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Clergy abuse claims mount in Minnesota ahead of Wednesday deadline

Also: DOT wants comment on freight plan; Foss Lake fire near Ely continues; planting is ahead of schedule in southeastern Minnesota.

Both the Duluth News Tribune and the St. Cloud Daily Times published accounts of the last-minute rush to file abuse claims against Catholic dioceses ahead of a Wednesday deadline. Tom Olsen of the News Tribune writes that as of Monday, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court reported 112 confidential claims had been turned over to attorneys representing the Diocese of Duluth. Only 46 claims had been filed one month before. Mike Finnegan, an attorney representing dozens of the claimants through St. Paul-based Jeff Anderson and Associates, said, “I think there’s a lot of people out there that are trying to decide right now what to do and are struggling with it.” The Wednesday deadline was imposed by the state Legislature in the Minnesota Child Victims Act, which opened a three-year window for victims of child sexual abuse to file lawsuits that would otherwise be barred by statutes of limitation.

The Diocese of St. Cloud was served with several dozen lawsuits alleging sexual abuse, reports David Unze of the Daily Times. St. Cloud attorney Michael Bryant said he served 75 complaints Monday involving priests and monks from multiple religious orders that covers conduct that happened 30 years or more. St. Cloud Bishop Donald Kettler on Monday apologized “on behalf of the Church to all victims and survivors of abuse, who have had to live through, and with, these horrible experiences.”

Onto more mundane topics: The Albert Lea Tribune says that the state Department of Transportation is asking for public comment on the 2016 Statewide Freight System Plan. The meeting will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday at the Transportation Building in St. Paul, 395 John Ireland Blvd., in rooms G13-14 on the ground floor. The freight plan can also be seen and commented upon here. The freight plan guides improvements to the freight system, which includes highway, rail, water and air. Annual freight tonnage in the state is expected to grow significantly over the next 20 years.

Crews continued to battle the Foss Lake wildfire west of Ely, reports John Myers of the News Tribune. The 1,015-acre Foss Lake fire is 45 percent contained and has not grown much since Friday. The fire is about 10 miles west of Ely and has closed a small part of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness northwest of Burntside Lake. More than 275 personnel were working on the fire Monday.

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Planting in southeastern Minnesota is ahead of schedule, the Rochester Post-Bulletin reports. A number of warm, sunny days has allowed good progress on corn, soybeans and hay crops despite a late frost last week. Nearly all of the corn planted and 86 percent of soybeans are in the ground. Corn, soybean and milk prices continue to stay low, with milk prices at their lowest since early 2015 at about $15.80 per hundredweight in March.

A gas pump exploded at the Detroit Lakes Cenex on County Highway 34 on the east side of town just before 5 p.m. Monday. Kaysey Price of the Brainerd Dispatch writes that the Cenex is one block from the elementary and middle school. Authorities say nobody was hurt and everyone was evacuated. The cause of the fire remains undetermined.

Dave Olson of the Fargo Forum puts it this way: “A man described by the Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Office as unwanted and unclothed engaged in a physical altercation with a homeowner after the homeowner found the man in the basement of a residence here Monday morning, May 23.” After the scuffle, Tyler Robert Janovsky, 33, of Waseca, was taken to the Otter Tail County Jail where he was being held on suspicion of first-degree burglary, second-degree assault, simple assault and theft, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

A road sign has spelled “Wahpeton” incorrectly, writes Grace Lydon of the Forum. The sign, installed just east of Wahpeton last week, identifies the town as “Whapeton.” “It’s ridiculous,” said Laurie Straus, 56, who’s lived in the city of about 8,000 her whole life. The Minnesota Department of Transportation fixed the sign Monday with a partial overlay, said Jerimiah Moerke, the MnDOT spokesman for District 4, who added that the sign was a replacement for an old sign, that they’re replaced every 12 to 15 years and cost about $500. Moerke blames “Whapeton” on human error. “There is a review process, but this one slipped through,” Moerke said. Straus, who owns Wahpeton Drug & Gift, was forgiving: “People from Wahpeton spell Wahpeton wrong,” she said.

Dylan Arthur Leeper, 22, of Austin, received another prison sentence last week. Jordan Gerard of the Austin Daily Herald reports that last week’s sentence stemmed from an appearance in Mower County court on Sept. 4, 2015, when Leeper slipped out of his handcuffs and bolted through the building until he was caught in the parking lot south of the jail. Leeper pleaded guilty on Oct. 9, 2015, to one count of aggravated robbery with a dangerous weapon, and a second charge of beating up a pizza driver to steal his money was dismissed. Also on Oct. 9, Leeper pleaded guilty to a charge of theft while two other charges – in which he stole a vehicle and got in a crash with another vehicle — were dismissed. On Jan 15, Leeper changed his plea to guilty on two charges of aggravated robbery, and five other charges — three counts of felony second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon, one count of felony fifth-degree assault and one count of misdemeanor theft – were dismissed.