Disasters declared for 24 counties, 2 tribal nations

Two dozen Minnesota counties and two tribal nations have been officially declared federal disaster areas as they work to clean up after early summer floods.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) expanded its disaster declaration for the state Friday to 24 counties and two tribal governments. Conditions in six other counties are still under FEMA review, including the Twin Cities region.

The new declaration, which will allow FEMA to shoulder 75 percent of the cleanup cost, includes: Beltrami, Blue Earth, Brown, Carver, Dodge, Faribault, Koochiching, Lac qui Parle, Lake of the Woods, Le Sueur, Marshall, Martin, McLeod, Nicollet, Redwood, Rice, Roseau, Scott, Sibley, Steele, Todd, Wadena, Waseca and Yellow Medicine counties, and the tribal governments of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa and Prairie Island Indian Community.

FEMA is still reviewing the requests for Dakota, Hennepin, Lyon, Ramsey, Watonwan and Wright. Eight other counties — Chippewa, Freeborn, Jackson, Murray, Nobles, Pipestone, Renville and Rock — received disaster declarations in June.

Jennifer Brooks @stribrooks

Albert Lea

Tax abatement approved for professional companies

Hoping to lure new professional services to town or promote the growth of existing ones, the Albert Lea City Council has approved a new tax-abatement program.

The program targeting dental, medical, financial and other services will rebate a decreasing portion of taxes to eligible businesses over five years, with 90 percent rebated the first year, 80 percent the second, 70 percent the third, 60 percent the fourth and 50 percent the fifth.

Businesses have to meet certain thresholds to qualify, including creating five full-time jobs at 110 percent of the community's median income level within the first two years and investing at least $250,000 in capital improvements.

The idea promotes "trying to create some higher paying jobs in the community," said city manager Chad Adams. "There's always discretion from the city to approve or not approve a certain proposal."

Pam Louwagie @pamlouwagie


MnDOT offers update on new Hwy. 53 route

Minnesota is about to lose a stretch of Highway 53. This week, residents will have a chance to sit down with state transportation officials to hear the latest plans for a replacement route between Virginia and Eveleth.

Under the terms of a deal the state cut in 1960, it will have to abandon the stretch of four-lane highway that runs across the mining companies' private property by the spring of 2017. The question now is how Minnesota will replace that key stretch of road on a highway that is the main link between Duluth and International Falls.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation is hosting a public meeting from 10 to 11 a.m. on Thursday at its Virginia offices at 101 Hoover Road.

Jennifer Brooks @stribrooks


Northfield native rises through Navy ranks

The Navy's newest deputy undersecretary is one of Minnesota's own.

Northfield native Jodi Jill Greene has been sworn in as Navy deputy undersecretary for policy. In her new position, she is responsible for briefing the secretary of the Navy on foreign and defense policy, intelligence oversight, security policy, future naval capabilities and readiness issues.

Greene was promoted at a ceremony at the Pentagon, presided over by U.S. Naval Secretary Ray Mabus. Greene's husband, Jeff Greene, and mother, Marion Johnson, were on hand.

Greene has spent her career traveling the globe, first in the U.S. Air Force and later as a civilian adviser to the Department of Defense on foreign policy and security issues.

Jennifer Brooks @stribrooks