Recently in Local Category

Members caught in middle of Bally Fitness buyout

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Bally Total Fitness recently sold off 170 of its locations nationwide to LA Fitness, and most Minnesota sites will soon be gone, reported KARE 11.

James Iliff just spent over $150 to renew his Bally's contract, but no one seems to recognize it, reported Dave Berggren.

"When I came over here, I was hoping it would just roll over seamlessly to this," Iliff said. "But they're saying that the $160 is Bally's responsibility, and I need to go hunt them down."

The transition is a logistical nightmare that employees at LA Fitness are trying to handle the best they can, reported Berggren.

LA Fitness officials said their objective is to make this transition as easy as possible, and they will be servicing all of the membership agreements that they acquire from Bally, reported KARE 11.

"It's just not an ideal situation," said one Bally member. "But, it is what it is."

Police seize 400 pounds of pot

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The Dakota County Drug Task Force confiscated over 400 pounds of pot in a historic marijuana bust in Inver Grove Heights Wednesday, reported WCCO-TV.

Scott Bradley Cunningham, 42, of Inver Grove Heights, 52-year-old Brian Lee Speldrick, Holly Joann Swenson, 28, of Rosemount and Jerilyn Reis, 41, of Kiester were all charged with first-degree controlled substance crime with intent to distribute and first-degree controlled substance crime with possession, according to the Dakota County Attorney's Office.

"This is one of the largest marijuana seizures in Dakota County's history," said Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom.

According to the criminal complaint, drug task force agents executed a search warrant at Cunningham's house at 9244 Inver Grove Trail in Inver Grove Heights on Nov. 4, 2011. While there, agents recovered 14.42 pounds of marijuana. Several guns were also seized, reported WCCO-TV.

On Nov. 28, agents received a call from an anonymous tipster, who stated that agents missed a secret room during the previous pot bust. The tipster said the room, concealed by a false wall, contained a large amount of pot, reported WCCO-TV.

Police estimate the street value of the marijuana to be more than $1,000,000.

Changes in liquor laws help Minneapolis breweries

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The Star Tribune opened their story with a scene from Fulton Brewery's Minneapolis location, where the mayor and a line of people waited for the first sales of growlers direct from the brewery.

The growler sales were made possible 15 months ago, when Council Member Gary Schiff led the effort to change city ordinances so that small brewers could sell growlers themselves rather than through distributors, reported the Star Tribune.

"Drink up! You're brewing jobs," Mayor R.T. Rybak, hoisting a pint of ale, said to a crowd of more than 100 people who awaited the sale of the 64-ounce containers at Fulton Brewery.

According to the Star Tribune, the Minneapolis City Council voted 11-2 on Friday to overturn a previous restriction that prevented breweries from selling growlers within 300 feet of a place of worship. Diane Hofstede and Barbara Johnson opposed the change.

The Star Tribune also reported the City Council on Friday also voted 12-1 to loosen another liquor license restriction, allowing restaurants within 300 feet of a place of worship to gross up to 40 percent of sales from alcohol, rather than the previous 30 percent. They may not operate a bar.

This restriction change excites Rob Miller, the brewer behind Dangerous Man, who wants to open a microbrewery with a taproom near St. Cyril Church in northeast Minneapolis.

"We can live out our dream of opening a brewery in Minneapolis," Miller said.

One 8-year-old thinks far beyond his years

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In his first algebra class last year, Mani Chadaga slumped low in his front-row seat and pretended to read his new textbook intently, reported the Pioneer Press.

Soon, he was piping up with solutions to the teacher's questions and standing before his stumped classmates, explaining how he arrived at them.

"He literally taught the rest of them the entire problem," teacher Alex Ford said. "He could stand in front of a room full of eighth-graders and describe the solution to problems with poise and confidence and perfect mathematical reasoning."

The Pioneer Press reported within weeks of starting first grade, Mani had moved up to fourth-grade math. In the spring, he worked on the fifth-grade math textbook in the evenings. Over the summer, he tackled the sixth-grade textbook, at the rate of two to three hours at a time, seven days a week.

According to the Pioneer Press, Mani excels in other areas besides math. He has written about 100 sonnets, on nouns, soccer, his little sister, bad haircuts and a frog named Blep. He recently researched patent law on the Internet in preparation for upcoming inventions.

