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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUNDUP: Ford Dealer Promo: Buy a pickup, get a gun

HAWLEY, Minn. -- A Ford dealership in northwest Minnesota is kicking off a two-week promotion where buyers of a new or 2013 pickup will be offered a free shotgun. Jason Jalbert, sales manager at Muscatell-Burns in Hawley, says most of their employees are hunters and it's a popular topic of conversation with customers. Jalbert acknowledges guns are a point of contention with a lot of people, and they have the option of using that value to buy clothing or other options. The dealership is working with a licensed gun dealer in Fargo to complete the transactions. Eligible buyers must undergo a required background check.  


Authorities are expected to release the name of a six year old Bemidji girl found dead outside in the extreme cold early Thursday morning. When officers arrived, the girl's body was discovered in the front entryway of the apartment complex. It's unclear at this point if she was carried inside after being discovered outside. The little girl was wearing a hat, coat, mittens and boots. Bemidji Police Captain James Marcotte says they are trying to develop a timeline as to when the child was last seen and as to how long the child was exposed to the elements. The first grader had just transferred to Horace May Elementary. Officials say grief counselors will be on hand at the school today. Authorities says while the girl's body showed signs of exposure, an autopsy is being conducted to determine the exact cause of death. 


Governor Dayton today (Fri) plans to sign a bill providing 20 million dollars additional funding for the state's low-income heating assistance program, spurred by the propane shortage. The House Thursday afternoon accepted minor changes the Senate made earlier in the day, sending the legislation to Governor Dayton. Senator Carrie Ruud urged her colleagues to act quickly. The Breezy Point Republican says ice-fishing season has ended and people are actually stealing propane tanks from fish-houses because they're desperate for fuel.


Does the state still have about an 800-million-dollar budget surplus, or has it grown or shrunk? Lawmakers find out this morning (915am) when the latest budget forecast is released. House Democrats want to use about 500 million of it for middle-class tax cuts, plus repeal three business-to-business sales taxes enacted last year. Speaker Paul Thissen says if "something strange" happens with the budget forecast, they'll take another look at the bill, but he says if it holds up, it's a good use of surplus money. Republicans generally agree with the tax-cut plan. But Senate Democratic leaders are leery about tax cuts, warning it could trigger another round of state budget shortfalls.


House and Senate negotiators met at the State Capitol yesterday (Thurs pm), again trying to hammer out an agreement on a minimum wage increase after last year's deadlock. Republicans, meanwhile, are calling for a fresh round of public hearings. Rochester Senator Carla Nelson says a lot has happened since the legislature adjourned last year -- including the Congressional Budget Office report that says a minimum wage increase will result in up to a million jobs lost. Nelson says she wants to know how many will be in Minnesota and lawmakers should hold hearings again. Democrats respond Minnesota's economy is growing and everyone, including the working poor, should share in the benefits.


The comment period for the NorthMet Mining Project Supplement Draft E-I-S will end March 13th despite requests for an extension. Minnesota D-N-R officials say they've received over 19-thousand comments. Under PolyMet's plan, which has been in the works for several years, they're looking to build a copper-nickel mine near Hoyt Lakes in the eastern Iron Range. The Department of Natural Resources, Army Corps of Engineers and U-S Forest Service all received extension requests but officials say none included substantive arguments or rationales that weren't already fully considered. Three public meetings were held to gather input on the process. 


A huge fire on Main Street in Mahnomen. 10 fire departments are fighting the fire in windchills of 20 below. The blaze was reported just after two this(fri) morning in the building that was a former barber shop that now has apartments on the first and second levels. Sheriff Doug Krier says three occupants got out safely. Fire crews are pouring lots of water on nearby buildings to keep the fire from spreading. Krier says that side of the street is one block of ice.


The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources announced a 4.6 million dollar grant for flood relief to the City of Duluth and Carlton, Lake, Cook and the South St. Louis County Soil and Water Conservation Districts. Although recovery efforts are ongoing and substantial progress has been made in repairing damage from the June 2012 flood, these grants will help enhance and improve natural infrastructure to help protect from future severe flooding. Specific projects helped by the funding are streambank stabilization along Mission, Amity, Coffee and Chester Creeks and landslide stabilization near Jay Cooke State Park.


Snow is really starting to pile up on many roofs across Minnesota. Shane Zablocki of Zablocki Roofing in St. Cloud says it's best to be proactive and remove the snow before the roof collapses and ice dams form. Zablocki says if ice dams aren't treated, you could experience thousands of dollars in damage. Zablocki says just removing snow from near the eaves won't necessarily prevent ice dams. He says many homes have various roof lines and drip into low-pitch areas and refreeze. The average cost to remove snow or deal with ice dams is about $300-$600 but could be higher depending on your home and how bad the problem is.