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News Briefs: Plane headed to Alexandria makes emergency landing

Editor's note: The following is a collection of news briefs from Forum Communications newspapers in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin this week.


Boundary Waters land swap bill advances

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Legislation that would order the U.S. Forest Service to trade 86,000 acres of state land locked inside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness for federal land outside the wilderness passed the full House Natural Resources Committee Wednesday afternoon in Washington.

HR 5544, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack, R-North Branch, now goes on to the full House.

The bill seeks to settle an issue that arose in 1978 when Congress drew the current boundaries for the BWCAW and didn't account for the state land within those boundaries.

Cravaack's bill is supported by mining and timber interests as well as some politicians who say the time is long past due to compensate the state for land that's been managed as part of the 1.1 million-acre federal wilderness for decades.

Critics, especially conservation and environmental groups, say the bill is a thinly veiled effort to relax environmental protections on 86,000 acres of land outside the BWCAW by moving it from federal to state control.

Minnesota lawmakers in April passed legislation that would allow the land swap to occur. Gov. Mark Dayton signed the state legislation allowing the land deal April 27.

Pilot makes quick fix after landing on highway

LITCHFIELD, Minn. -- A Canadian pilot safely landed his Cessna 172 on a State Highway 24 in Meeker County on Tuesday evening, then fixed an engine problem and flew on his way.

According to a news release from Meeker County Sheriff Jeff Norlin, a 911 call reported that an airplane had landed on the highway around 5:30 p.m. northeast of Litchfield.

The pilot, Donald Rennie, 59, of Alberta, Canada, told the officers that he and his two passengers, Ernest Novakowski, 66, and Gerald Richard, 74, also from Alberta, had left the Rochester, Minn., airport and were heading to the Alexandria, Minn., airport when the engine of the airplane started to backfire and lose power. Rennie said he didn't think that it was safe to fly over the town of Litchfield to attempt to make it to the Litchfield Airport.

Instead, Rennie decided to land the airplane on the road. Once on the ground, the men discovered that the fuel in the airplane had water in it and corrected the problem.

After the Federal Aviation Administration was contacted, it was determined that the airplane was cleared to take off from the roadway. Deputies and the Minnesota State Patrol blocked the roadway as the airplane took off.

No injuries or damages were reported.

Pastor resigns after prostitution charge

RED WING, Minn. -- First Presbyterian Church of Red Wing leadership has called a special meeting Sunday following the resignation of Pastor Gary Elg.

Elg's resignation came last week, after he told church officials that he had been arrested on prostitution allegations.

"I have failed you as a pastor and a friend," Elg was quoted as saying in a letter sent out to church members Friday. "I have crossed some serious ethical and moral boundaries."

Elg was cited in St. Paul July 24 for allegedly exchanging money for sex with an undercover officer, according to a citation from St. Paul Police Department. He was charged July 25 with misdemeanor prostitution-patron.

Elg has served as pastor at First Presbyterian for 23 years.

Elg said in his statement that he will be seeking help for "some personal and mental health issues."

Mining application submitted on U of M land

ROSEMOUNT, Minn. -- Dakota Aggregates has submitted an application for a large-scale mining permit on University of Minnesota property.

In 2011, the University of Minnesota Board of Regents chose Dakota Aggregate to mine and run related operations on approximately 1,722 acres on the western edge of its UMore Park property in Dakota County. Underneath the UMore property lies an estimated 170 million tons of sand and gravel.

The mining will provide income for the creation of a planned residential community that could bring 20,000 to 30,000 people to the area. The sustainable community will integrate environmental, socio-cultural and economic opportunities with a specific focus on innovations in renewable energy, education and lifelong learning, health and wellness, the natural environment and regional economic development.

The company hopes to start mining in 2013.

The Rosemount planning commission has scheduled two public hearings as part of the permitting process.

The planning commission will make a recommendation to the city council.

The city isn't the only regulating body Dakota Aggregates will need to get the go ahead from. Dakota County and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency also must approve the plans.

Police chief calls allegations 'frivolous'

KENYON, Minn. -- A Kenyon police chief has responded to a federal lawsuit filed against him, calling the allegations "frivolous," alleging defamation and asking for $10,000 in damages.

