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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUND-UP: Groundbreaking for new Winona bridge

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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUND-UP: Groundbreaking for new Winona bridge
Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

WINONA, Minn. - Officials broke ground for a new Highway 43 bridge over the Mississippi River at Winona Friday.  But the existing bridge will not be torn down. 

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MnDOT's Mike Dougherty says the new bridge will be built next to the current one, and then that structure -- built in 1941 -- will be rehabilitated and improved.  When the project is finished in about five years, each bridge will carry two lanes of traffic across the Mississippi.  The existing bridge had several closures when gusset-plate problems were found during stepped-up inspections after the 35-W bridge collapse, but engineers were able to repair it.  It's featured on a 2008 postage stamp marking the 150th anniversary of Minnesota statehood.

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The family of Jason Reuter is increasing the reward to ten-thousand dollars for information that leads to an arrest in his murder.  Thirty-four-year-old Reuter was shot to death in his Hastings yard more than three weeks ago. Jason's father, Mike Reuter, says the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is leading the investigation.  Authorities do not believe the shooting of Reuter was a random act.  Anyone with information is asked to contact the BCA or Hastings Police Department. 

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Authorities in Roseau County are investigating a fatal train-pedestrian accident near the city of Roosevelt.  Sheriff Steve Gust says a man from Lake of the Woods County was struck and killed by a Canadian National train late Thursday night.  The victim's name is being withheld until family is notified.  The incident is still under investigation. 

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Twelve-year-old Sophie Bollin had lunch with First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House Friday.  The Maplewood girl is Minnesota's winner of the annual nationwide "Healthy Lunchtime Challenge."  Sophie says her mom helped her with the recipe for the quinoa and black bean dish, they put in veggies to make it healthy -- and she says with cheese on top "it just gets so melty and perfect."  Fifty-four winners from each state and U.S. territory--along with a parent or guardian--will attend today's "Kids' State Dinner" promoting healthy eating.  Winning recipes are featured in a cookbook to be published next week.

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The price of gasoline in Minnesota has dropped a dime in the last week.  Today's statewide average for a gallon of regular unleaded is $3.44 compared to $3.54 one week ago.  The lowest priced gas in the state is $3.22 in Champlin and $3.26 in Hibbing, St. Cloud and Waite Park.  The national average is $3.58 a gallon.

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Minnesota is sending firefighters to Washington State to help battle a six-thousand-acre blaze threatening hundreds of homes near Leavenworth.  Jean Goad with the Interagency Fire Center in Grand Rapids says a couple 20-person "initial attack" crews will hook up with two crews from Wisconsin and one from northern Michigan.  Goad says the Pacific Northwest is seeing unusual weather patterns with high temps in the upper 90s and strong winds.  Fire crews are flew in Friday from Duluth to Washington State and will be on assignment for two weeks.  

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Minnesota employers added 8,500 jobs in June and the unemployment rate fell a tenth of a point to 4.5 percent.  The Department of Employment and Economic Development says the state has added nearly 54,000 jobs in the last 12 months.  DEED Commissioner Katie Clark-Sieben says the unemployment rate hasn't been this low since February of 2007, and new claims for jobless benefits dropped to their lowest level in nearly 14 years.  Government added 39-hundred jobs last month, education and health services was up 3,500 and utilities gained 2,200 positions.  

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 Minnesota Management & Budget (MMB) launched an improved, redesigned website this week that officials say is easier to navigate, has a simplified layout, and an updated design.  Commissioner Jim Schowalter says most Minnesotans want their government to be more transparent, and while the site has always included great data, it was sometimes hard for people to find answers to questions on the state budget, statewide human resources, economic forecasts, accounting services, labor relations, and treasury operations.  Schowalter says the redesigned site uses plain language to make it simpler for users, has a better search capability, and even uses tools like social media sharing.  It can be found at  www.mn.gov/mmb.

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The search continues for a suspect in a botched robbery of the Thrifty White Pharmacy in Breckenridge.  A several hour standoff ended Thursday night after a SWAT team swept through the building and didn't find anyone inside.  Police Chief Nate Harder says officers and deputies surrounded the store entrances after the robbery was reported shortly after five p.m. but somehow, the suspect apparently managed to slip away in the confusion.  Harder says they have a person of interest. 

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A judge has set bail at $50,000 for a Moorhead man accused of making threats against Sanford Health in Fargo.  Peter Rovang made his first appearance via interactive TV in Cass County District Court after he was extradited from Moorhead where he was arrested.  He was assigned a public defender and told he cannot contact Sanford unless he needs medical services.  Rovang is charged with terrorizing in connection with a security scare at the Sanford campus in downtown Fargo last Friday. Several threatening phone calls were made mentioning blasts or shootings, prompting heightened security.  Police say Rovang was involved in a prior altercation with hospital security staff.

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It's the peak of blueberry season across Minnesota.  Paul Gray, co-owner of Grayson's Berryland, says you can come and pick your own berries, much like many farms around the state.  He says the darker blue, the better -- and berries will have lots of flavor whether they're sweet or tart.  Gray says the wet spring delayed the growing process a bit because bees were not able to pollinate the fruit.

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