REGIONAL BRIEFS: Drive-in theater giving way to WalmartCOTTAGE GROVE, Minn. -- After 47 seasons, the Cottage View Drive-In will close next month to be replaced by a Walmart Supercenter store atop a portion of the venerable drive-in’s property.
From the Forum Communications News Bureau
Man severely burned in house fire (WCT)
SPICER, Minn. — A man was in critical condition Tuesday after suffering burns Monday night in a fire that destroyed a rural Spicer home. Two other occupants escaped out a second story window.
According to reports from fire and law enforcement officials, the injured man is David Lindner, 70, a roommate of the homeowner.
Spicer Fire Chief Mike Holme said Lindner was reported to have severe burns to his arms, hands and face. He was taken by ambulance Monday night to Rice Memorial Hospital in Willmar and then transferred to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis where he was in critical condition Tuesday.
Homeowner Stephen Sarafolean, 52, and his girlfriend, Sandra Jane Davis, 56, were not injured. A dog also died in the blaze, which was reported at 9:30 p.m. The house was a total loss, Holme said.
Holme said Sarafolean and Davis were in the upstairs loft when they smelled smoke. When they opened the upstairs bedroom door a “big flash of flames” erupted, said Holme.
Sarafolean lowered Davis out the window, who dropped about 10 feet to the ground. Sarafolean then “shimmied” out the window to the ground where he saw Lindner on the deck with severe burns, Holme said.
Man to get 10-year sentence for firing at officers (SWC)
COTTAGE GROVE, Minn. -- A St. Paul Park man who was suicidal and heavily intoxicated as he sprayed gunfire at police during a standoff last summer will receive a 10-year prison sentence.
Nathan A. Kluessendorf, 23, reached a plea deal with prosecutors for three felony charges stemming from his shootout with local police and SWAT team members at his family’s St. Paul Park home on Aug. 2, 2011.
Kluessendorf entered a Norgaard plea Aug. 30 to three charges of using deadly force against a peace officer. A Norgaard plea is used when someone is intoxicated to the point they cannot recall events or their actions but believe a jury would still find them guilty, said Fred Fink, criminal division chief for the Washington County Attorney’s Office.
Kluessendorf is being held in the Washington County jail until sentencing Nov. 2. He is still recovering from injuries sustained at the end of the five-hour standoff. Authorities fired tear gas into the home and a Cottage Grove police officer shot and injured Kluessendorf.
Drive-in theater giving way to Walmart (SWC)
COTTAGE GROVE, Minn. -- After 47 seasons, the Cottage View Drive-In will close next month to be replaced by a Walmart Supercenter store atop a portion of the venerable drive-in’s property.
Walmart has agreed to purchase roughly 24 acres of the 52-acre Cottage View property held by drive-in owner Gerry Herringer’s Apache Chief Theater Co. after the Cottage Grove City Council’s approval of Walmart’s building plans. Plans call for a 178,000-square-foot pharmacy, retail and grocery store to be built on East Point Douglas Road near Washington County Highway 19.
City officials have heralded the store’s arrival, saying it will spur retail growth in an important area of the city and increase property tax revenues by hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The 5-0 vote on Sept. 5 means a certain end for a south Washington County summertime staple that has stood alongside Highway 61 in south Cottage Grove since it opened to moviegoers with the comedy “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” in the summer of 1966.
Man grows 1,000-pound pumpkin (AEP)
HOFFMAN, Minn. – As of September 4, the gigantic orange blob lying amidst a sea of green vines and leaves on David Starner’s farm near Hoffman reached a hefty 1,029 pounds.
He now can cross growing a 1,000-pound pumpkin off his to-do list.
That half-ton quest has roots going back to 2002, when a Hoffman resident decided to pit local growers against each other to see who could raise the largest pumpkin. While the competition withered, Starner challenged himself.
“I am going to do this every year until I raise one that is 1,000 pounds,” Starner vowed. “That is what keeps driving me.”
This year, his efforts included burying a heating cable in the garden soil in the spring to keep it at 70 degrees and building a mini greenhouse, complete with a heat lamp, over each of four seedlings. A pig farmer, he had lots of manure to spread over the plants.
In July, “it grew 300 pounds in 10 days! I couldn’t believe it,” he said.
The weight of the pumpkins is estimated by measurements and a formula that is 95 percent accurate. He will take the giant to a weigh-off in Stillwater on Oct. 13. Win or lose, Starner says he has every intention of trying to grow an even greater pumpkin next year.
After all, the world record is 1,802 pounds.
Ex-TRF official faces peeping charge (GFH)
THIEF RIVER FALLS, Minn. -- A Thief River Falls city council member resigned abruptly last week, days after he was cited for peeping in a men’s restroom in a city park.
Dean Swanson, 54, faces a charge of “interference with privacy,” after police officers said he had been looking into stalls in the men’s bathroom in Tourist Park on the southwest edge of town on Sept. 2.
An investigation concluded Swanson had been in the bathroom, “a considerable amount of time,” Police Chief Kim Murphy said, from roughly 11 p.m., Sept. 1 to about 1:30 a.m., Sept. 2.
He appeared to have been drinking and told the officers he was openly gay and had been looking at other patrons in their bathroom stalls, Murphy said.
