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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUND-UP: Minnesota Sioux tribe helps bretheren in North Dakota with propane shortage

BISMARCK, N.D.  - Help is on the way to North Dakota for struggling members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe who can't keep up with the rising costs of propane.    The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux tribe out of Minnesota is pitching in half-a-million-dollars to help. 

The recent propane shortage has hit the Standing Rock particularly hard.  Tribal leaders have opened warming centers in an effort to help people stay warm but they say they still need extra resources.  North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple says they're also stepping up to help. 


U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (DFL-Plymouth) and Al Franken (DFL-Minneapolis) say after pressing the Obama administration, the federal government has ordered a pipeline company (Enterprise TE Products) to temporarily give priority to propane shipments from Texas to the Midwest.  Franken calls the action unprecedented, noting the propane shortage has been a crisis for thousands of families and farmers in Minnesota.  Klobuchar says with this winter's continuing low temperatures, Minnesotans shouldn't also have to worry about whether they have fuel to heat their homes.


Minnesota Congressman Collin Peterson (DFL-Detroit Lakes) says transportation and logistics are at the center of the propane shortage and there are not enough trucks or rail cars to make it up.  Peterson says, "we need to get the pipeline going," but the pipeline company has another contract and the only people who can intervene are the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  Peterson says, like others, he had sticker shock when he opened his propane bill -- four-dollars and nine cents a gallon to fill his tank.  


Duluth Police and Fire Departments will begin conducting rental license compliance checks today. A variety of items will be checked at licensed rental units to make sure they meet the requirements under city ordinances.  Through the compliance checks the city will be better able to track problems with owners, renters and properties. Among other requirements, the name, e-mail address and telephone number of the owner or managing agent of rental properties will be verified and posted in a conspicuous place.  There are over six thousand licensed rental properties in Duluth. 


A Chicago man was arrested in Duluth for selling heroin.  25-year-old Desean Chism is charged with nine counts of heroin sales.  His arrest was made following the execution of a search warrant at an apartment building Friday.  In addition to the drug found at the apartment, investigators also recovered heroin packaging, scales, mixing materials and around 25-hundred dollars cash.  Additional charges are expected to be filed against Chism.


A former Minneapolis police officer accused of using social media to try to lure girls into sexual encounters has pleaded guilty to five counts.  The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports Bradley Schnickel's trial was set to begin Monday in Anoka County and he could face nearly 12 years in prison under the plea agreement.  Schnickel was fired from the Minneapolis police force about a year ago.  Last summer he pleaded guilty in Hennepin County to sending nude photos of himself to two teenage girls.


Charges have been filed against an 18-year-old Moorhead High School student accused of sexually assaulting a number of female students inside the school.  Court documents say Sulejman Sulejmani  held the girls against their will and demanded sexual favors in a school stairwell.  Sulejmani is charged with 12 counts of criminal sexual conduct, false imprisonment and soliciting a minor for sex. The Moorhead school district says Sulejmani has been a student since 2011.


What financial assurances will PolyMet have to give the state that it can handle cleanup, if something goes wrong at its planned copper/nickel mine in northern Minnesota?  That's the question at State Capitol hearings this afternoon.  Committee Chair Jean Wagenius of Minneapolis says if something unexpected happens, Minnesotans will have to pay for it, if there isn't enough financial assurance or damage deposit from PolyMet.  Opponents warn the mine could damage groundwater with acid runoff and other pollution.  Backers say modern technology will prevent that.  They say the PolyMet project will create hundreds of jobs in northern Minnesota.


The State Agriculture Department takes public comment in Two Harbors this afternoon on its proposed gypsy moth quarantine in Lake and Cook counties.  The department's Lucia Hunt says the invasive pest is already established in the Arrowhead and the quarantine is meant to slow the spread of gypsy moth from human movement.  People would be asked to inspect outdoor items before taking them out of Lake or Cook counties.  Loggers would also have to take steps to control the spread of gypsy moths.  There's another hearing February 25th in Grand Marais.


Minnesota Nurses Association members at Allina facilities are picketing today in solidarity with nurses from Regina Medical Center in Hastings.  They want to highlight the difficulty Hastings nurses are having negotiating a "fair and equitable" contract with corporate management.  MNA members claim Allina's proposal to RN's represents a second-rate commitment to the delivery of quality nursing care in the community.  


The Minnesota State Patrol says a man was killed Monday morning when the minivan he was driving rolled several times on I-90 near the Marion rest stop in Olmsted County.  Troopers say the victim was ejected from the van in the crash near Eyota.  Roads were dry at the time.  No other information has been released.


A former Mille Lacs County deputy charged with criminal sexual conduct involving young boys in Otter Tail County has pleaded *not* guilty.  Aaron Heuer is accused of molesting four boys while volunteering as a fishing guide at Lutheran Island Camp near Henning in June.  Trial is set for March 24th.  Heuer has been in Otter Tail County Jail since his arrest last July. 


Minnesota authorities are still looking for answers about a high-speed chase early Friday that resulted in the death of a Wisconsin woman and her boyfriend  The victims were identified over the weekend as 34-year-old Dawn Pfister of Elkhorn and 36-year-old Matthew Serbus.  They led officers on a chase at up to 90-miles-an-hour on Highway 212 near Eden Prairie during the Friday morning rush hour, which came to an end with spike strips and more than a dozen shots being fired.  Pfister's Facebook profile says she began a relationship with Serbus just last month.  The mother of two was expected to go on trial in mid-March for several drug possession charges.  Serbus had a criminal history dating back to 1999 which included drug, theft, and burglary convictions.  Both Pfister and Serbus had arrest warrants pending in Olmsted County.


With the tax deadline just a couple months off, around 200 locations across Minnesota are now offering free preparation of basic state and federal returns. Coordinator Judy LaBroffe says last year alone, around 100-thousand Minnesotans were helped.  Although free assistance is available to all, the main focus is helping low-income and older Minnesotans.  For more information on the free tax clinics go to the A-A-R-P website.