- Associated Press - Thursday, February 27, 2014
Rental space for Minn. senators: $2.4M to $2.9M

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota Department of Administration officials estimate it would cost at least $2.4 million to rent temporary space for state senators and staff during the ongoing Capitol renovation.

Administration officials gave a range Thursday that runs as high as $2.9 million per year, not counting the yet-known costs of retrofitting rental space. The estimate is based on a need to find at least 135,000 square feet nearby.

It’s part of a debate over where to put senators now and later, and whether a controversial Senate office building project goes forward.

The new Senate building and a related parking ramp project have been priced at $90 million.

The House Rules and Administration Committee is the last legislative hurdle for the new office project. But it is also the subject of a lawsuit.

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Legislature sends heating aid bill to Dayton

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - The Legislature on Thursday sent Gov. Mark Dayton a bill containing $20 million in emergency heating assistance, which his spokesman said the governor would sign immediately.

Lawmakers, in a series of unanimous votes, moved the heating aid quickly through the process in the opening days of the legislative session. The House initially passed the bill Tuesday. The Senate took it up Thursday, made minor changes and sent it back to the House, which relayed it to the governor.

The Senate sped up a planned Monday vote after Republicans sought to move it along quicker and Democrats did not object.

The bill replenishes a fast-eroding account for the low income heating assistance program, which has been stressed by a bone-chilling winter and high propane costs. As propane supplies ran thin, some customers paid as much as $6 per gallon this winter, though prices have come down more recently.

“There’s a crisis going on in rural Minnesota,” said Sen. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake. “This is a start of dealing with this crisis.”

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DNR won’t extend comment period on PolyMet review

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Regulators say they won’t extend the 90-day comment period for the environmental review for the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine beyond March 13.

The Department of Natural Resources and other agencies said Thursday they’ve given the public ample opportunity to review and comment on the nearly 2,200-page document. They say over 19,000 comments have been received, and no new information has emerged to justify extending the comment period.

That drew an angry response from environmental attorney Paula Maccabee, who says conservation groups requested extra time just last week because of new data on water flows at the site and newly discovered gaps and inconsistencies in the review.

PolyMet’s proposed mine near Babbitt and processing plant near Hoyt Lakes would be Minnesota’s first copper-nickel mining operation if it wins the necessary approvals.

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Police: Exposure to cold suspected in girl’s death

BEMIDJI, Minn. (AP) - Bemidji police are trying to find out how long a 6-year-old girl was outdoors in subzero temperatures before she died.

Police say the girl’s mother and a neighbor reported a medical emergency at an apartment building just before 6:30 a.m. Thursday. Law officers and emergency medical personnel found the girl inside the building’s front entrance.

Authorities say the girl had signs of being exposed to the frigid weather. She was dead at the scene.

Police are trying to determine when the girl was last seen and how long she was exposed to the elements. Early morning temperatures in the Bemidji area were 27 below zero with a wind chill of 40 below.

The girl’s body was taken to the Ramsey County medical examiner’s office. Her name has not been released.

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