December 10, 2007

"Power line plan invites discussion," Star Tribune

Minnesota will see 630 miles of high-voltage wires strung across Minnesota's countryside by 2015; the exact route, however, is still undecied.

The $1.6 billion dollar project will be brought to 10 public meetings to hear how Minnesota citizens weigh-in on the project.

"We really haven't done anything of this magnitiude since the late 1960s and early 1970s," Jim Alders, manager of regulatory projects for Xcel Energy said to the Star Tribune.

The reason for such a large project has three factors according to Terry Grove, director of regional transmission development for Great River Energy: 1) More power will be delivered to Rochester, St. Cloud, Fargo, as well as other cities, 2) surrounding rural areas will have a strengthened electric system, and 3) by 2025, the state will 25 percent of their electricity to be generated from renewable sources.

An attorney from Red Wing, Carol Overland, thinks that energy can be generated closer to where it is consumed by wind farms, rather than building long-distance power lines, according to the Star Tribune.

Bill Grant, executive director of the Midwest office of the Izaak Walton League thinks the power lines are a must to keep up with the Twin Cities' growing need for electricity.

December 2, 2007

"FAA OKs $126 million airport noise settlement," Star Tribune

More than 9,000 homes in Minneapolis, Richfield and Eagan will receive sound-dampening help after The Federal Aviation Administration signed the $126 million settlement.

The settlement is the outcome of a lawsuit by the three cities claiming the Metropolitan Airports Commission agreed to insulate homes averaging 60 to 64 decibels of noise exposure, and backed-out on the agreement.

The settlement, which does not conflict with the airport's federal obligations, will be funded from airport revenue.

But the settle must still clear more approval. Hennepin County District Court will decide the fate from another class-action suit for noise relief. The hearing is scheduled for Jan. 15.

"Missing man found dead in a burned fuel tank at refinery in St. Paul Park," Star Tribune

A search for a Marathon Petroleum Co. employee concluded when his body was found Sunday afternoon in a 10,000 barrel tank.

Nicholas Gunter, 29, was found dead in a fuel oil tank around 1:40 p.m. at the company's St. Paul Park site., said company spokesman Robert Calmus, according to the Star Tribune. Gunter, an operator in the blending area, was most likely checking gauges when the fuel tank caught fire, he said.

This is the first death for the company since 1978, then owned by different management.

The search for Gunter took 70 people, dogs, helicopters, and covered many acres of the petroleum companies property.

Gunter's death is being investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, as well as the Marathon Petroleum Co.

November 18, 2007

"Did drugs obtained in Hennepin county workhouse kill inmate?" Star Tribune

A 32-year-old man died in solitary confinement at Hennepin County Adult Correctional Facility Sunday night. The cause of death is unknown.

Jeffrey Robert Berg, of Crystal, was serving six months of his one year jail sentence on narcotics charges.

Although the medical examiner's office declined to release information to the Star Tribune, they did say they would not know the cause of Berg's death until all toxicology tests were done.

Jeffrey's father, John Berg, also of Crystal, said initial reports showed Jeffrey had narcotics in his system. In information John received from the medical examiner's office, he learned test results showed Valium, cocaine and Oxycontin in Jeffrey's system.

There was no trauma to Jeffrey's body when it was found around 11 p.m. during bed checks.

So how did an inmate get narcotics? Sig Fine, a corrections administrator for Hennepin County said it is possible Jeffrey had contraband. "We're not hermetically sealed," Fine said.

November 11, 2007

"MnDOT doubted a plan to bolster bridge," Star Tribune

The engineering firm hired to study the structural safety of the 35W bridge adviced the Minnesota Department of Safety to reinforce the plates on the bridge - just a year ago. Newly released records show that MnDOT doubted the engineering firm, URS, plan to strengthen the bridge with steel plates. The procedure would cost $2 million.

The documents the Star Tribune obtained through a state data practices act request, consist mostly of e-mail and other communications; 13,500 between 2003 and 2007.

