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Stillwater bridge nears reopening

Residents surrounding the St. Croix River are relieved now that the water level is lowering and the bridge is expected to open Monday or Tuesday, according to a report from the Star Tribune.

"I'm kind of assuming it will be after the morning rush hour [on Monday], but we'll have to see," said Stillwater Mayor Ken Harycki.

The bridge, which is prone to reach flood level every spring, has been closed since April 8.

In order to reach flood stage, the river must reach 87-feet. As of Saturday, the St. Croix River was just a full half-foot under that, the Star Tribune reported.

Compared to other rivers around the state, St. Croix water levels are dwindling faster than others.

In St. Paul, for example, the National Weather Service said the Mississippi River is not expected to fall below flood level for at least another week.

Those who frequently use the Stillwater bridge will be pleased with the reopening next week. According to the Associated Press, approximately 18,000 motorists use the bridge daily.

Historic Grain Belt sign a victim of graffiti

The Grain Belt bottle cap sign in downtown Minneapolis is a historic part of the city. For over 70 years it has represented the beer, but in recent decades it has become somewhat of a problem for the Eastman family, who owns the property.

According to the Star Tribune, the city of Minneapolis has ordered the Daphne R. Eastman Family Trust to remove graffiti from the sign at least nine times in the past five years under a policy which states that all graffiti must be removed within seven days of occurrence.

This policy only hurts the property owners, since they are the people who have to pay for the removal.

According to Minneapolis's Solid Waste Director Susan Young, the city already spends $1 million on graffiti removal. "We can't afford as a city to remove all graffiti at no charge to the property owner," she said.

The real trouble with the sign started in 2006. The Star Tribune reported that the sign was vandalized three times that year. Winthrop Eastman removed the graffiti twice but the third time he left the art up for months until the city took care of it.

His most recent bill totaled $630 after the city painted over new graffiti on March 18.

While the Eastman family still owns the signs, a article from Minnesota Public Radio in 2009 stated that they were willing to sell it to somebody who would take care of reparations.

Over the course of the next four weeks, the Minneapolis Public Works crew will sweep all 1,100 miles of city streets.
The annual clean-up is meant to remove the grime, dirt and sand that was left behind from the MInnesota snow of 2010-11.
If weather permits, the sweeping will begin on Tuesday, according to a report from Kare 11 News.
Restrictions that residents should be aware of include no parking from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on the day the street is swept. To aide those who will be affected, "No Parking" signs will be put into place.
In order to avoid fines and tickets, the City of Minneapolis is advising residents to keep their vehicles off the street until those signs are removed.
Although this may be an inconvenience to some, the city assures that "sweeping keeps leaves and debris from clogging storm drains and polluting lakes and rivers," according to a report from the Star Tribune.
To prepare citizens living in Minneapolis, the city will make approximately 3,500 automated phone call each night to let residents know that their street will be swept the following day.

Stillwater Lift Bridge closed Friday morning

On Friday morning at 9 a.m., the Lift Bridge in Stillwater closed in anticipation to the rising St. Croix River.
According to the National Weather Service, the river will crest for a second time at approximately 688 feet this Tuesday.
The first crest of the St. Croix River occurred in March.
In response to this flooding Gov. Mark Dayton plans to visit the site and observe flood levels Friday afternoon, Fox 9 News reported.
In addition to speaking with Stillwater Mayor Ken Harycki for a briefing on the situation, he will also meet with the executive council to discuss extending the flood emergency originally declared on April 6.
According to MinnPost, Dayton came to Stillwater last month in support of a new bridge south of Stillwater, but the project was scraped due to environmental issues.
However, the need to close the Lift Bridge may support the new entity that would connect to Hwy. 36 in Oak Park Heights.
Congresswomen Michele Bachmann is also in support of the bridge for safety and developmental reason, MinnPost reported.
In the mean time, traffic managers told the Star Tribune that they suggest motorists who usually cross the Lift Bridge use the Interstate 94 Bridge instead, connecting the east metro with Hudson, Wis.

A Duluth woman and her husband are ordered to pay back nearly $20,000 after unlawfully obtaining welfare benefits.
Tari Lee Lauer, 43, and James Lauer, 50, were caught after the St. Louis Fraud Prevention Unit discovered that Tari had received a large cash inheritance from her father, the Duluth News Tribune reported.
The inheritance totaled nearly $300,000, with Tari making deposits into a checking account on March 28, 2008 and April 18, 2008.
After depositing the money, the Lauers continued to receive nearly $20,000 in public assistance from October 2006 to July 2008, according to the Associated Press. This included food stamps, child care support and medical assistance.
In addition to paying back the money, Lauer was sentenced to three months probation and must complete a chemical dependency assessment, follow all recommendations, abstain from the use of alcohol and nonprescribed drugs, be subject to random testing, commit no same or similar offenses and submit a DNA sample, the Duluth News Tribune reported.
Lauer told investigators that her drug addiction and her ex-husband were to blame for her actions.

