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Wright County News

Sunday, November 23, 2014


Andover Man Injured in Elk River Rollover Crash  

A young man from Andover was injured in an early morning traffic crash Friday in Elk River. The Minnesota State Patrol says around 6:15 AM Friday, a westbound car on Highway 10 in Elk River went out of control, then ran into the north ditch, hit a sign and rolled over. The driver and lone occupant of the vehicle, 23-year-old Riley Williamson of Andover, was taken to Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids for treatment of non-life threatening injuries. Authorities say roads were icy at the time of the accident. The Elk River Police and Elk River Fire and Rescue assisted the State Patrol at the scene of the crash.  

Property Tax Showdown Likely 

Republicans are blasting Democrats after preliminary numbers show property tax levies going up next year. Bill Werner has full details in our Saturday on-air news. Early numbers show an average property tax jump of 4.6 percent for cities, 3 percent for counties, about 2 percent for townships and nearly 6 percent for school districts. Officials are quick to point out those numbers are just estimates, and could vary significantly from region to region.

One-Third of Minnesotans Not Ready For Long-Term Care 

Research shows that 70-percent of people 65 and older will need long-term care at some point in their lives. Minnesota Department of Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson says while the vast majority of older Americans will need the care, very few have thought about how to pay for it. 
She says there is some great planning information on the State Department of Human Services website under the "Own Your Future" tab.
By 2030 one of every four Minnesotans will be over 65 compared to one-in-eight today. 

More Advisories About Ice Thickness

Local officials are once again asking winter sports enthusiasts to be very cautious about ice thickness. Despite some very wintery early season weather conditions, the calendar tells us it's still officially fall, and when the sun does come out, it has enough power to do some melting in short order. Steve Berg, Emergency Management Coordinator with the Wright County Sheriff's Department says sometimes even seasoned outdoorspersons can be fooled. The Minnesota DNR recommends at least 4 clear inches of ice for ice fishing, 5 or more for a snowmobile or other ATV, 8 inches to a foot for a small car or truck, and 12 to 15 inches of ice for a medium to large truck. Safety officials all agree that no matter what part of the winter season we're in, ice is never 100 percent safe.

Energy Dept Predicts Gas Under $3 For 2015 

While no one wants to jinx the dropping prices at the pump, the U-S Department of Energy has projected that the average price of gasoline throughout 2015 will be under 3 dollars per gallon. The Energy Department predicted this week the average price will be 2-94 a gallon in 2015. Triple-A Minnesota fuel analyst Gail Weinholzer says it's far from impossible that prices will stay down, but on the other hand, she says it's hard to project for an entire year. She says one of the reasons that the price at the pump is continuing to drop is that domestic oil production has increased 70 percent since 2008. Weinholzer says the last full year with an average gas price under three dollars a gallon was 2010. While gas prices are on the decline, diesel is on the rise as refineries are currently making more home heating oil. 

Turkey Prices Pretty Stable for Thanksgiving 2014 

If you've already bought your Thanksgiving turkey, you may have noticed a slight price increase over last year. The number of birds being raised on farms in the U-S is the lowest in nearly three decades, but production across Minnesota has held fairly stable according to Steve Olson with the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association in Buffalo. At last check, turkey was up about 14 cents a pound for a whole frozen bird at some stores, but many grocery retailers are absorbing the increase to keep prices similar to last year.

March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card Gives MN a "B" 

Minnesota earned a B grade again on the March of Dimes 2014 Premature Birth Report Card. The state's pre-term birth rate was 9.8 percent in 2013. Spokeswoman Martha Overby says at least 39 weeks of pregnancy are extremely important to a baby's health. Overby says the baby's brain and lungs are not completely developed until the 39-week mark. She says Minnesota's goal is a 9.6 percent pre-term birth rate which will earn the state an A grade. 

Kids Safe Online Poster Contest Continues 

Wright County youth are reminded that MN.IT Services is sponsoring the annual Minnesota Kids Safe Online Poster Contest. The contest allows kids to creatively share their knowledge about Internet safety. Winning entries of the Minnesota contest are sent on to a national competition sponsored by the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center. National winners will have their posters featured in the organization's cybersecurity calendar, which is sent to schools and organizations across the country. All public, private and home-schooled K-12th grade students are invited to participate. Contest entries are due by December 19th. For more information on the contest, log onto the Wright County website at; 

Officials Say Ice Too Thin for Recreation

The early onset of winter weather has a lot of outdoorspersons excited to get started with activities on frozen lakes and ponds. Although many are freezing over, the Minnesota DNR warns it's too early to venture out. Major Greg Salo says the sun still has a lot of power, November ice conditions can be misleading. Salo says they give the same warning every year, but also every year the DNR and local law enforcement rescues multiple people who fall through the ice. 

