City to lay off all of its full-time firefighters

The Brainerd City Council voted unanimously Monday to lay off its five full-time firefighters and shift to a paid-on-call department. The 7-0 vote came after lengthy debates about whether emergency response times would suffer in the city of 13,000 if there were no longer firefighters staffing the station full-time, in addition to the dozens of paid volunteers who respond to calls.

Eliminating the full-time positions and bringing in more paid-on-call firefighters, supporters argued, would save Brainerd more than $260,000 in the first year, and even more in following years. City officials had estimated they would pay more than $80,000 in unemployment compensation to the five full-time firefighters.

The vote infuriated Chris Parsons, president of the Minnesota Professional Firefighters Association. “Despite increasing state aid the city decided to cut the legs right out of its emergency response capabilities and slower response times will be the result,” he said. “The citizens of the Brainerd area should be outraged.” City Council President Gary Scheeler said officials will begin negotiations with the firefighters’ union on a compensation package. No date for the final shift to all paid-on-call firefighters has been set.

Pam Louwagie



Rochester OKs later weekday sales of liquor

Patrons of Rochester’s growing number of taprooms will soon be able to get a late-night growler to go. The City Council voted Monday to extend the cutoff for off-sale beer, wine and liquor to 10 p.m. weekdays — the latest time allowed under state law — responding to requests from brewery owners and beer-lovers. Before, such sales ended at 8 p.m., Monday through Thursday, thanks to a long-standing city ordinance. The 6-1 vote followed a debate between brewery and liquor store owners over whether to change Rochester’s rule — an anomaly among both bigger and smaller, neighboring cities. Soon, both kinds of businesses will be able to sell until 10 p.m. if they choose.

Jenna Ross



Teenager shot by officer pleads guilty

A teenager shot by a Robbinsdale police officer during an attempted assault in April pleaded guilty this week. Tania Harris, 18, of Robbinsdale, was charged with second-degree assault. She will be placed on probation with 21 months in prison to serve if she violates the conditions of her probation. Those conditions, and whether she has to serve any time in the Hennepin County workhouse, will be determined by Hennepin County District Judge Elizabeth Cutter at her sentencing, following a presentence investigation and a psychiatric evaluation. The incident spurred a rally by Black Lives Matter Minneapolis, pushing for police to be prosecuted. The officer didn’t face internal discipline or criminal charges.




Former head shop to become retail space

A building that many had considered a major blemish on Duluth’s downtown Superior Street is headed for revitalization. The structure that housed the now-shuttered head shop Last Place On Earth has been sold to Titanium Partners, a year-old commercial real estate firm in town.

Managing Partner Brian Forcier said the building, at 120 E. Superior St., will eventually house retail tenants on the street level. The two floors above it could be used for office, hospitality or multifamily housing. The basement garage, which has access on Michigan Street, is in good shape, he said. “We’re probably about 30 days from knowing exactly what we’re going to do up there,” he said.

The company purchased the 9,000-square-foot property after it was forfeited to the federal government as part of the criminal prosecution of Last Place on Earth owner Jim Carlson, who was convicted of selling synthetic drugs last year and sentenced to more than 17 years in prison. The building has been vacant as Carlson appealed its forfeiture.

While the sale price of $70,000 may seem like a bargain, Forcier said, the building needs a lot of work. “It’s been neglected … for quite some time, so we’ve got a nice project ahead of us,” he said. The news comes as several other properties nearby are undergoing refurbishing in a stretch of the street that was recently designated the Historic Arts & Theatre District.

pam louwagie


Isanti County

2 killed in head-on crash near Braham

Two people were killed in a head-on crash midday Monday along Hwy. 65 south of Braham, Minn. The crash, involving a 2011 Ford Fusion and a dump truck, occurred at the at Hwys. 107 and 65 in Isanti County, according to the Minnesota State Patrol. Killed in the Ford were driver Marjorie Ripperton, 78, and passenger Glenn Houtkooper, 84, both of Redwood Falls, Minn. The truck’s driver, Daniel Kent, 58, suffered noncritical injuries.

Jenna Ross