"There are so many possibilities," he said. "I haven't even found the mathematics I am the most interested in."

Totino-Grace sends Prior Lake packing

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Three touchdown passes propelled the Totino-Grace Eagles to a 21-17 win over Prior Lake in the Class AAAAA quarterfinal Friday.

Totino-Grace standout Andy Moritko carried the team in the second half, intercepting a Prior Lake pass, hauling in a touchdown pass to tie the score and anchoring a defensive stand that forced a late Prior Lake field goal, reported the Star Tribune.

"As a senior, you feel you help carry the team," Moritko said. "It feels great to finally be at the top."

According to the Pioneer Press, Prior Lake pulled to within 21-17 with 4:54 remaining in regulation on a 19-yard field goal by Kirk Lair. The Lakers had to settle for a field goal after their drive stalled at Totino-Grace's 2-yard line.

"It's really tough right now," Lakers coach Matt Gegenheimer said. "We came a long way this season, and our guys played tough. We didn't make the plays when we needed to.''

The Burnsville boys cross country team took a disappointing second behind Stillwater at the Class AA state championship at St. Olaf College in Northfield last Saturday.

Stillwater took first with a total of 92 team points, followed by Burnsville with 115, and Edina with 129, the Burnsville Patch reported.

"To be honest, we thought we could win," Burnsville coach Jeff Webber said. "That was our expectation. And we were close."

Sun Newspapers reported there were several ways the Blaze could have made up the 23-point difference separating them from first-- the easiest might have been for its No. 5 runner to finish 32 seconds faster, which would have been a 24-place improvement.

According to the Burnsville Patch, Blaze senior Cole O'Brien supplied the team's best performance, finishing fifth with a 15:46.3 time in the 5-kilometer race.

"I think we can still train harder and run better," O'Brien said.

Renowned Mayo clinic urologist dies

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Dr. David C. Utz, an internationally recognized urologic surgeon who pioneered numerous surgical techniques, died Sunday, Oct. 30, at his winter home in Scottsdale, Ariz. He was 87.

According to the Star Tribune, Ronald Reagan was perhaps the most famous of Utz's patients. He led the surgical team at Mayo in 1987 that performed prostate surgery on the president and removed intestinal polyps.

According to, Dr. Utz was the author of 143 publications and 28 abstracts and editorials. He was invited to be a visiting professor at medical centers throughout the United States and around the world.

He was born Dec. 2, 1923, in Rochester, to Gilbert C. and Marion Hoy Utz of Rochester, reported.

He is survived by sons David C. Utz Jr. of Vail, Colo., Mark E. Utz of Rochester, Minn., and Jeffrey P. Utz of Chatham, N.J., daughter Mary U. Keating, of St. Cloud, brother Philip Utz, 15 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be held at 5 p.m. Friday at the Church of St. John the Evangelist in Rochester, with services held there at noon Saturday.

'Prairie Home' sound effects master Tom Keith dies

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Tom Keith, a longtime sound effects man for "A Prairie Home Companion" and cohost of Minnesota Public Radio's "The Morning Show," died of a heart attack on Sunday at his Woodbury home. He was 64.

Keith provided sound effects and voices for the nationally syndicated show, which is produced by Minnesota Public Radio and American Public Media, the Star Tribune reported.

The reported that Garrison Keillor, the host of "A Prairie Home Companion," said in a statement Monday that Keith died suddenly of a heart attack after collapsing at his home Sunday.

"He was serious about silliness and worked hard to get a moo exactly right and the cluck too, and the woof" Keillor said. "His whinny was amazing- noble, vunerable, articulate."

According to the Star Tribune, Keith had performed with Keillor since 1967, when Keillor hosted an early version of MPR's "The Morning Show." When Keillor moved to "A Prairie Home Companion" full time, Keith co-hosted "The Morning Show," appearing in his alter ego as Jim Ed Poole.

Thomas Alan Keith was born on Dec. 21, 1946, in West St. Paul. He is survived by his wife, Liu, and two brothers, Dave of Syracuse, N.Y., and Jeffery of Wilton, Wis.

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