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Minneapolis Public Housing Authority considering adding sprinklers

Plus: DHS inspector involved in controversy reassigned; Duluth police officer makes court appearance after drunk driving charge; surge in flu outbreaks in Minnesota; and more.

At MPR, Tom Crann says, “The Minneapolis Public Housing Authority is considering more sprinklers in its buildings after last month’s fatal fire in an apartment high-rise, but the agency isn’t committing to any timetable. … Tracey Scott, Housing Authority’s interim executive director, said the buildings need many safety upgrades in addition to sprinklers.  The authority has been installing sprinklers as it renovates buildings constructed before the sprinkler mandate, Scott said, but its properties require more than $150 million in upgrades and repairs, with sprinkler costs factored in. The federal government provides little money to fund those repairs and renovations, Scott said.”

Glen Howatt of the Strib writes, “The top official in charge of investigating fraud at the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) has been reassigned to another position nine months after the state’s legislative auditor found disarray within her department. Carolyn Ham, who has been on leave from her inspector general position, became the subject of an internal investigation after the legislative auditor found high levels of fraud in the state’s child-care assistance program and distrust between Ham and her team of anti-fraud investigators. DHS Commissioner Jodi Harpstead told a Minnesota House health committee this month that the internal investigation had been completed and that no disciplinary action would be taken against Ham.”

This from Tom Olsen in the Duluth News Tribune, “A Duluth police officer made his first court appearance Thursday on charges of drunken driving and refusing to submit to an alcohol breath test. Daryl Lee Diver, 49, was off-duty when he was stopped on the night of Oct. 28. A 22-year veteran of the Duluth Police Department, he was later charged with gross misdemeanor test refusal and misdemeanor driving while impaired. … Diver then admitted to the trooper that he had seven or eight alcoholic beverages at Grandma’s and the Copasetic Lounge from about 6-10 p.m., the complaint said.”

Stribber Jeremy Olson reports, “Minnesota schools are reporting a surge in flu outbreaks as an unusual mix of early flu strains continues to spread statewide and take a toll on children. The state recorded 60 outbreaks of flu-like illness last week — a nearly fivefold increase from the prior week, according to an influenza tracking update released Thursday by the Minnesota Department of Health. … Some schools are missing as many as one-fifth of their students.”

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Says Mark Zdechlik for MPR, “As she campaigns for the Democratic presidential nomination in Iowa, Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar is spending lots of time in rural, traditionally Republican counties. And there’s evidence her strategy may be working. Klobuchar has seen a jump in Iowa polls in recent weeks, although she is still well behind four other candidates. Klobuchar often tells prospective supporters that in Minnesota she won in rural areas where Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016. She says she can do it again in 2020 in Iowa and other states. Just as she’s campaigned for Senate in every Minnesota county, Klobuchar is pledging to visit all of Iowa’s 99 counties between now and the caucuses in early February.”

Also at MPR: “Ryan Companies will pay $61 million for the former Ford plant site in St. Paul, and said Thursday that work on a massive development will begin early next year. Ryan has outlined a $1.3 billion housing, office and retail project for the 122-acre site on a bluff above the Mississippi River in the city’s Highland Park neighborhood.  Tony Barranco, senior vice president of development, said the price reflects Ford’s extensive cleanup of the former industrial property and the uniqueness of the parcel. … Weidner Apartments will be responsible for the 3,040 market-rate dwellings. CommonBond Communities and Project for Pride in Living will develop the 760 affordable units.”

Says the AP, “Sheriff’s officials in Minnesota have started the extradition process to bring a woman convicted of killing her look-alike in Florida back to the state to face charges in her husband’s slaying. Lois Riess, 57, pleaded guilty Tuesday to killing Pamela Hutchinson in Florida. Prosecutors say the two women shared similar features and that Riess wanted to assume Hutchinson’s identity while on the lam following her husband’s death. Sheriff Scott Rose in Minnesota’s Dodge County said on Facebook that the extradition process could take one to two months.”