Last December, after URS had been pushing for a replacement bridge, they agreed to find a less intrusive method to stabalize the bridge. A top URS official sent an e-mail suggesting replating the bridge to avoid truss failure was necessary, suddently e-mailed a colleague that he no longer thought it was an issue.

URS declined to comment.

November 6, 2007

"Abducted St. Paul girl, 15, found after Amber Alert," Star Tribune

Jacqeline Mendoza was found Monday night on St. Paul's West Side after an Amber Alert, according to St. Paul Police.

Mendoza, a runaway, had been missing since Oct. 28. She called her mother Monday morning to arrange her return home and the two decided to meet on St. Paul's West Side. When the pair finally met, Mendoza's ex-boyfriend, David Guzman, and an unknown female companion showed up.

Guzman, 18, shoved Mendoza into a 1990s Chevrolet while the unknown woman kept Mendoza's mother from holding onto her daughter. An Ambert Alert was issued five hours later because the mother could not give authorities a good description of the car Mendoza was taken in.

Guzman is currently in custody.

November 4, 2007

"Court rules 2003 fire not caused by policies," Star Tribune

A federal judge ruled Thursday that the U.S. Forest Services land management policies are not to blame for 2003 California forest fire. The fire killed 15 people and destroyed more than 2,200 homes.

In a lawsuit filed a year ago, 14 Sourthern California residents blamed federal land management policies for "set[ting] the stage" for the fire that destroyed their homes in 2003, according to the Star Tribune. Court of Federal Claims Judge John Wiese said a hunter was to blame for the fire.

"They knew if this fire breaks out, it's just going to take the land of neighbors," attorney Mark Grotefeld said. "The acts of the federal government here caused this conflagration, plain and simple," he said.

The California residents were demanding compensation for their loss during the fire under the Fifth Amendement. The amendment states "just compensataion" should be given when private property is "taken for public use," the Star Tribune reported.

"But the point of the Fifth Amendment is not for the government to assume responsibility for all such tragic events," Justice Department attorney Heidi Hermann said.

"Minneapolis shooting victim identified," Star Tribune

The man shot Friday on the 3700 block of Girard Avenue N. has been identified as Andrew E. Nakao. Nakao, 21, was shot in the chest around 5 p.m. He died at the scene.

He lived one block over from the shooting, according to Hennepin County medical examiner's officer, the Star Tribune reported.

Shortly after Nakao was shot, a man arrived at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale with a gunshot wound. The wound did not cost the other man his life.

Minneapolis police spokesman Sgt. Jesse Garcia said the two men were shot during an argument between two groups. It is unknown whether there was an exchange of gunfire between the groups. Police have not said if any arrests have been made .

October 28, 2007

"Online nanny ad ends in slaying," Star Tribune

Katharine Ann Olson thought she was answering a typical nanny advertisement posted on Craigslist.org website Thursday morning. Instead, it may have cost Olson her life.

October 21, 2007

"'Monster house' is neighborhood's nightmare," Star Tribune

Edina residents living on the 5300 block of Oaklawn Avenue are pressing city officials to change zoning regulations due to the "mcmansion" being built in their neighboorhood.

Oaklawn Avenue is home to small lots, measuing about 60 by 135 feet, 1930's houses, and children running between homes, according to the Star Tribune. Recently, Dailey Homes tore down a 1937 Cape Cod on the street and began construction on a much larger, five-bedroom, five-bathroom home with about 3,700 of above ground square feet.

In response, Oaklawn residents have set up signs in their yards and created a video to show at a city council meeting. However, residents were not given the opportuntiy to show the video at a meeting earlier this month because it violated policy. They were invited to show the video at a later meeting.

Residents are concerned the new, larger homes will block sunlight and ruin the integrity of the neighborhood. One resident wrote a letter to the developer saying whoever buys the house will be "ostracized and shunned...no neighborly waves, no invitation to neighborhood partires," according to the Star Tribune.

October 14, 2007

"Suspect arrested in abduction, rape," Star Tribune

Since it's opening in 2004, the Metro Transit's light-rail system has seen no rapes or kidnappings occur on it's property until the early morning hours of Oct. 4.

