Winona’s roads are rough and getting rougher

Winona County is in need of road repairs.

Winona County’s roads are bad and they’re not going to get better without a better way to pay for repairs. The problem is that the state provides the largest share of money to repair roads, and Winona County Engineer Dave Kramer recently told county commissioners that while the cost of the materials to repave roads has nearly tripled since 2000, funding has stayed relatively flat, reports Tesla Mitchell of the Winona Daily News. The funding “is absolutely not sustainable as far as keeping the pavement in a reasonably drivable condition,” Kramer said. In 2008, the county’s Ride Quality Index, which measures how rough the pavement feels to drivers, showed 2.4 percent of the roads were in poor condition. In 2012, that number rose to 12 percent. Kramer said that when roads start to deteriorate, they deteriorate fast. It can take many years for a road to move from good condition to fair, but going from fair to poor to very poor is a much quicker process. Is frac sand mining taking a toll? Kramer said no. The only road affected is the road from the Nisbit silica sand mine, but it was bad before the increased traffic.

A change in police pensions has encouraged many officers across the state who are in their 50s to retire, leaving room on many police forces for rookies, reports Emily Welker of the Fargo Forum. In Moorhead, two new officers are in training and four more will start next month, a significant percentage of the city’s 53-officer force, especially when some night shifts have only three officers on duty. Moorhead Police Deputy Chief Shannon Monroe knows there’s going to be a learning curve. “There’s still going to be an inexperienced person out there, and mistakes are going to occur,” Monroe said. But Neil Melton, president of the Peace Officer Standards and Training board, said that what departments lose in experience they gain in diversity through race, gender and life experience. “We may get people who have been in other professions for years and they’re looking for something maybe that’s more secure. Perhaps they’ve been laid off at some point. And we’ve seen officers from age 21 to 41 coming on,” Melton said.

Protesters, including former vice presidential candidate Winona LaDuke, rallied this week against the proposed Sandpiper oil pipeline, writes Travis Grimler of the Forum News Service. The pipeline, proposed by Enbridge Inc., would stretch 616 miles from western North Dakota to Superior. The proposed route is very rural and crosses many rivers and lakes. Concerns for the environment have caught the attention of a bevy of organizations, including LaDuke’s Honor the Earth. LaDuke said the pipeline is a poor investment because the oil fields are a finite resource and there is no plan to deal with the pipeline after it has served its purpose. She also said an oil spill would be catastrophic “because the fact is … none of our communities and emergency responders are prepared for a spill, and one of the problems with this area is there is no access (to the pipeline’s remote areas),” she said. Honor the Earth is submitting an alternate route along Interstate 29 in North Dakota and Interstate 94 through Minnesota. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is expected to select alternate routes for consideration on July 24.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s 2013 Crime Information report [PDF] was released last week, and it tells Duluth cops what they already know: Property crimes dominate the statistics, writes Brady Slater of the Duluth News Tribune. More than 20 percent of the arrests in Duluth in 2013 were for crimes such as burglary, robbery, larceny, motor-vehicle theft and stolen property. “Theft from automobiles is by far our most common crime,” police chief Gordon Ramsay said. “Trailheads are a great spot for criminals to hunt for valuables.” Ramsey also noted several other items in the report: Only one of the 240 arrests for driving under the influence in 2013 resulted in a fatality. “We’d have six or seven deaths a year a recently as a few years ago,” Ramsay said. Also, the number of auto thefts – 156 last year — is similar to the 1950s. In the 1970s, Duluth would see roughly 1,000 per year.

There’s trouble in American Crystal Sugar paradise: Someone is stealing large power cords at the beet pilers in Moorhead, according to the Fargo Forum. Authorities suspect the thieves want to sell the copper in the cords. American Crystal Sugar has offered a $2,500 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction of the individuals responsible.

Here’s one of those legal hair-splitting cases that gets interesting. Suzanne Rook of the Waseca County Herald reports on a Waseca man who is asking the Minnesota Supreme Court to decide if the state’s “defense of dwelling” laws extend to his apartment hallway. In 2011, Daniel Devens asked an intoxicated man to leave his shared second-floor hallway. Devens said the man took several swings at him; the man claims Devens attacked him. Both fell down the stairs. The intoxicated man suffered injuries that hospitalized him for approximately a week. A jury convicted Devens of the third-degree and fifth-degree assault charges. Devens said the jury should have been given the “defense of dwelling” instructions instead of the general self-defense requirements. Self-defense laws say individuals have a duty to retreat. “Defense of dwelling” says reasonable force can be used to prevent a crime or attack in a home. Devens says his “defense of dwelling” rights extended to the shared apartment hallway and the intoxicated man was trespassing. The state Court of Appeals said Devens did not own the building or the hallway so he had no legal right to exclude people from the shared area. Also, the intoxicated man had allegedly been invited to the building by another individual. The Supreme Court is expected to make a ruling by Aug. 30.

It’s full Stiehm ahead for Austin’s mayor. Tom Stiehm has lost more than 100 pounds in the last year, writes Trey Mewes of the Austin Daily Herald. It all started last August when Stiehm took a picture with his daughter, Christine, after a dunk tank event and didn’t like what he saw. The Tom Stiehm in the photo weighed about 270 pounds. “I said, you know what, I gotta get in shape,” Stiehm said. “I just decided it was time.” Now he takes a lot of walks, eats more fresh food and lean meats and he’s closing in on his goal to weigh between 155 and 160 pounds. He said he enjoys dressing better: “I’ve weighed this before, so I have all the clothes. Now, every time I go down a size, I just wear clothes I haven’t worn for 15 years.”  He used to take four medications for his blood pressure but doctors have weaned him off his prescriptions since he went in for a checkup in January.

Spanish language students at Brainerd High gave it a valiant effort but didn’t come close to breaking the Guinness Book of World Record’s record of 743 party poppers simultaneously popped, writes Mike O’Rourke of the Brainerd Dispatch. Cathy Saxum said she believed about 154 people gathered at the Lincoln Educational Building’s playground on Fifth Street to attempt to break the record, well short of the 744 necessary. It was a fundraiser to get the students to Peru. “We were a bit disappointed but we gave it a try,” she said. “It was fun seeing all the confetti fly up and hearing the pop,” Saxum added. They may make another attempt during Homecoming Week.

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