Friday, June 29, 2012

MN DOT Work on Hwy 84

Motorists may encounter minor delays on Highway 84 just south of Longville as a short section of the road is intermittently reduced to a single lane with flaggers controlling traffic from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. beginning Monday, July 9.

The lane closures are needed as crews repair the slope that washed out along a short
section of roadway following recent heavy rains in the area.

Both lanes of Highway 84 are currently open.

All work will be completed by mid-July.

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Major Brainerd Area Drug Bust

A major drug bust is sending seven people in the Brainerd Lakes Area to prison following a large scale federal drug investigation. 

A Centerville man at the center of a methamaphemine distribution ring has been sentenced to 23 years in prison.  Sheriff Todd Dahl says Craig Thompson and several others were a significant sources of meth in the Brainerd area.  He says getting them off the streets goes a long way toward making this a safer community.

Four from Pillager have been sentenced from two to 27 years.  They are Mark Alan Farber, Rick Thomas Mertens, Barry Jay Wilcox and William Charles Tessmer. 

Three have ties to Brainerd and will serve from six to eight years.  They are John Michael Wilcox, Terry Jason Desterhaupt and Charles Scott Amundson.

Two others will be sentenced later.

Sheriff Dahl says Thompson led an organization which funneled methamphetamine from the Twin Cities to the Brainerd Lakes Area and Fargo North Dakota.

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CLC Cited for Pollution Violation

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has penalized the Minnesota State Colleges and University System for hazardous waste violations at Saint Cloud Technical and Community College in Saint Cloud and at Central Lakes College in Brainerd.

The MPCA office in Brainerd said a lack of staff training helped lead to chemicals and other hazardous materials being thrown into trash and dumped down drains instead of being properly disposed of as hazardous waste. MnSCU (MINN-skew) has paid a 27-thousand 500-dollar penalty and completed a series of corrective actions.

In Brainerd, the marine and small engine repair departments failed to evaluate waste rags to determine whether they needed to be handled as hazardous waste.

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Cravaack Takes Partisan Line Against ACA

Eighth District Congressman Chip Cravaack has joined the chorus of Republicans critical of the Supreme Court ruling on affordable healthcare.  The freshman lawmaker says ultimately, the Court’s decision will allow Obamacare to continue to limit Americans’ freedoms, gouge taxpayers, and push the country towards insolvency. He describes the bill as one of the largest tax increases in U.S. history.

Cravaack says this remains a need to enact common sense reforms that will reduce health care costs, improve choice, and increase access for all Americans. He agrees that young adults should be able to find affordable coverage, a provision that currently exists in the Affordable Care Act.

Cravaack also likes the idea of expanding Minnesotans’ ability to get lower cost health insurance by purchasing health insurance across state lines. And to lower health insurance costs through economies of scale, small businesses should be permitted to band together to purchase insurance for their employees.

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Clark: Time for Medicare For All

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s upholding the Affordable Care Act, 8th District DFL Congressional Candidate Tarryl Clark urged Congress to pass Medicare for All, which would allow all Americans access to the popular Medicare healthcare insurance.

Clark says now that the Affordable Care Act has been confirmed to be constitutional, it’s time to move on and get to work containing healthcare costs.   She says if she is elected to Congress, she promises to fight for Medicare for All.

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Gazelka Critical of Supremes

Brainerd State Senator Paul Gazelka, an outspoken critic of the health care reform bill, is outspoken in his disappointment in the United States Supreme Court ruling.

The local state legislator said, "For the first time in our nation’s history, the Supreme Court has given Congress the power to levy a tax on a human being simply for being alive.  He goes on to say, "What the Court has said is that we no longer have the freedom to choose not to buy health insurance."

Gazelka is in the insurance business.

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Lake Edward Couple Dies of Murder-Suicide

Law enforcement has closed the book on the deaths of a Lake Edward Township couple as a murder-suicide.

Authorities responded to a house fire in April.  When they arrived, they found the bodies of 56-year-old Kenneth Ponsness and his 57-year-old wife Kathleen in the master bedroom. 

An autopsy determined that Kathleen died of manual strangulation, while Kenneth died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

The State Fire Marshal found two fires had been intentionally set in the garage, and fire more in the house.

A suicide note was found in the Ponsness' vehicle parked on the road.

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Flood Water Hit the Crest

(AP)  Looks like relief is slowly on the way for Big Sandy lakeshore owners. 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the reservoir lake is close to cresting following the mid month torrential rains.  However, it will take a long time for the water to recede.  Dozens of homes on Big Sandy north of McGregor have suffered flood damage.

Meanwhile, the Mississippi River at Aitkin may have crested Wednesday at 18.6 feet.  The river is expected to begin falling today.

The level fell short of the record, when the Mississippi hit 22.49 feet on May 20th, 1950.

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The Lodge at Brainerd Lakes is Sold

U.S. Hotel & Resort Inc. purchased The Lodge at Brainerd Lakes from the Commerce Bank in Edina on June 19.

With the purchase, the Lodge’s official name has changed to Arrowwood Lodge at Brainerd Lakes. U.S. Hotel & Resort has hired Regency Hotel Management to manage all operations.

Tom Biegler, Regency’s President said they are happy to be in Brainerd, a location they have looked at for a very long time not only because it is such a major destination for leisure guests, but also because it is a great venue for meetings and group events.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Cass Co Forest Road Damage

The Cass County Land Department is asking for help from the public to locate washouts on Forest Access Roads and Trails. The recent heavy rains across Cass County have left many Forest Access Road impassible.

