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REGIONAL BRIEFS: Hospital workers say error led to higher levels of radiation exposure

From the Forum News Service


Fire destroys building, injures two people at resort

DULUTH -- A fast-moving blaze destroyed a building and injured two people Wednesday afternoon at the Lake Breeze Motel Resort on the North Shore.

Duluth Assistant Fire Chief Erik Simonson said one of the people transported to a hospital suffered “very minor injuries.” He didn’t know the condition of the second victim other than that she had suffered burns.

Guests said the building destroyed contained the resort’s office, gift shop, sauna and two motel units. Several people reported hearing an explosion before the fire.

Simonson said the front 50 to 60 percent of the office building was fully involved when the first firefighters arrived on the scene, with more flames toward the rear of the building.

According to guests, the two motel units destroyed were rented but not occupied at the time.

Firefighters were still trying to extinguish the fire at 3 p.m. They were hindered somewhat by the fact that only one water line supplies the area. While it had good pressure, Simonson said, it can provide only so many gallons of water per minute.

“It slows us down, but this building was probably going to be a total loss anyway. We succeeded in our objective, which was to save this building,” he said, referring to a neighboring building with resort units.

A cause has not been determined yet, he said.


Dayton declares emergency in response to storms, flooding

ST. PAUL -- Gov. Mark Dayton has issued an emergency executive order declaring a peacetime emergency in response to severe storms and flash flooding in the state June 20- 26.

Counties included in the declaration are: Aitkin, Benton, Big Stone, Carver, Douglas, Faribault, Fillmore, Freeborn, Hennepin, Houston, Kandiyohi, McLeod, Meeker, Mille Lacs, Pine, Pope, Renville, Ramsey, Sibley, Stearns, Stevens, Swift, Wilkin, Winona and Wright.

State agencies shall continue to provide necessary assistance, in cooperation with appropriate federal agencies, to help local units of government recover from this emergency.


Property owner accused of bias against single mom, daughter

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced this week that it is charging Jackson, Minn., landlords with violating the Fair Housing Act for allegedly refusing to rent an apartment to a woman and her young daughter.

According to a release from HUD, the Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to refuse to rent or to impose different rental terms on the basis of familial status.

The complaint is against Bradford Strom and Sarah Strom. According to the charges, the complainant moved to Jackson in July 2012 and began to look for rental housing. When she told the manager that the unit was for her and her 1-year-old daughter, he allegedly said he had rented to families before and it “just doesn’t work.”

According to HUD, Bradford Strom admitted during the investigation that he told the woman he preferred to rent the apartment to adults, not families with children. Two weeks after turning the woman down, the apartment was rented to an applicant without minor children, and the lease included a provision limiting the unit to one person only.

HUD’s charge will be heard by a U.S. administrative law judge, unless any party to the charge elects to have the case heard in federal district court. If an administrative law judge finds that discrimination has occurred, he may award damages to the family.



Constable accused of sex assault

SUPERIOR, Wis. -- The constable of Solon Springs has been placed on administrative leave after allegations that he sexually assaulted a 27-year-old woman.

The Superior Police Department is conducting the investigation of Constable Gerald E. Olson at the request of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

According to a news release issued by Superior Police Chief Charles LaGesse, the county made the request June 16.

According to the news release, the woman reported she was picked up by Olson when he found her walking on U.S. Highway 53 in the Solon Springs area of Douglas County at 10:30 p.m. June 15.

Olson, 47, was driving a marked Solon Springs police vehicle and was on duty, the release said. She stated Olson offered to drive her to Superior. Instead, she said she was driven to the constable’s home in Solon Springs. While there, she was offered alcohol and Olson made unwanted sexual advances and sexual contact with her, she said.

She stated Olson dropped her off at the St. Croix Inn in Solon Springs just before 2 a.m. June 16.


Hospital workers say error led to higher levels of radiation exposure

HUDSON, Wis. -- Claiming they have been exposed to excess radiation, four Hudson Hospital & Clinics technologists have filed a lawsuit against the architectural firm that designed the hospital and the construction company that built it 10 years ago.

The computed tomography, or CT, technicians say quarter-inch plate glass rather than lead-shielded glass was installed in the windows between the scanning and control rooms, thus exposing the workers to more than 20 times the usual radiation.

The technologists’ attorney, Chuck Bye of River Falls, said the problem was identified more than a year ago when the hospital bought a new CT scanner. As part of the installation process, the hospital brought in a physicist to check for radiation.

“It was corrected as soon as it was discovered,” Bye said. “Hudson Hospital has been cooperative, and there is no claim that they did anything wrong.”

The defendants named in the civil lawsuit are Mortenson Construction of Minneapolis; Hammel, Green and Abrahamson, a Minneapolis architectural and design firm; and Hammes Co. of Brookfield, the company that oversaw and managed construction of the facility.

A Hammel, Green and Abrahamson representative did not immediately respond to a message left for comment. A person from Mortenson Construction’s corporate communications department did return a call but was unable to provide an immediate response.


Man charged in wife’s drug death

ELLSWORTH, Wis. -- A Prescott man appeared Wednesday in Pierce County Circuit Court on a charge of first-degree reckless homicide -- a day after authorities found his wife dead in the home they shared.

Robert J. Whaley, 60, was a charged a day after he allegedly bought a large dose of a prescription drug from someone in Prescott. Authorities say he administered half to his wife and took half himself, and that moments later she lost consciousness.

The charge alleges that he caused the death of Emilie Jeanne Whaley, 59, by administering a Schedule I or II controlled substance, methadone, without lawful authority.

A $25,000 signature bond was set after Wednesday’s hearing. His next court appearance is scheduled for Aug. 12.

According to the criminal complaint, Robert Whaley told a Pierce County sheriff’s deputy he purchased the methadone “from a subject in town” but did not say who it was. He said that after administering his wife the drug, she was breathing but wouldn’t respond to his voice. He also tried several times to wake her but couldn’t, which led him to call 911.

The charge is a Class C felony, which carries a maximum penalty of $100,000 and/or 40 years prison.


Jeff Holmquist
Jeff Holmquist has been managing editor of the New Richmond News since 2004. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and business administration from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He has previously worked as editor in Wadena, Minn.; Detroit Lakes, Minn.; Hutchinson, Minn.; and Bloomington, Minn. He also was previously owner of the Osceola Sun, Stillwater Courier and Scandia Messenger along with his wife. Together they previously founded and published The Old Times newspaper for antiques and collectibles collectors; and Up!, a Christian magazine of hope and encouragement.
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