missing out in 1982, the Tigers returned to the big stage four more times in the '80s and three times in the '90s. Marshall has made it to state every year for the last 11 years; only Class AA powerhouse Columbia Heights (14) and Class A's Stewartville (13) can say they have a longer run of consecutive state volleyball tournament appearances than Marshall's current streak. Talk about consistency. Minneota, meanwhile, Class A champs in 2006, was competing in its eighth state tournament since 2001. We also want to recognize the Dawson-Boyd football team, which plays in the second round of the state tournament this weekend, and the Marshall swimmers who have advanced to the state meet.
SIDEWAYS THUMBS: At least Southwest Minnesota State University coach Cory Sauter was honest when he said his team has "a ways to go." After a three-win season, he's right. This year's Mustangs did plenty of things well - they racked up a ton of yards, scored a lot of points and allowed just 11 sacks in 11 games. But in order for them to turn the corner and nudge into the top half of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, this team needs more from its defense - allowing 750 yards of offense in the season finale and giving up 35 points per game is proof. With all the dangerous offenses in the NSIC, SMSU must shore up that defense next year if it plans on moving up in the standings. There is reason to believe this program can right the ship and even contend for a conference title in the future; perhaps the best way to do that is revisit the old adage: "Defense wins championships."
Oil prices climbing again
THUMBS DOWN: It would be wise to get those gas tanks filled up as soon as you can. Gas prices, which are as low today than they have been in some time, will more than likely rise as oil prices touched $100 per barrel Wednesday - something that hasn't happened since July. The only positive from recession concerns was that they resulted in oil prices sinking after a peak of more than $113 per barrel in late April. Now, with the U.S. apparently on the verge of avoiding another recession, we're spending more and manufacturing activity is growing, meaning greater demand for oil. Supplies could also tighten in the near future. When oil goes up, gas prices usually follow. You know the drill.
A shout-out to fire fighters
THUMBS UP: Fire?Prevention Week was a month ago - a time when our local fire departments reach out to the community to show them what they do and how they do it. It's about the only attention they get, not counting that which comes from gawkers during a large fire. But given how busy the Marshall Fire Department has been this summer and in recent weeks, it's worth recognizing them again. This summer was filled with dozens of grass, field, and tractor fires - two, three, sometimes more every day. And just last week the MFD responded to a massive blaze at the compost and dump site near Marshall and, a few hours later, a significant fire at a Marshall restaurant. Many of us take for granted the services our fire departments and emergency personnel provide, so next time you see a volunteer firefighter or an EMT, stop and thank them. They deserve that much.
10.8 percent water rate increase
THUMBS DOWN: Marshall Municipal Utilities offered up three explanations as to why water rates are going up 10.8 percent in Marshall. Two of them - we're in a dry area and infrastructure costs - we can accept. But the other, a reduction in sales volume, is a bit tougher to swallow. MMU officials pointed out at Wednesday night's meeting that some of MMU's biggest customers are industrial facilities, and they (Archer Daniels Midland was used as an example Wednesday) have been buying less water. So, water sales go down and the residents pay. Doesn't this fly in the face of conservation? An increase in water rates is something Marshall residents - and they're not alone - have to live with, but we wonder if the spike in rates could've been curtailed a bit if the losses accrued because of lower overall water sales isn't passed onto the general public. And about that 10.8 percent number. If further increases are on the horizon, we support the idea of spreading them out more - such as 2 or 3 percent - instead of a sticker-shock figure like 10.8 percent. Kind of takes away the pain of paying the monthly bill, if only a little.