A turkey’s journey ends
Will another’s begin?
A 60-year old Grand Rapids man faces seven felony charges following a police chase Saturday that ended with police forcing him to stop, five vehicles damaged, and at least one police officer injured.
Robert A. Larson faces felony charges of criminal vehicular operations — bodily harm — under the influence; second-degree assault; threats of violence; four separate counts of first-degree damage to property; and fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle, reports a criminal complaint filed in Koochiching County District Court Monday.
The charges stem from when International Falls police attempted to talk to Larson, after stopping him when they observed him traveling west at a high rate of speed on Fourth Street, the court documents say.
Police had already taken reports that the vehicle had just been involved in two robberies elsewhere in International Falls.
Larson refused to open his window, put his vehicle in gear and rammed the patrol vehicle, narrowly missing a county deputy, who had assisted. Larson when fleeing rammed a vehicle in the parking lot at St. Thomas Church and left the scene. That vehicle, a 2012 Toyota Camry, was hit with such force it broke both tires off the right side of the car, spun it 180 degrees, and pushed it up and over the curb, said the complaint.
Vehicles driven by a Falls police officer and county deputy boxed the vehicle in at the Backus Community Center parking lot, when Larson again refused to obey orders from the officers. The officers broke out the driver’s side window and a passenger’s side window of the vehicle Larson was driving, and it rammed a State Patrol vehicle, whose officer also attempted to assist.
Several attempts were made to stop the vehicle using pursuit intervention techniques, or PITs, along Highway 11-71; police reported it appeared the left front tie rod and the axle had broken on the vehicle Larson was driving.
Near the Nomad Motel, an officer had enough room and no oncoming traffic to PIT the vehicle again, spinning the pickup, which then rammed the front of a deputy’s pickup, pushing it back into a Falls officer’s patrol vehicle.
Larson resisted leaving the vehicle, and threatened to kill officers as they removed him.
A recent spike in positive COVID-19 cases in Koochiching County may be curtailed as more people are vaccinated, said a county health official Wednesday.
From April 8 to April 13 Minnesota Department of Health reported 29 new positive cases in Koochiching County; from April 1 to April 8, the department reported an additional 40 new cases in the county.
Derek Foss, Koochiching County Public Health supervisor, acknowledged the local rise in positive cases.
“A spike in cases is always concerning, more cases can lead to more hospitalizations,” he said.
But Koochiching County is not unique in the situation. Many areas of Minnesota and other states in the Midwest are seeing a similar rise in positive cases.
The rise in cases is likely a result of “COVID-fatigue,” in which people let their guard down about social distancing and masking, he said.
“We have all been dealing with this pandemic for over a year now and people are tired and want to return to normal,” he said. “One difference between this case increase and the one we experienced this fall is the fact we have a tool at our disposal that will help curtail this: vaccination.”
Foss shared some statistics that indicate people in Koochiching County are getting vaccinated against the virus.
More than 77 percent of people 65 and older in Koochiching County have been vaccinated, he reported, and 46 percent of all age-eligible people in the county have been vaccinated “with more vaccines going into arms every week.
“The best thing people can do to slow this surge is to continue to practice CDC — cover, distance, clean — and get vaccinated,” he said. “There is a light at the end of the tunnel with this pandemic, we just need to stay the course for a while longer and we will get there.”
Office left vacant
RRCC baseball at home
Voyageurs battle Norsemen
Koochiching County commissioners Tuesday met in a lengthy session, when they heard presentations and took action on several items.
The board agreed to fund the Sentencing to Service program for two years, at a county cost of $152,702, a 7-percent increase from the past two-year contract. The contract runs from July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2023.
STS is an alternative sentencing program by the courts that puts carefully selected, nonviolent offenders to work on community work service projects.
Matt Gouin, county Environmental Services director, reminded the board the county covers 75 percent of the costs of the program, with the state paying the remainder of the costs.
STS crews are led by Keith Knaeble, who has served as supervisor for many years. Crews have assisted the county’s recycling program for years, as well as have helped with site cleanup at various locations throughout the county.
The board agreed to rezone and grant a 5-year conditional use permit to KGM Contractors on an 80-acre parcel, 1/4 mile south of Highway 53 and two miles east of Ray.
The action will allow KMG to operate a new rock quarry and crushing operation, with access off Highway 53. The gravel from the site will be used for local and state projects in and around the International Falls area.
The board received a recommendation based on the County Planning and Zoning Commission’s April 8 hearing, where several residents and property owners voiced concerns.
The closest house is 1/4 mile from the site, which is surrounded by forests.
The board Tuesday heard from some of those same property owners about the potential impact of blasting to wells.
A KGM official attending the board meeting agreed to test wells of three nearby homes, and again described mitigation and reclamation efforts that will be put in place during the operation.
The action and conditions appeared to satisfy area residents.
In other business, the board:
Scheduled a public hearing for the May 11 board meeting, on a request by Steve Lindberg, owner of Rainy Lake One Stop, Highway 11 and County Road 93. Lindberg wants to acquire a thin strip of property between the convenience store and the Highway 11 right of way, now owned by the county.
Approved employment separation of Deputy Sheriff John Kalstad and authorized filling the vacant position.
Approved promotion of Correction Officer/E911 Carrie Geiss to E911/jail administrator and authorize filling the vacant position.
Heard the county was found in compliance of the 2021 pay equity audit.
Approved a labor agreement with members represented by the International Union of Operating Engineers Local No. 49 collective bargaining unit. The agreement is similar to other labor settlements, with a 2-percent cost of living allowance, and other changes including to severance, based on years of services.
Meeting as the Koochiching Development Authority Board Tuesday, the board heard a presentation by Nathan Zacharias, of Zacharias Government Relations, who has provided lobbying services supporting the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition since 2018.
The coalition asked the KDA Board for an additional $2,500 funding for continued advocacy for broadband funding from the state.
Jaci Nagle, county information systems director and Koochiching Technology Initiative chairperson, told the county the past advocacy by Zacharias helped ensure that grant programs continue to exist until all Minnesotans have access to quality, reliable broadband.
She told the board Koochiching has benefited from the past works of the coalition
“Multiple broadband projects to occur in our county were awarded grant funding through the Border to Border Broadband grant program; funding that the coalition worked hard to support through the legislative process that resulted in $40 million being approved for 2020 and 2021 projects,” she said in a brief to the board.
The coalition has successfully moved forward bills in the Minnesota House and Senate for $120 million over the next two years, she added. That number will likely change as negotiations between the House, Senate, and Governor’s office over the biennial budget commence in the next two months, making the need for these contracts supporting the coalition endeavors essential, she said.