Two Injured in Broadside Crash on Highway 55 Near Maple Lake 

Icy roads continue to cause problems for motorists throughout the region. Two Wright County residents were injured late Monday afternoon in a traffic accident on Highway 55 at Hart Avenue, just west of Maple Lake. The State Patrol says around 4:30 PM Monday, an eastbound car driven by 37-year-old Ryan Olson of South Haven hit an icy patch, then after over-correcting, struck a westbound car broadside in the westbound lane. Both Olson and the driver of the other car, 58-year-old Laurel Gleason of Maple Lake sustained minor injuries. Both were taken to Buffalo Hospital for treatment. The Wright County Sheriff's Office and the Maple Lake Fire Department assisted the State Patrol at the scene.  

Six Die In Last Weekend Traffic Crashes 

Authorities say failure to drive according to changing road conditions was a factor in virtually all of the fatal traffic crashes in the state over the previous weekend. State Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske says unfortunately, Minnesota drivers didn't have a chance to ease back into winter driving this year, and have had to face some very tricky driving conditions in the first two weeks of wintery weather. Six people were killed in car crashes this past weekend. Two of those victims were Wright County residents. 24-yearold- Megan Hinchliff of St. Michael died Sunday morning in a three-vehicle crash on I-94 near the Crow River bridge, and 47-year-old Patrick Thomes of Clearwater died Saturday afternoon when his pickup rolled over in the median on westbound I-94 in Stearns County. Two of the other four people who were killed were from nearby Lester Prairie. The latest road conditions can always be found at;

One Third Of Minnesota Children Live In Low Income Households 

Improving the path to success for the Minnesota children growing up in low-income families requires an approach that not only looks at their needs, but also the needs of their parents. That type of two-generation approach is outlined in a new report, which Peggy Flanagan with Children's Defense Fund Minnesota says calls for high-quality early education for the kids. The report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation also notes that the two-generation approach relies on better integration and coordination of programs and services, with the public, private and nonprofit sectors all working together. In Minnesota, among the specific strategies suggested to help parents improve their financial stability is expanding childcare assistance. The program currently has a waiting list of thousands and the cost of child care remains one of the biggest barriers for low-income parents seeking employment, according to Joy Johnson with Simpson Housing Services. The latest figures show more than one-third of children in Minnesota are in low-income households.

Veteran's Issues Among Issues to be Addressed by Congress 

With Congress back in session, there are many key legislative issues on the table aimed at supporting our veterans, including timely access to health care and benefits. Joe Violante is the National Legislative Director for Disabled American Veterans. He says other issues include meeting the unique needs of women veterans. Violante says while the VA has been moving in the right direction, there is a lot more that needs to be done to ensure that the gaps are filled. 

Deadly Weekend on Roads Throughout the Region

Wintery weather conditions and icy roads resulted in a deadly weekend in and around the Wright County area. Numerous crashes happened in our area, and unfortunately, several resulted in fatalities. A St. Michael woman died in a Sunday morning traffic crash on I-94 near the border of Hennepin and Wright Counties. The State Patrol says shortly after 9 AM, three vehicles, all of which were eastbound on I-94 at the Crow River Bridge collided on the freeway. Officials say a car driven by 17-year-old Larissa Bohler of St. Michael spun out of control. The spin out caused another car, driven by 42-year-old Craig Heckman of Clearwater to strike a third car, driven by 24-year-old Megan Hinchliff of St. Michael. The Hinchliff vehicle ran off the road and struck a stationary piece of construction equipment on the right hand side of the freeway. Megan Hinchliff died in the crash. The other two drivers were not injured. The Hennepin County Sheriff's Office and the Rogers Police Department assisted at the scene.

Another crash on I-94 on Sunday morning left 1 person injured. That accident happened around 8:30 AM on eastbound I-94 just east of Monticello. Authorities say a car was stalled in the right lane, and was rear-ended by another eastbound car driven by 24-year-old Mackenzie Hillson of Roseville. She was taken to the Monticello Hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The driver and a passenger of the stalled car were not in the vehicle when it was struck, and escaped injury. 