A 20-year-old man approached a woman waiting for a train on the 38th Street platform around 2:00 a.m. Saturday and held a gun to her back and verbally threatened her. He then brought her to a apartment complex east of Hiawatha Avenue and to it's laundry facility. He beat and raped her and stole her purse. She went to a friends house nearby and called police.

The victim was able to remember key details to the abduction that aided in his arrest. All 17 light-rail stations are outfitted with surveillance cameras and proved useful in this case. "Once again, the importance of transit surveillance video has been affirmed," said Transit Police Chief Dave Indredhus to the Star Tribune.

The suspect is being held at the Hennepin County Jail.

There have been six fewer rapes in Minneapolis than at this time last year according to Minnapolis Police statistics.

October 2, 2007

"Blog threat against official investigated," Star Tribune

Police are investigating a threat posted in a blog Sept. 24 about City Council Member Ralph Remington.

In reference to Remington, a man living in Remington's 10th Ward wrote in his blog, "I'm off to the Tower with a high-caliber weapon." Police Chief Tim Dolan contacted Remington and urged him to file a report.

The blog author exchanged e-mails with Remington earlier in the month. Apparently, he was upset with Remington for spending so much time and bringing so much attention to issues like the proposed ban on wild animals within city limits. The ban was rejected on Sept. 14. The man refered to the circus animal issue "a waste of your time and my tax dollars," according to the Star Tribune.

The comment has since been removed from the blog and he wrote, "I'm hoping that's the end of it," according to the Star Tribune.

The blogger would not comment on his comments.

"Ruling to refund 147 PhotoCop fines may be just a start," Star Tribune

Is it possible to get a ticket for running a red light when you aren't even driving? Yes.

In 2005, Minneapolis implemented "PhotoCop," a way of catching red-light runners without having a police officer present. Problem was, owners of vehilces were receiving tickets for something that happened when someone else was driving their car.

After 147 victims "PhotoCop" sued and asked for their case to be reopened, The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled the program to be illegal. Hennepin County Distict Judge Mark Wernick ruled that the 147 people who reopened their cases will receive a full refund of what they paid for the ticket, $142. Here lies another problem.

The city only collects 30 percent, or $54 of the ticket charge. The rest goes to the county. Wernick deemed that it was up to the city to pay back the ticket victims because they were the ones to issue the ticket.

The city is now left questioning if they should refund every "PhotoCop" ticket issued. Because surely there will be more complaints in light of the new ruling.

September 30, 2007

"Minneapolis is a template for fight on youth crime," Star Tribune

National Summit on Violent Crime in America, a recent conference held in Schaumburg, Ill., concluded that Minneapolis' decision to view juvenile violence as a public health problem in addition to a police problem, has reduced juvenile crime 20 percent since last year.

Why this new approach? Last year, juvenile crime was up 50 percent and Police Chief Tim Dolan decided to changed the juvenile unit. Some efforts include, grants to community organizations to help disconnected youth, tracking down data on juveniles who have been involved in an assault, and continuing work on prevention and intervention programs, according to the Star Tribune article.

"Long way back to normal," Star Tribune

Al Hixon, 47, found himself face down on the pavement of a Golden Valley gas station, pepper spray shot into his nose, and an police officer's foot firming planted on the back of his neck on what he thought would be a typical Saturday in April 2005. Hixon was driving his daughters to birthday parties when he stopped at a gas station to put oil in his blue jaguar. Moments later he was on the ground asking, "What did I do? What did I do?"

Police mistook Hixon, who is black, for a white male who robbed $7 from a bank. Despite the 911 dispatcher describing a 5-foot-8 white male, Police still went after Hixon.

Since the April 2005 incident, Hixon has endured chronic post-traumatic stress syndrome and despression. Hixon, who studied electrical engineering at Tuskegee Institute and was part of the Ph.D program at the University of Florida, now owns his own construction company and never thought something like this could happen to his, according to the Star Tribune.

"At my age with my educational background, I never imagined something like this could happen to me," Hixon was quoted saying in the Star Tribune article.

A federal jury awared Hixon $778,000 in damages during a September trial.