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Daily Glean: Detours, delays — down side of $1.4B in stimulus spending

The biggest road construction season ever? Also: jobs downsizing at 3M, and home downsizing for Minneapolis mayor.

Here come detours and delays. This year’s road construction season will be memorable — in terms of its frustration — thanks to $1.4 billion in stimulus spending for roads and highways. The Pioneer Press lists 51 metro road projects about to commence, with a map that makes the metro look like a well-pierced archery target. The Strib says the governor asks everyone’s patience. The paper notes that sometimes we have to snarl traffic in order to unsnarl traffic. KSTP-TV calls it the biggest road construction season ever. Makes a fellow want to work from home and skip the nasty commute.

A Wisconsin company with a government contract to create “highly accurate, laser-based maps” to aid in “cleaning up waterways and responding to floods” has laid off many workers and is now outsourcing much of the technical work to India, reports Dave Shaffer in the Star Tribune. Legislators don’t like it, particularly when they’re planning to spend an additional $5 million to map even more counties for flood control work. “Minnesota money ought to be spent in Minnesota, particularly at a time when jobs are scarce,” said Rep. Jean Wagenius of Minneapolis, but an attempt to put a no-outsourcing clause in a pending bill is apparently unconstitutional.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak has his house on the market — for $200,000 more than the county’s listed taxable market value, reports the Minnesota Independent. But a Realtor says taxable market values often have little to do with a home’s selling price. Raymond Thomas and wife Megan O’Hara are asking about $750,000 for the house at 4415 DuPont Ave. S. The mayor’s people say the couple’s youngest daughter is heading to college, so it’s a case of “empty-nest downsizing.”

FBI  agents again raid money-transfer shops in Minneapolis, apparently looking for links to terrorism in east African nations. The Star Tribune says it’s not clear if the federal sweep is related to questions about whether terrorist groups are recruiting local Somali young men, or if it’s part of the ongoing effort to stifle alleged terrorist money-laundering efforts. KARE11 quotes a manager from one of the searched shops who says he’s cooperating fully and that his business has done nothing wrong. FOX9 finds a woman who just wants to send $50 home to her mother in Kenya.

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John Berken, the Forest Lake firefighter charged with setting a large grass fire, originally had been turned down when seeking the firefighting job because of a criminal record. But Terry Smith, then the town’s mayor, overruled the decision and hired him anyway, said the Star Tribune. But the city adminstrator denies that the fact that Berken — who at that time was president of a now-defunct car dealership — donated two pickups to the fire department had anything to do with him getting the job.

The gun in the Fong Lee police shooting — was it his or was it dropped by police to justify the shooting? — continues in the headlines, with the Pioneer Press reporting that Minneapolis officials admit the police department  misidentified the gun in the first place, but adamantly deny that it was planted at the scene. The teen was shot in 2006; now his family is suing police and a trial is scheduled for next month.

Almost everyone’s happy with the light rail compromise announced Wednesday between MPR and the Metropolitan Council. A 24-page agreement means the light rail trains will roll, albeit relatively quietly, past the MPR headquarters in downtown St. Paul. MPR’s own news division says it took 15 meetings over 90 days. One meeting lasted eight hours. The Star Tribune quotes the two sides as saying it’s not a perfect deal, but at least it’s done. And the Pioneer Press reports how the key players — MPR President Bill Kling, Met Council Chairman Peter Bell and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman — praised one another for their dedication. Still up in air, though, is how the Met Council will accommodate the two churches just up the road from MPR, where the reverends in charge are worried that brides and funeral directors will complain. The Rev. David Colby, pastor of Central Presbyterian told both papers: if they can solve the MPR problem, they can solve ours.

The Pioneer Press has sad news of many more offers of buyouts and early retirements at 3M — to 3,600 employees nationwide. That’s big news here because 10,000 of the company’s 33,600 U.S. employees work at its corporate campus in Maplewood. No word on how many locals will get the offers. This follows 2,400 jobs cut late last year, and another 1,200 in the first three months of 2009. Maybe we all should buy more Post-its and sandpaper.

Minnesotans are hit with another Ponzi scheme, the SEC says. The Star Tribune says Colorado businessman Shawn Merriman apparently took millions from folks in Minnesota, Utah and Colorado, including an Eden Prairie man who said he lost $750,000. Once again, the alleged scammer got business by word of mouth, from previously satisfied investors who told friends, who told their friends. He allegedly sent fictitious account statements that showed their investments earning returns of 7 to 20 percent.

The David-and-Goliath story of tiny Bemidji State University ascent into college hockey’s Frozen Four is starting to resonate. The Star Tribune’s front page says the entire town, pop. 13,415, is reveling in the  team’s success, and calls them “The Team of 14,000.” For the hockey-challenged, that’s a play on the Minnesota Wild’s motto: A team of 18,000 (for the number of screaming fans that fit in the Xcel Energy Center). The Beavers were the bottom seed in the 16-team tournament and play Miami of Ohio in a semifinal today at 4 p.m. Of course the Bemidji paper’s been all over this team’s success from the get-go.

Twins beat Seattle again, 6-5, same score as the night before. Stillwater’s own Glen Perkins pitches today’s day game at the Dome. And the Wild find themselves still on the outside looking in at a playoff berth. Friday’s game vs. Nashville is another must win, and that’s not hyberbole.