Saturday afternoon, icy roads led to a Wright County man losing his life in a single-vehicle rollover on I-94 in Stearns County. The State Patrol says just before 3 PM, 47-year-old Patrick Thomes of Clearwater was westbound in the right lane of I-94 when he lost control of the small pickup he was driving. The truck crossed the left lane of traffic, and rolled over in the center median. Officials say Thomes died later at the St. Cloud Hospital. The Stearns County Sheriff's Office assisted at the scene.

Two members of a family died in a two-vehicle crash Saturday afternoon in neighboring Carver County. The State Patrol says that crash happened just before 2 PM on Highway 212 when an eastbound SUV went out of control and began sliding sideways into oncoming traffic. A small pickup that was eastbound struck the SUV broadside while it was still sliding. Killed in the crash were 29-year-old Angelica Salas of Lester Prairie, and her 6-year-old son, Jorge Salas, both were passengers in the SUV. The driver, 29-year-old Jorge Salas, Sr. and the couple's 4-year-old son, Omar, who was also a passenger in the SUV were seriously injured and were taken to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis. The driver of the small pickup involved in the crash, 33-year-old Matthew Radde of Excelsior was taken to the Ridgeview Hospital in Waconia for treatment of non-life threatening injuries.

Late Saturday afternoon, a husband and wife from Litchfield were hurt in a single-vehicle rollover that happened on icy roads in Kandiyohi County. The State Patrol says an eastbound pickup truck went out of control, ran off Highway 12 and rolled over in the ditch. The driver, 80-year-old Roman Nistler, and his wife, 77-year-old Irene Nistler, who was a passenger in the pickup sustained non-life threatening injuries and were transported to Rice Memorial Hospital in Willmar for treatment. The Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office assisted the State Patrol at the scene of the accident, which happened around 4:30 PM Saturday.

Utilities Remind Customers To Clear Snow From Gas Meters 

With the early onset of winter, utilities are urging customers to keep their natural gas meters free of snow and ice. Buildup can cause a dangerous malfunction of the gas regulator valve that's part of the meter. CenterPoint Energy's Becca Virden says it's fine to gently remove snow from the meter, but ice is a different matter. She says if there's ice build-up on your natural gas meter, call your utility immediately for safe removal. If you have any areas of concern about how to clear vents or questions about safety with your gas meter, contact your utility.

Students Competing in Public Service Announcement Contest on Mental Health Issues 

High school students in the Wright County area continue to work on a video public service announcement contest on mental health issues. Wright Mental Health is sponsoring the contest in connection with its "Talk About It" campaign, aimed at helping the public understand that mental health issues need not remain hidden, and that through discussion and dialogue, healing and prevention can occur. Students are encouraged to produce the 2 to 3 minute PSA which will be judged by a panel of judges on performance and creativity to tell the Wright Mental Health message. A 500 dollar first prize, 300 dollar second prize and a 100 dollar third prize are being offered. The winning PSAs will be sent to all Wright County High Schools, and may run on local cable channels. For more information, contact Wright Mental Health at (763) 682-7400.

New Study Shows Smaller Minnesota Communities Benefit Greatly from the Earned Income Tax Credit 

It's a program that's helped keep millions of working Americans out of poverty, and a new analysis on the Earned Income Tax Credit shows it's even more significant in small towns and rural areas. John Michaelson has a complete report in our on-air news throughout the day. More information on the report is available at;

Drowsy Driving Another Impairment Behind the Wheel 

There's another type of driving impairment that doesn't get nearly as much publicity, but can be equally as deadly as drunk or distracted driving. A new Triple-A study finds that one in five fatal crashes involve drowsy driving. Triple-A Minnesota spokeswoman Gail Weinholzer says the study shows just how frequently drowsiness behind the wheel plays a part in crashes. The study also found that one third of crashes involving a drowsy driver result in injuries. To help avoid drowsy driving, Weinholzer recommends getting as much sleep as possible, driving at times when you're normally awake, and scheduling breaks on long road trips. 

These stories and more follow CNN and MNN network news in our Wright County News at 6:10, 7:10, &  8:10 AM and 12:10, 4:10, 5:10, & 6:10 PM on AM 1360 / KRWC.