A Minnesota sports legend passes away

Glenn (Gos) Gostick will be remembered as a baseball statistician, coach, catcher and athletic trainer in the history of Minnesota sports.
As a legend in baseball for his ability to analyze players and the game, Gostick was often called on by sportswriters to talk about Hall of Fame votes and one Twins player even used his statistics in contract negotiations, according to the Star Tribune.
Every year, Gostick would hand out a copy of "The World of Gos" to his friends, family, managers, writers and even his doctor, which included a year's worth of baseball statistic sheets, which he wrote on graph paper.
However, Gostick did not share these statistics with just anyone.
According to the Star Tribune, Gostick never answered his door and never had a working phone number, forcing sportswriters to write him letters.
Before he was a recognized baseball statistician, Gostick was the University of Minnesota Gopher's starting catcher from 1949 to 1951 in addition to playing for a few minor league teams including those in Duluth, Mayville, Ky., and Muskogee, Okla.
Gostick died of a heart attack last week at the age of 83.
According to the Pioneer Press, he was found near statistics research used for compiling "The World of Gus," which he had been working on the previous day.
Before he died, Gostick requested that he have no funeral service. Instead, he wanted his body to be donated to the University of Colorado medical school.

The 101-year-old dancer

On Saturday, those who knew and loved Ida Arbeit joined to celebrate her life at the Wellington Assisted Living in St. Paul.
Arbeit, the 101-year old dancer, died on Tuesday, March 15th, leaving behind an extraordinary story.
Born to Russian immigrants living in New York City on Dec. 7, 1909, Arbeit began dancing during the depression and became the first student of Helen Tamiris in 1928.
However, when Tamiris started the Federal Dance Theater Project under the Works Project Administration, Arbeit was forced to lie.
"All the dancers wanted to join," Arbeit told the Star Tribune. "But you had to be poor. I wanted to dance, so I lied."
Besides her work with the Federal Dance Theater Project, Arbeit also worked with Kairos Dance Theater, a modern dance company in St. Paul.
Maria DuBois Genné, who is the artistic director of Kairos, described Arbeit as "a dancer who happens to be 99" not "a 99-year-old dancer," according to an interview she did with American Jewish World News two years ago.
Arbeit's last live performance with Kairos was in December 2010.
To the very end, it was clear that Arbeit was always up for change. In fact, she didn't move to St. Paul until she was 99 years old after her son convinced her to move from Long Island in 2008.
The last time she danced was just one day before her death, the Star Tribune reported.

While in New Hampshire for a GOP fundraiser, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann had trouble recalling America's Revolutionary War history.
"You're the state where the shot was heard around the world in Lexington and Concord," Bachmann said in an attempt to rile up the crowd. "And you put a marker in the ground and paid with the blood of your ancestors the very first price that had to be paid to make this the most magnificent nation that has ever arisen in the annals of man in 5,000 years of recorded history."
However, "the shot heard around the world" was in Massachusetts, not New Hampshire.
Despite her mistake, Bachmann later admitted and brushed off her flub on her Facebook page, a City Pages blogger reported.
Besides her American history slip-up, Bachmann was greeted with applause from GOP supporters when talking about the race for presidency in 2012.
According to staff and wire reports in the Star Tribune, she emphasized that she was committed to denying President Obama a second term.. However, Bachmann did not confirm whether or not she would be the one to run against him.
Although Bachmann said that a final decision would come early summer, those in attendance cheered when said said, "Are you in for 2012? I'm in!"

Minneapolis citizens come together to tighten gun control

On Friday, the Mayors Against Illegal Guns campaign stopped by Minneapolis City Hall to rally in support of rules that would make it more difficult for felons, domestic abusers and the mentally ill to buy guns.
The loophole that many of these normally restricted consumers are finding: gun shows.
Omar Samaha, who lost a sister in the Virginia Tech shooting, is the main spokesman for the Fix Gun Checks campaign. He said he was able purchase guns with no questions asked at a gun show two years ago.
In fact, there are many people who don't realize this problem.
The misunderstanding is so widespread that Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay recently had to tell another police chief about the loophole, he told the Star Tribune.
According to Minnesota Public Radio, Minnesota law permits a private seller to sell a gun without conducting a background check, whether at a gun show or not.

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