Dakota County joined a wave of Minnesota counties and cities Tuesday in filing a lawsuit against pharmaceutical manufacturers, distributors and others they believe helped create the opioid drug epidemic. Drug companies marketed opioids to doctors so that they would prescribe the drugs to patients to treat ongoing pain, on the premise that the drugs were safe and wouldn’t result in addiction.

“Today we know that’s simply not the case,” said Dakota County Attorney Jim Backstrom.

Washington and Ramsey counties first announced an intent to sue the drug companies via separate lawsuits on Nov. 30. At least five other counties say they will join them, together with the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Other cities and counties across the country are also suing or making plans to do so.

Dakota County has had the biggest increase in opioid-related deaths among metro-area counties since 2000, Backstrom said. Since 2007, 154 people have died from opioid overdoses in Dakota County. Also, Backstrom said, there are other costs.

The county has spent “significant public dollars” to battle residents’ opioid addictions, according to a County Board memo, including addiction treatment, other health care, child placement, social services, education, training and programming.

Law firms Motley Rice and Briol & Benson were selected to jointly represent the county in its lawsuit.

Erin Adler

State’s first car fire simulator unveiled

Officials from the Dakota County Fire Chiefs Association showed off Minnesota’s first car fire simulator at Pine Bend Refinery in Rosemount on Dec. 7.

The $50,000 simulator and trailer allows firefighters to practice fighting car fires without the risks and environmental hazards associated with real fires, according to the association.

Flint Hills Resources, owners of the Pine Bend Refinery, donated the BullEx brand simulator. It is shaped like a real car but made entirely of heavy gauge steel, the company’s website says. It features working doors, a hood and a trunk and can be used repeatedly. Operators can control various fire variables, such as the fire’s location, where it starts and how far it spreads.

The refinery offers free training classes for Minnesota police officers, grants scholarships so that firefighters can attend fire training programs and also provides free fire response training to its mutual aid fire departments in Rosemount, Eagan, Inver Grove Heights and Hastings. Flint Hills also donated a kitchen fire prevention trailer to the Dakota County Fire Chiefs Association in 2014.

Erin Adler

Prior Lake

Teen wins national award for taking a stand against animal dissection

A Prior Lake High School sophomore who railed against the idea of dissecting a fetal pig in her biology class has been named Animalearn’s 2017 Humane Student of the Year.

As a longtime vegetarian, Emmanuelle Boschee, 16, cringed at the thought of dissecting an animal in class.

“There’s just something not right morally about cutting into an animal that was given neither the chance nor the choice to live,” said Boschee, who contacted the Science Bank to borrow alternative science materials from its free loan program.

Animalearn, the educational division of the American Anti-Vivisection Society, works with students and educators to promote “quality humane science education without the harmful use of animals.” Alternative models are typically made of plastic and mounted on a base, illustrating the internal anatomy and superficial musculature of whichever species the class is dissecting. Hundreds of species, ranging from frogs to cats to starfish, are available to students.

Boschee said the detailed model of a fetal pig helped her pass the biology test.

In a statement Animalearn director Nicole Green said she applauded Boschee for taking “bold steps to shine a spotlight on the archaic practice of dissection.” Her organization will donate $1,000 worth of dissection alternatives to Prior Lake High School as part of the award.

Eighteen states — including California, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana and New York — as well as Washington, D.C., have laws or policies giving K-12 students the right to opt for an alternative to animal dissection. Minnesota has no such law.

Liz Sawyer

Spring Lake Watershed District seeking board member

The five-member Prior Lake-Spring Lake Watershed District Board of Managers is seeking to fill a vacancy. Members, appointed to three-year terms, manage water resources in the district. The board oversees district activities, sets policy and guides staff on budgets and priorities.

Meetings are typically held the second Tuesday of the month at Prior Lake City Hall, beginning with a 5 p.m. workshop and concluding with a 6 p.m. board meeting. Members must reside within the watershed district.

Those interested can contact Deb Brazil at dbrazil@co.scott.mn.us or 952-496-8601 for an application. Applications must be submitted by Jan. 12, 2018.


Canterbury Commons passes commission

Shakopee’s Planning Commission last week unanimously approved the land use amendment for Canterbury Park’s $400 million redevelopment project, recommending that the City Council do the same Tuesday. It would take four of the five votes to make a comprehensive plan amendment allowing for high-density housing on the sprawling site. Canterbury is currently zoned as an entertainment district, which does not permit residential housing.

The proposed upscale living complex on the track’s west side, dubbed Canterbury Commons, is designed to include more than 600 apartments, 100 townhouses and a 120-room boutique hotel.

Liz Sawyer