Lee Sjolander, along with his lawyer, Jon Iverson, filed a response Tuesday to the lawsuit brought against him by Richard Thissen in June.

Thissen is alleging that Sjolander, along with Minnesota State Trooper Troy Siems, deprived him of his civil rights by using excessive force to arrest him in two separate incidents in 2009.

"Defendant denies Plaintiff Thissen's frivolous allegations in their entirety," Tuesday's filing says.

Sjolander's response also states that he did not arrest Thissen in June 2009, as was stated in the original filing.

Instead, the only time Sjolander arrested Thissen was in November 2010, and "allegations of excessive force ... are fraudulent," the response says.

Siems has until Aug. 15 to file a response.

Thissen's original complaint outlines two counts civil rights violations and one count of conspiracy to violate civil rights.

Thissen is asking for an amount exceeding $75,000 for "mental anguish, pain and suffering and humiliation," attorneys' fees and other damages.

Law firm hired to examine city hall salaries

FARMINGTON, Minn. -- The city of Farmington has hired the law firm Ratwick, Roszak and Maloney to look into the salary structure of department heads at Farmington City Hall.

Council member Jason Bartholomay made the request to look into the salaries of department heads, "to make sure there's nothing illegal going on," during the July 2 Farmington City Council meeting. In a telephone interview, Bartholomay said he is not pointing a finger at any one department leader, but he wants to make sure the salaries paid to all department heads are justified.

Because the subject involves personnel matters, city administrator David McKnight could not comment on the investigation, other than to confirm the firm had been hired as a result of Bartholomay's request, which was supported by the rest of the city council.

Mayor Todd Larson confirmed the investigation would include examination of the department directors' salaries but was unsure if the investigation would trickle down to other city staff.

"I'm kind of curious to see what the investigation is going to come up with," Larson said.

Egg carton plant hit by fire again

MOORHEAD, Minn. - Fire caused minor damage to a paper receiving bay this afternoon at the Pactiv egg carton production facility in Moorhead, which is still rebuilding from a massive two-day blaze that heavily damaged the plant in March.

Assistant Fire Chief Rich Eggert said the cause of the fire was unknown, and no employees were injured. He said a worker did a good job of using an industrial hose to keep the fire in check until firefighters arrived at the plant.

The fire was reported at 1:12 p.m., and crews saw smoke rising from the roof as they arrived.

Roughly 60 firefighters from Moorhead and six other area departments fought the March 15-16 fire, which Moorhead Fire Chief Rich Duysen called the largest fire he'd seen in nearly 20 years.

UMD sees fewer freshmen

DULUTH -- The number of the University of Minnesota Duluth's new freshmen students is expected to drop below 2,000 for the first time in more than a decade.

UMD is anticipating an 8 percent to 10 percent drop in new students who aren't transferring from elsewhere, but it's not an unexpected shift, said Mary Keenan, UMD's director of strategic enrollment management.

Because the number of high school graduates in Minnesota has peaked, UMD is looking to grow enrollment elsewhere, she said, and think beyond the freshmen class.

"Freshman enrollment has really come easy for UMD, and we've been fortunate to attract a strong pool of students," she said.

The plan isn't to de-emphasize freshmen recruitment, she said, but to work on other areas, including non-traditional, transfer and graduate students.


Life in prison for man convicted in beheading

COOPERSTOWN, N.D. - Daniel Evan Wacht showed little if any response today as North Dakota District Judge Jim Hovey sentenced him to life in prison without parole for the murder of a North Dakota State University researcher.

Kurt Johnson, 54, was last was seen alive about 10 p.m. on New Year's Eve 2010 as Wacht helped him into Wacht's van. Johnson reportedly was very drunk and Wacht offered to drive him home from the Oasis bar in Cooperstown.

Friends reported Johnson missing by Jan. 3 and Wacht was questioned and arrested Jan. 5 on an outstanding warrant from California. On a third search of Wacht's home, Johnson's severed head was found and Wacht soon was charged with his murder.

After sentencing, Wacht, 31, was immediately driven to Bismarck to be incarcerated in the state prison.

"I want him to sit a long, long time," in prison, said Kory Johnson, the brother of the victim, who was among the family members at the sentencing. "A death sentence would be the easy way out."

North Dakota has no death penalty.

