Minnesota News Briefs: Search For Oakdale woman continuesMinnesota News
-- Searchers in Chisago Count met up this morning at to continue a ground search for a missing Oakdale woman.
CHISAGO CITY, Minn. - Searchers in Chisago Count met up this morning at to continue a ground search for a missing Oakdale woman.
Twenty-seven-year-old Danielle Jelinek has been missing for almost a week. Some of Jelinek's personal belongings were found at the home of her boyfriend. He was arrested on drug charges but has not been labeled a suspect in the case.
It's that time of year again -- when vehicles end up in Minnesota lakes that aren't thoroughly frozen over. But such a case in Minneapolis has a twist. The Hennepin County Sheriff's Office says they found a Honda Civic submerged in Cedar Lake. A dive team was dispatched but found no victims. Now investigators believe the car was stolen and it was sent across the ice by whoever stole it, knowing it would sink into the lake. The ice on Cedar Lake is around two- to three-inches thick at best, less than what is needed for even foot travel.
Gas prices have fallen below three-dollars a gallon at many stations in central and southern Minnesota. Triple-A Minnesota's Gail Weinholzer says there are several reasons for the relief at the pump: The switchover from summer- to winter-grade fuel -- plus demand is less in winter and crude oil prices have stabilized. Weinholzer says the state is now more than 15-cents below the national average. Minnesota gas prices were above the national average last summer mainly due to pipeline problems in the Midwest.
Xcel Energy plans to ask for additional electric rate increases beyond an interim hike approved Thursday by the state regulators. Regional VP Chris Clark says Xcel is investing significantly to extend the life of its Monticello nuclear plant, plus upgrading poles and wires that are approaching 50- to 70-years-old in some areas. He says it's time to refresh so they can maintain reliable service for customers. Clark says Xcel sees the need for a rate increase in 2014 and possibly 2015 also, but he says after that they'll be able to slow down.
School districts around the state are being paid back half of Minnesota's two-point-four-billion dollars in overdue state aid payments. The payments were delayed as part of the budget deal that ended the state government shutdown in 2011. Education Minnesota President Tom Dooher stresses it isn't new money and won't help schools' decade of under-funding. But Dooher says it will help districts plan more predictably. Governor Dayton has pledged not to rely on the same tactic again for the coming biennium, saying he doesn't want to use one-time shifts or borrowing gimmicks employed in the past to balance the budget.
Drivers in eastern Minnesota are dealing with dense fog this morning but they'll be dealing with more than that by the weekend. The National Weather Service predicts a mix of rain, freezing rain and snow arriving in the state tonight, with Saturday accumulations up to four-inches in most areas of the state except northwestern Minnesota.
A bill protecting women and children from having their location information shared with third parties via smartphone or app has cleared a key U-S Senate committee. U.S. Senator Al Franken (DFL-Minneapolis) says he's heard chilling testimony on the subject, including a St. Louis County woman who said she went to a county building for a domestic violence program, and on her smartphone came a message from her abuser asking why she was there. The bill would close a loophole allowing stalking applications to secretly run on women's and girls' smartphones. And it would require that companies get the user's permission before sharing any location information with other parties.
A committee of the Republican-controlled Minnesota state Senate has approved paying an additional 90-thousand dollars in legal bills in the Michael Brodkorb case. The ex-staffer sued the state Senate, claiming gender discrimination when he was fired a year ago during a sex scandal that caused the ouster of then Majority Leader Amy Koch (R-Buffalo). The Senate's legal bills in the case are now approaching 200 thousand dollars.
Businesses in Minnesota are calling for more compressed natural gas filling stations in the state. Kwik Trip opened a new CNG station this week in Goodview. Allstate Peterbilt GM Jon Bush says his firm is an industry leader in natural gas technology and the reasons are simple: it provides significant savings in fuel costs and it's good for our environment. Bush says Peterbilt and its dealership group see natural gas trucks as a rapidly growing market. St. Cloud received a three-million-dollar grant to renovate its Metro Bus Operations Center to accomodate a new fleet that runs on compressed natural gas.
Two of three areas in Minnesota have seen more-than-expected success for wolf hunters. Because hunters are close to reaching state quotas, the DNR will close the hunt in Minnesota's east-central zone at the end of today (FRI). At the rate hunters are going, the season could also end earlier than planned in northeastern Minnesota. To date statewide, hunters have taken 114 wolves. The state's northwestern zone will likely stay open through the January 31st final harvest date since fewer than a third of the targeted wolves have been shot.
You'd think a pin-hole-size leak wouldn't be a big deal but people can get a true visual of how it's causing problems in Brainerd. The Brainerd Dispatch reports workers are repairing the leak in the city water tower, using electric bucket trucks for access Evidence of the leak is easy to see with huge icicles hanging from the tower's brace wires.
The Cold Spring officer who was with slain police officer Tom Decker is reportedly unable to give investigators important details about the shooting. The Star Tribune reports a source says investigators are "completely befuddled" and there's speculation whether the second officer "froze." Meanwhile, authorities prepared to do another search of the Sauk River, trying to find a 20-gauge shotgun they believe was used to kill Officer Decker. A suspect, 34-year-old Ryan Larson, was released due to lack of evidence but he reportedly remains the primary suspect.
Governor Dayton is having lunch this afternoon with incoming Senate Republican Minority Leader David Hann of Eden Prairie. The DFL governor dined with new House GOP Leader Kurt Daudt two weeks ago. Democrats will control both the House and Senate next session, but Dayton said he wants to involve Republicans in the decision-making process. Hann and Dayton disagreed on several issues when the governor and legislative leaders previewed the session this week. Hann is a potential candidate to run against Dayton for governor in 2014.
A fundraising food train makes its last stops in Minnesota today and early Saturday. Spokesman Ed Greenberg says the trip westward on the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train got even more festive as the snow fell last Sunday. Greenberg says it started as the got into Wisconsin and, once they hit the Minnesota border, "added a little more flavor to the whole experience." The CP Holiday Train rumbles through Glenwood, Alexandria, Detroit Lakes, Plummer and Thief River Falls -- before stopping in Elbow Lake Saturday as it heads into North Dakota.