Land Commissioner Joshua Stevenson said they are seeing water flowing over Forest Access Roads in many areas. Many Forest Access Roads and Trails are vulnerable to damage from normal travel due to saturated soils. He is asking the public to report roads in need of repair by contacting the Cass County Land Department at 218-947-3338.

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High Water Continues to Cause Trouble

The Crow Wing County Sheriff has closed the public access on Black Bear and Miller lakes located in Wolford township.

Lakesshore owners can still use the access to remove watercraft if necessary.

Also, a "Slow, No Wakes Zone" is temporarily in effect on these lakes to protect public infrastructure. 

Sheriff Todd Dahl says they have received numerous complaints of docks and boats floating free of their moorings.  Boaters are urged to use caution.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Aitkin Faces River Crest On Thursday

AITKIN, Minn. (AP) — Aitkin  Mayor Gary Tibbitts says his city is prepared for the expected crest of the Mississippi River on Thursday. The sewage plant and power transfer station in the small town are protected by sandbags and emergency pumps are ready. The river is expected to crest more than six feet above flood stage.

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College Drive Closure Thursday

College Drive from East River Road to Soutwest 4th Street in Brainerd will be closed Thursday.

Contractor Anderson Brothers says construction in the vicinity of the Mississippi River Bridge necessitates the closing from 8 a.m. into the late evening hours. Motorists will be rerouted around the work zone. 

Crews will be installing an underground storm sewer connection to the pond west of the Mississippi River.

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Cass Co. Man Gets 10 Years

A Cass County man has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for attempted murder and first degree Arson.  

23-year-old Brandon Todd Sannan was sentenced to 72 months in prison for Attempted Murder and an additional 48 months for Arson.  
Sannan  was accused of setting fire to a Chickama Beach home at midnight on January 8.   The home belonged to Timothy and Carla Volcke.   When the Pine River Fire Department arrived at the scene, the house was fully engulfed.  The home was a total loss.  

There were six minor grandchildren in the house at the time of the fire.  The Volcke were able to get all the children out safely, but there were unable to save any of their possessions 

The State Fire Marshall determined it was arson.  The follow-up investigation determined that the Voelkes’ adult daughter Whitney had recently terminated a relationship with Sannan.  They were told that Sannan had become increasingly possessive and would send up to 100 text messages per day to her.  One text included threats to have Whitney assaulted.  Early in the morning of January 8th, Sannan sent a text apologizing for what he had done.  

The Volcke home and possessions were insured and the family plans on rebuilding.

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Grouse Numbers Down

The DNR says ruffed grouse spring drumming counts were lower than last year across most of the bird’s range,

Compared with drumming counts conducted in 2011, 2012 survey results showed an average decline of 24 to 60 percent in the northeast survey region, which is the core of grouse range in Minnesota.

The grouse population is in the declining phase of its 10-year cycle said Mike Larson, DNR grouse biologist.  He said the most recent peak in drum counts was during 2009, but hunter harvests remained relatively high through at least 2010.

Ruffed grouse populations, which tend to rise and fall on a 10-year cycle, are surveyed by counting the number of male ruffed grouse heard drumming on established routes throughout the state’s forested regions.

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Flood Waters Receding Around Duluth

Minnesota Power, headquartered in Duluth, says it appears flood waters have crested and water levels are beginning to decrease at its reservoirs along the St. Louis and Cloquet Rivers, alleviating some of the flooding in low-lying areas downstream from Island Lake, Boulder Lake, Whiteface, Fish Lake and Rice Lake Reservoirs.

Since the flood last Tuesday and Wednesday, Minnesota Power has been operating its Thomson, Scanlon, Knife Falls, Island Lake and Fond Du Lac Dams under an emergency action contingency plan for high flows. That means gates have been open to allow for the large volume of water to move through the watershed as quickly as possible to ensure the integrity of Minnesota Power’s dams.

When the high water flows coming into the watershed decrease, the company will close gates at the reservoirs, which will result in a decreased discharge and help alleviate flooding along the St. Louis River and Cloquet River watershed. Forecast dry weather conditions over the next few days are expected to help ease the situation.

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Brainerd Man Charged with Burglary

An 18-year-old Brainerd man has been charged with four counts of burglary.

Breezy Point police arrested Amir Nyland around midnight on June 12th following a traffic stop for missing break light.  The complaint said the arresting officer spotted potential burglary tools in the car.  After receiving permission to search the car, a marijuana pipe, open bottle alcohol and other goods were recovered connected with the alleged burglaries.

Police linked Nyland and two juveniles in the car with three burglaries in Pelican Township and one in Nisswa. 

If convicted, Nyland faces up to 10 years in jail and a $20 thousand fine on each count.

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Pine River Medallion Found

The Pine River Summerfest medallion has been found.
Diane Johnson located it under one of the benches under the overhang at the Pine River Railroad Depot. 
Because she had not registered early, Diane will receive a $50 certificate.

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Mississippi Too High in Aitkin

(AP)  Flood waters on the Mississippi River in Aitkin aren't expected to fall until Tuesday.

The MN Incident Command System  says the river was at 18 feet Sunday.  Flood stage is atr 12 feet.

The big muddy is expected to hit 18.5 feet tomorrow before beginning the gradual fall.

Water levels are also rising on Big Sandy Lake just north of McGregor. 

The Army Corps of Engineers is making adjustments to reservoir lakes to reduce the flood risk to down stream communities.

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