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Group of 22 Minnesota courthouse workers win big in Powerball lottery

HIBBING, Minn. — There was a lot of screaming on the St. Louis County Courthouse campus in Hibbing on Thursday morning, Jan. 11.

A group of 22 that work either in the courthouse or the nearby county annex were learning that they just won the lottery.

"I was upstairs in my office and I could hear these guys hollering downstairs," said Angie Baumchen, facilities manager.

The ticket holders matched four of the five numbers and the Powerball, which is normally worth $50,000. However, the players added the Power Play multiplier option for an extra dollar that multiplies the prize by five for a winning total of $250,000.

The winning Powerball numbers were 7-24-33-49-50 and the Powerball was 4.

The 22 are figuring they'll each receive about $7,500 after taxes.

Head janitor Grant Ellis purchased the winning ticket on Wednesday at the Hibbing Short Stop II directly across the street from the courthouse. Instead of drawing a name like the group does each week to see who would be responsible for purchasing this week's ticket, Ellis said he took it upon himself to make the purchase to keep it simple.

"Me, a lucky person? No, it doesn't seem like it," he said.

"Well, you are now," interjected Baumchen.

"If I were lucky, we'd be signing for $31 million," he joked.

The 22 winners work in the various departments on the campus — property management, court administration, county attorney's office, county commissioner's office, Health & Human Services, probation/parole, sheriff's office and Hibbing Police Department.

"It's almost every department, except for Veteran's Service," said Baumchen.

"And that's what makes this fun — it's not just one department," explained Ellis. "We all work with each other, and this is another thing that keeps all of us in the courthouse system together. We have the common enjoyment every Thursday morning of learning whether we won or not."

That camaraderie has gone on for years. Baumchen said the joint lottery ticket purchasing began about 15 years ago, spearheaded by the courthouse information specialist.

"We did $1 per week and had 53 people in that group," she recalled. "When that position was eliminated, we (property management) took it over and grew it from there."

The level of participation has fluctuated over the years.

"Others wanted in, and then others left," said Ellis. "So we've picked some people up on the way, and have lost others too."

The most the group has ever won was $44. Any winnings are tossed back in to purchase additional tickets when jackpots are large.

As word spread to the winners, more cries of excitement were heard.

"In the county attorney's office I made them hold my hands, and when I told them it was true, we jumped up and down and screamed," said Baumchen. "We jumped for joy."

Several of the 22 gathered on their lunch hour Thursday. Some got their first look at the winning ticket and they posed for photos. They then talked logistics — how and when to claim it.

"We wanted to get as many together and have as many voices as we could to decide how to go about this," said Ellis. "... That's just the way we do things in this courthouse."

After some discussion and a call to the Minnesota State Lottery office, they decided on a plan to take a bus to headquarters in Roseville, Minn., on Jan. 19 to file the paperwork and claim the $250,000 prize as a group.

Until then, the winning ticket is in the hands of the Hibbing Police Department.

The other $250,000 winning Powerball ticket in Wednesday night's drawing was sold at the Voyageur Short Stop in Ely. Winners have a year from the drawing date to claim prizes.