Wacht's court-appointed attorney, Steve Mottinger, said he will file an appeal.

Former UND basketball star jailed over child support

GRAND FORKS -- A former UND basketball star and draft pick of the NBA's Miami Heat was jailed again last week for failing to pay child support, according to the Grand Forks County Correctional Center.

Jerome Beasley, 32, owes $199,855.55 in child support, according to the North Dakota Department of Human Services' online lien registry.

He has been held on a $15,750 bond since July 26, and must serve 30 days if he doesn't pay the bond, jail officials said. Once he is out of jail, he must continue to make scheduled child support payments or be subject to arrest, the Sheriff's Department said.

Beasley was arrested for not paying child support for the first time in November 2010. At that time, he was ordered to pay $6,651.

The 6-foot-10 forward came from Midland (Texas) Junior College and quickly became a fan favorite in his two seasons at UND. He finished in 2003 as the 10th leading scorer in university history with 1,402 points.

The Heat drafted Beasley that year, but he spent most of his time in the NBA on the injured list, and was cut in 2005. He later played in Sioux Falls, S.D., and overseas.

Minnesota man missing from music camp

DUNSEITH, N.D. -- Federal, state and local law enforcement officers are searching for a Baudette, Minn., man reported missing since 8 a.m. Tuesday from the International Music Camp at the Peace Gardens near Dunseith, N.D.

Russell Gillie, 41, was at an adult music camp that ended Tuesday and has not been seen since Tuesday morning, Rolette County Sheriff Rod Trottier said Wednesday.

Gillie has attended the camp several times. According to one law enforcement employee, Gillie has mental health issues that might be involved in him being missing.

The search includes a helicopter from the U.S. Border Patrol, as well as North Dakota Highway Patrol officers and equipment from the Grand Forks regional office in the air and ground search, Trottier said.

"We are asking for the public's help," he said.

Gillie does not have a vehicle at the camp and got a ride with someone else.

Camp Director Tim Wollenzein referred all questions to Trottier. He said the camp's summer season ended Tuesday.


Minnesotan killed in truck crash

MENOMONIE, Wis. - A truck driver who died in a rear-end collision with another semitrailer late Tuesday has been identified Brian Lee Paglusch, 43, of Paynesville, Minn.

Paglusch died after the truck he was operating struck the rear of another unit being driven by Destry Donn Wilson, 22, of California. Paglush was driving a truck owned by Viessman Trucking Co.

A fire occurred after the crash but Wisconsin State Patrol didn't offer details on the extent of damage.

The collision occurred in the westbound lanes of Interstate 94 near Menomonie.

Stanley Cup coming to Hudson

HUDSON, Wis. -- The Stanley Cup will be making an appearance in Hudson on Aug. 27.

Hudson native and Los Angeles Kings defenseman Davis Drewiske is expected to deliver the cup to the city for a few hours late in the afternoon, though the exact details are still being finalized.

"We'll have it on display at the hockey rink for two or three hours," Drewiske said.

In June, Drewiske's Kings won the National Hockey League trophy for the first time in franchise history.

Expected events for the celebration include a procession of the cup into the city, photos with the trophy at Gornick Arena, food and beverages, a food drive and speakers, including Drewiske.


Police chief accused of covering up girlfriend's meth use

WAGNER, S.D. -- Wagner Police Chief Jim Chaney is accused of using a storage unit at the Wagner Police Department to store needles his girlfriend apparently used to take methamphetamine.

George Johnson, Chaney's court-appointed attorney, says Chaney confronted his girlfriend on suspicions of drug use, after which she allegedly gave Chaney the needles.

The needles were stored at the police department until Chaney turned them over to agents with the state Division of Criminal Investigation, Johnson said.

Chaney was arrested July 25. He was charged with "misprision of a felony," which means he allegedly had knowledge of someone who committed a felony and either concealed his knowledge or did not immediately report it to authorities. He could face a maximum of one year in jail and a $2,000 fine if convicted of the misdemeanor.

Johnson identified Chaney's girlfriend as 21-year-old Charline Annette Cournoyer. Cournoyer was arrested July 9 on two counts of meth possession, both in her body and in a syringe, and one count of ingesting meth. Cournoyer faces up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine for each possession charge, both of which are felonies.