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Three candidates are battling it out in a state Senate special election Feb. 12 that could narrow control of the Senate. The Senate seat was vacated when then-Democratic Sen. Dan Schoen resigned in December amid allegations of sexual misconduct. Former state representatives Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, and Karla Bigham, DFL-Cottage Grove, are facing off in the Senate race, with Hastings Libertarian candidate Emily Mellingen also running.
Longtime Legislator Denny McNamara beat out newcomer James E. Brunsgaard III in a Republican primary challenge Jan. 29. After winning 85 percent of the vote in the primary, McNamara earned his spot on the Feb. 12 special election ballot for the vacant District 54 Senate seat. The seat was opened after former DFL Sen. Dan Schoen resigned in December amid allegations of sexual misconduct. "I really am humbled by the support throughout the district; it's cool to see," McNamara said. About 1,500 votes were cast in the Republican primary.
Another domino to move the Gateway Corridor bus rapid transit Gold Line forward has fallen, after the Federal Transit Administration accepted the project into a program Jan. 19 that could lead to matched funding. The Gold Line is now part of the FTA's "New Starts" program, which assists transit projects that exceed $300 million. With the Gold Line estimates ringing in over $420 million, the designation into the program helps it gain eligibility for federal matching funds, allowing up to half of the tab to be picked up by the FTA.
Cottage Grove Officer and EMT Jeff Rydeen was on call when an overdose call came in last June. On arrival, he found a 24-year-old man lying in the street next to his truck, sweaty and unresponsive. His breathing was so low it was barely there. "He showed all the telltale signs (of an overdose)," Rydeen said. The man's girlfriend told Rydeen he had taken an abnormal looking Oxycodone pill before he fell to the ground.
Washington County Karla Bigham takes over as County Board chair Washington County commissioner Karla Bigham was elected 2018 chair of the board at the Jan. 2 meeting. "I want to say thanks for the opportunity to be board chair," Bigham said. "I know we rotate.... But I look forward to a fantastic year working on infrastructure projects and making sure that the residents get the services and expectations that they have." Bigham replaces Lisa Weik as the board chair.
Zumbro House has made a preliminary proposal for a supported-living apartment building on the north end of the city. The company is looking at Newport to build a 200-unit three-story, market rate apartment building at 2300 Hastings Ave — and in a second phase, a 7,000-square-foot retail center.
Newport's Opinion Brewing Co. building was condemned by the city Jan. 1. The city had given them a six month temporary certificate of occupancy to work out fire code issues.
Judy Sturgill waited until Christmas to receive her birthday gift: a photo of with her grandson and great-grandson, all three of whom turned 19 in 2017. Sturgill, born Feb. 29, 1940, has only celebrated her birthday on the actual leap year day 19 times. Her grandson Jaden Bingen and great-grandson Michael Sturgill were born about six months apart, both turning 19 years old on their birthdays this year. Judy Sturgill revelled in the idea of being the same age as the two boys all year, finally getting a moment to get the trio of 19-year-olds together on Christmas day.
The Washington County Board approved pay increases for the county attorney, administrator and sheriff at the Dec. 19 board meeting. Washington County Attorney Pete Orput will receive a nearly 8 percent increase from his 2017 salary of $159,609. The 2018 salary is set at $171,580. Compared to other metro county attorneys, his salary was “significantly low in relation to the marketplace,” County Administrator Molly O’Rourke said.