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Minnesota officials preparing for return of avian flu

Plus: state expected to see a colorful autumn; final day of fair sets attendance records; Hennepin County homeowners likely to see tax hike; and more.

The question is: How ready? For MPR, Tim Pugmire says, “Minnesota’s state veterinarian told lawmakers Tuesday that preparations are in place for an expected return of avian influenza this fall, when bird migrations begin and temperatures cool. Dr. Bill Hartmann of the Minnesota Board of Animal Health testified during an informational hearing that two House committees held to update those preparations. Minnesota poultry farmers lost 9 million birds during the outbreak that began March.  … Hartmann said equipment and staff are ready to respond when the disease returns. He said state officials are also conducting bio-security reviews of turkey and chicken farms.”

Skepticism seems warranted. Madeleine Baran of MPR reports, “The Rev. Gilbert Gustafson, a priest convicted of child sex abuse, is behind a new effort to raise money to buy the headquarters of the Twin Cities archdiocese and turn it into a healing center for abuse survivors. The website for the nonprofit Gilead Project, which seeks to raise money online, does not mention the priest’s criminal conviction or acknowledge any abuse allegations against Gustafson. It also does not indicate that he is a priest.”

Big green MSP. Also at MPR, Tim Nelson writes, “A huge solar power development at the Twin Cities airport is proposed to get even bigger. A Metropolitan Airports Commission panel has given preliminary approval to a 1.3 megawatt solar installation on top of the parking ramp at Terminal 2. It is expected to provide about half the terminal’s peak power need. That’s in addition to a 3 megawatt installation at Terminal 1. Together, they’re nearly twice the size of the largest existing solar project in Minnesota.

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Just another day at the office. The AP’s story on the return of Cecil-killer Walter Palmer says, “Walter Palmer entered the clinic in Bloomington at about 7 a.m. without a word to media gathered outside. As he walked from his vehicle, a staff member met him on the sidewalk, grabbed his arm and parted a throng of reporters to rush the dentist to the front door. … Stephanie Michaelis, a woman who lives near the clinic, came over to argue with protesters, telling them to leave Palmer alone. She said the uproar over Cecil’s death was overblown and that people should be more concerned about abortions and threats to human life.”

People often wonder what’s in the water over here. KMSP-TV’s Mike Durkin says, “The Minnesota Department of Health has removed an employee from lab duty over alleged misconduct involving the analysis of drinking water supplies. The employee was testing water for volatile organic compounds and gasoline and diesel products, but they didn’t follow proper procedures and quality control steps. … 5 public water supply systems in Brooklyn Center, Edina, St. Louis Park, Spring Park and Kasota. Several private drinking wells in Baytown Township and adjacent areas of Washington County. Private wells near the Lindala Sanitary Landfill site in Wright County.” Thank god we all switched to San Pellegrino years ago.

Get your reservations for Betty’s Pies. Says Andy Rathbun in the PiPress, “Thanks to a healthy dose of rain, most of the state is neither abnormally dry nor in drought — a good sign for those hoping for bright yellows, oranges and reds in the trees. ‘For right now, we’re on track to have a great fall color year,’ said Val Cervenka, forest health program coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.”

Yeah, I was there. Says Jennifer Brooks of the Strib, “The final day of the 2015 Great Minnesota Get-Together broke attendance records, as 178,867 people took to the fairgrounds for the final day. The previous Labor Day turnout record was 164,227, set in 2013. In all, 1,779,738 people visited the fair over the past 12 days, the fourth-highest attendance in fair history — but not quite enough to break the record of 1.8 million visitors set last year.” Damn those mini-donuts!

Are you a bee booster? Says Kim Palmer of the Strib, “Bees have been a hot topic in recent years, so there’s no shortage of information on how to help them — from seminars to garden club presentations to information booths at plant sales. But those outreach methods are often preaching to the choir. With Sunday’s Polli-Nation event, organizers are sweetening their pitch in hopes of reaching far beyond the core group of concerned gardeners and bee advocates. In Minnesota, that core group is large and active — a network of passionate grass-roots activists, representing several dozen micro initiatives and thousands of volunteers.”

OK, so how about a SPAM kiosk? The AP says, “Macy’s will soon open Best Buy shops within some of its department stores as a way to test selling consumer electronics. The companies announced the arrangement Tuesday, which will begin in 10 Macy’s stores across the country in November. The locations of the test stores have not been announced … .”

Are you sitting down? Ol’ Sooch is grumpin’ about politicians grabbin’ his money. In the PiPress, Joe Soucheray writes, “Various business associations are opposed to the idea and don’t believe [parking] meters [in St. Paul neighborhoods] will improve anything. In fact, meters might keep people away, especially those newfangled meters that require a technological aptitude that might cause people to just walk away muttering. If there is congestion now, just wait until about 10 people start standing around the meter kiosk, trying to figure out how to pay. I am sure I could figure it out if I had to, but for now, I just look for a place to park that doesn’t involve a meter, even if it means parking blocks away from my destination. The other day, for the second time in my life, I paid for gas with a credit card. Didn’t want to, but I had to.” BTW Joe, you also can’t get FoxNews on your microwave.

Good thing Joe lives in a different county. Rochelle Olson of the Strib tells us, “Property taxpayers in Hennepin County will almost certainly see increases in 2016 nearly triple what they have grown accustomed to in recent years. County Administrator David Hough on Tuesday proposed an increase of 4.5 percent, $31.2 million, over the current year’s property tax collections. In contrast, for the past six years, taxpayers in the county have seen increases that averaged 1.3 percent. … The owner of a median-valued suburban home would see a property tax increase of $41 in the county portion of their bill, taking into account an anticipated market-rate increase. In Minneapolis, the median-valued home would see an increase of $37.” That’s it! South Dakota here I come!