Swanson is expected to make an initial appearance on the gross misdemeanor charge, which carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $3,000 fine, in state district court in Thief River Falls within two weeks, a court official said.
Swanson was convicted of a gross misdemeanor in Ramsey County in 2003 for non-consensual sexual conduct, according to state court records.
County attorney pleads guilty to DWI (DNT)
DULUTH -- Carlton County Attorney Thom Pertler pleaded guilty Tuesday to third-degree driving while impaired — which was a refusal to submit to a chemical test — the most serious of seven crimes he was charged with when stopped by the State Patrol in July for driving erratically.
“It’s been a learning experience, one that I find myself on this side of the podium, rather than sitting at the (prosecutor’s) table there,’’ Pertler told Judge Heather Sweetland before being sentenced in State District Court in Duluth.
“Words can’t describe my remorse. My apologies to everybody,” Pertler said.
Pertler was arrested on the afternoon of July 17 in Duluth. A confused Pertler attempted to hide a nearly empty bottle of vodka under his car seat, according to the trooper’s report. A preliminary breath test indicated that Pertler, 48, had a blood-alcohol content of 0.234 percent, nearly three times the legal limit to drive.
Crews battle wildfire (BP)
KELLIHER, Minn. — Forestry crews and Beltrami County emergency management continued to fight a wildfire Tuesday, which has burned roughly 300 acres so far.
The grass fire was reported early Monday afternoon in Battle Township, located 55 miles north of Bemidji.
“One of the issues (Monday) was the extreme drought situations making firefighting very difficult with the high winds,” said Ron Rabe from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Blackduck Forestry office.
Rabe said the cause of the Battle Township fire is unknown. The fire spread into a peat bog.
“Peat is a very difficult issue to resolve,” Rabe said. “Essentially it’s up to 2 feet of stuff that is like sawdust. It is dry so it just smolders.”
Rabe said DNR forestry resources, which include contracted workers with local equipment, worked throughout the day Tuesday to contain the fire, but it continued to burn. He is confident the fire will not spread much further.
“At this time we feel it is pretty well contained but it is always a factor of the weather,” Rabe said.
No one has been injured in the fire and because it is in a remote area no structures are threatened.
TV host Schultz prevails in suit (FF)
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit claiming talk show host Ed Schultz owed more than $100,000 to a man who sought to collaborate with him on a television deal.
Michael Queen, an NBC broadcast engineer, claimed he helped created MSNBC’s “The Ed Show.” He said Schultz, a former Fargo sportscaster and liberal radio personality, froze him out when the show made it to the air.
Queen sued in May 2011 seeking 25 percent of Schultz’s salary for the show – a figure he said he was entitled to, based on verbal and email exchanges with Schultz’s camp.
A judge ruled Aug. 30 in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., that there wasn’t enough evidence any legally enforceable deal was ever struck.
In a statement Monday, Schultz said he felt “vindicated by the Court’s ruling. People that know me know that I don’t operate like it was portrayed in the lawsuit.”
Howell also dismissed a countersuit in which Schultz claimed Queen had misled him about a business opportunity, and made libelous claims about Schultz.
NDSU’s Beck fined, given community service (FF)
FARGO – A North Dakota State University football player was fined and sentenced to community service Tuesday after pleading guilty to underage drinking.
Travis Beck, 20, was fined $325 and sentenced to 40 hours of community service after being charged with minor consuming alcohol and resisting a police officer on July 23.
He will also be attending an educational program offered to minors charged with consumption of alcohol, defense attorney Bruce Quick said.
The charge of resisting a police officer was dismissed as part of the plea agreement, Quick said.
“He basically received a standard sentence,” Quick said.
Beck, a 6-foot, 207-pound sophomore from Munich, N.D., was named the most valuable player in the Bison’s 17-6 victory over Sam Houston State in the Football Championship Subdivision title game on Jan. 7 in Frisco, Texas.
Fargo police identify body found near river (FF)
FARGO – Police here have identified a man whose body was found near the Red River in downtown Fargo late Thursday night.
Michael Joseph Winter, 54, was homeless at the time of his death, Lt. Joel Vettel said.
A cause of death has not been determined, but foul play is not suspected, Vettel said.
People who had seen Winter alive on Wednesday went back to check on him Thursday near the 200 block of Main Avenue and found him deceased in some bushes by the river, Vettel said.
Part of Fargo Guard unit to deploy to Cuba (FF)
FARGO – Nearly 30 members of the North Dakota Army National Guard’s 191st Military Police Company will deploy to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba next month for a yearlong mission, the Guard announced Wednesday.
The company, which is based in Fargo with detachments in Mayville and Bismarck, received a mobilization alert order this week.
The mission is expected to begin in late October.
Nearly 30 members of the unit will serve alongside more than 100 U.S. Army Reserve soldiers as part of the 1,000-strong force assigned to Joint Task Force Guantanamo, the Guard stated in a news release.
Joint Task Force Guantanamo has custody of detainees defined by the U.S. government as enemy combatants, including those convicted by military commission.
Before arriving in Cuba, the 191st will receive training at the mobilization station in Fort Bliss, Texas.
Lt. Col. Mark Tibor of Bismarck will command the mission.
The 191st most recently deployed to Baghdad, Iraq, from January 2008 to January 2009.