Dakota County has renewed its contract with the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office for up to 30 years, agreeing to use the office to investigate all deaths that are unexpected or have uncertain causes in the county as required by state statute.

Hennepin, Scott and Dakota counties signed a three-year cooperative agreement in 2013, which lasts through December. Before that, the county collaborated with eight other counties to create a regional medical examiner’s office, an arrangement that lasted through 2012.

The county pays about 19 percent of the office’s costs, a rate determined by how much the county uses it. About $1.2 million is allotted for services in the county’s 2017 budget.

While the Dakota County board approved the long-term contract Dec. 13, Commissioner Mike Slavik said he couldn’t support the measure because area funeral directors have reported mixed results with the office. “Some felt like second-class citizens,” Slavik said.

Erin Adler

Agricultural Society gets $500,000 advance

On Dec. 13 the Dakota County board approved a request by the Dakota County Agricultural Society for a $500,000 appropriation to help replace the 4-H building, which has mold problems and a leaky roof.

The society and 4-H program will fund $300,000 of the $800,000 structure.

The appropriation will be repaid through an annual $50,000 reduction in its grant allocation from the county for the next 10 years. The money will come from the general revenue fund. The board may appropriate money from the fund if its members believe the stipend will be used to help improve the county’s agricultural or economic resources.

Erin Adler

West St. Paul

Predatory offender housing ordinance OK’d

The city of West St. Paul is the latest metro-area city to pass an ordinance limiting where sex offenders can live, creating a 1,200 foot buffer around schools, day cares, state-licensed residential care facilities and registered housing with services. The latter two are also known as group housing.

West St. Paul Police Chief Bud Shaver wrote in a memo that he is “very concerned about what is on the horizon when the state begins to release offenders currently being held in confinement at St. Peter and other similar state institutions.”

In June 2015, the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) was deemed unconstitutional because it confines offenders indefinitely after they’ve served a criminal sentence. The 700 offenders currently held at St. Peter and Moose Lake facilities are seeking release and housing in less restrictive environments.

South St. Paul recently passed a similar ordinance.

Erin Adler

Burnsville

Reward offered for $50,000 storage unit burglary

The Burnsville Police Department wants the public’s help solving two recent storage unit burglaries.

Surveillance video shows several items being stolen from two units in a Burnsville storage rental facility on Oct. 29 and 31. Police believe a group of people used a rental van to make off with $50,000 worth of items, including firearms, collectible coins, original artwork and middle-eastern rugs. The surveillance video shows at least one man and a woman using a rental van to make off with the items from North Star Mini Storage, 1900 143rd St. W.

A $1,000 reward is being offered anonymously for information leading to the identification, arrest and prosecution of those involved in the incidents and recovery of the stolen property.

Anyone with information should contact detective David Luchinger at 952-641-1120. The identity of the person providing information can be protected.

Erin Adler

DAKOTA COUNTY

State recognizes chief deputy attorney

The Minnesota County Attorneys Association has selected Phillip Prokopowicz, chief deputy attorney in Dakota County, for its meritorious service award.

Prokopowicz, who is based in Hastings, worked on legislation to change sentencing guidelines in drug cases. It was the association’s top priority, according to a news release. The organization said that the bill drafting process required “extensive skill and knowledge of current law. Prokopowicz put in significant time and effort in this process, was always available for consultation, and was critical to the successful outcome the association and prosecutors across the state achieved,” the group said.

Dakota County Attorney Jim Backstrom said drug sentencing reform was among the association’s most important legislative accomplishments in decades and could not have been accomplished “without the hard work and dedication of Phil Prokopowicz.”

NATALIE DAHER