Notebook: Officials Examine Damage

By Don Davis

Federal, state and local officials begin assessing damage today from last month’s storms.

They will examine damage to public and some non-profit facilities that occurred during June 20-26 storms and flooding.

Today’s visits are in Benton, Big Stone, Douglas, Faribault, Fillmore, Freeborn, Hennepin, Houston, McLeod, Mille Lacs, Pope, Sibley, Stearns, Stevens, Swift, Traverse and Wilkin counties, with more stops planned for Wednesday and Thursday. Most affected counties are in southern and western Minnesota.

The assessment is the first step in determining if Gov. Mark Dayton will seek a presidential disaster declaration. If a federal disaster is declared, state and local governments and some non-profit groups could receive federal aid to cover repair and clean-up costs.

Dayton says he is ‘fine’

Gov. Mark Dayton was back on the job Monday after a couple of weeks’ recovery from a fall and resulting hip injury.

“My physical condition is fine,” he told reporters. “My physical conditioning needs improvement.”

Dayton said his exercise has been curtailed since his fall. For the past two weeks “I haven’t been moving around much.”

He also revealed that he recently lost 15 pounds. He blamed the loss on “a bug” he picked up on a European trade mission, which he ended just before his fall.

Anti-mine group travels

An organization that questions the safety of a new form of northeast Minnesota mining is hitting the road this summer to encourage getting answers to their questions.

A coalition of conservation groups that calls itself Mining Truth wants answers to four questions before nickel and copper mining is allowed:

— Will Minnesota’s water stay safe and clean?

— Are there safeguards in place for when things go wrong?

— Will the company leave the site clean and maintenance-free?

— Will Minnesota’s taxpayers be protected?

Coalition members plan to encourage Minnesotans to sign an online petition demanding that Gov. Mark Dayton and companies planning the mines, Polymet and Twin Metals, answer the questions.

Also, what the coalition calls “a substantial” advertising campaign will launch.

“Minnesotans from all parts of the state need to understand what is at stake with these sulfide mines,” Executive Director Paul Austin of Conservation Minnesota said.

Yellow pipe a danger

Minnesota officials warn that corrugated stainless steel tubing, usually covered with yellow plastic, that carry gas can be a fire hazard.

The fire marshal reports that if the pipe is not properly installed, it can be damaged by nearby lightning, causing a fire.

“This tubing is in Minnesota homes, but the problem can be solved,” State Fire Marshal Jerry Rosendahl said. “This is an electrical issue that can be fixed by a qualified and licensed professional.”

The pipe may be in homes built after 1989. It typically is beneath, through or alongside floor joists in the basement, inside interior walls and on top of ceiling joists in attics.

Five die around holiday

Five people died in Minnesota traffic accidents during the Independence Day weekend.

In the five previous years combined, 29 were reported during the holiday, usually among the deadliest time on Minnesota roads. Of those deaths, 19 were drunk-driving related.

The Public Safety Department reports that this year, three deaths were motorcyclists killed in two crashes Thursday, one person was killed in a Clay County rollover crash Saturday and a bicyclist was killed by a hit-and-run driver in Minneapolis Wednesday night.

The Office of Traffic Safety reports 560 drunken driving arrests statewide Wednesday night through Sunday.

Dayton wants specifics

Gov. Mark Dayton said Republicans are “grandstanding” in a call for a special legislative session to kill a planned tax on businesses that store goods in warehouses.

However, he said, if GOP members like Rep. Tim Kelly of Red Wing that want a special session give him a specific request, there would be something to consider. Kelly and others have asked for the special session, but have not given Dayton a bill.

The Republicans say businesses are being forced to postpone expansion decisions, and maybe use warehouses in other states, because they do not know if the warehousing tax will kick in next April as planned. Democratic legislative leaders have said they may reconsider the tax when they return to St. Paul on Feb. 25.

Dayton said the worst part of a tax bill he and legislative Democrats passed in May is a sales tax on farm equipment repair: “the No. 1 priority to get rid of.”