Election set to build new Woodbury Co. jail

SIOUX CITY (AP) — Woodbury County leaders hope voters will approve building a new $50.3 million jail on the outskirts of Sioux City to replace the current aging facility.
The new larger jail would replace a building built in 1987 that is dealing with a number of mechanical problems. The Sioux City Journal reports that consultants have identified $22 million in upgrades that are needed in the current jail’s heating and cooling system.
County Supervisor Keith Radig says it makes sense to invest in a new facility instead of repairing the current jail.
County officials say the current jail was built with residential-grade plumbing to save money, but the system has trouble handling the load the jail puts on it so repairs are needed often. Voters will decide March 3 whether to build a new 110,000-square-foot jail that could house 440 inmates. The new jail would also have room for future expansion. The current jail holds roughly 230 inmates.

Western Iowa man convicted of murder

COUNCIL BLUFFS (AP) — A Council Bluffs man has been convicted of first-degree murder in the death of a man whose body was found wrapped in a sheet near the city’s downtown.
Prosecutors say 36-year-old Dubol Koat was convicted last week in the death of 35-year-old William Josephtong Dut.
Dut’s body was found Oct. 28 wrapped in a sheet. Koat was arrested nearly a month later.
Police said Koat and Dut were roommates and co-workers.

Pence sets Minnesota, Wisconsin stops in March

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Vice President Mike Pence will campaign for President Donald Trump next month in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
The Trump campaign announced Friday that Pence and his wife Karen will appear March 5 in Onalaska, Wisconsin, near LaCrosse. The couple will visit St. Paul the same day.
The visit will come just two days after Minnesota holds its presidential primary as part of Super Tuesday.
Wisconsin is seen as a critical battleground in the general election. Trump’s victory there in 2016 was key to his winning a first term. He narrowly lost Minnesota and has vowed to win the state this cycle.

Basin Electric has solar purchase agreement with Geronimo

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A power cooperative based in Bismarck plans to buy solar generation on a large scale for the first time.
Basin Electric Power Cooperative announced a power purchase agreement with Geronimo Energy, which is the developer of the Wild Spring Solar Project.
The farm with a capacity of 128 megawatts would be the largest in South Dakota once built. It still needs local and state approval.
The solar farm east of Rapid City in Pennington County is scheduled to begin operating in 2022.
The Bismarck Tribune says Geronimo is the same company proposing the 200-megawatt Harmony solar farm in Cass County.

Woman accused of embezzling more than $116,000

URBANDALE (AP) — A woman who headed the accounting division of a private fertilizer company in Urbandale has been accused of embezzling more than $116,000.
Polk County court records say Heidi Cook, 41, is charged with nine counts of theft, one of fraudulent practices and one of unauthorized use of a credit card. She remained in jail Monday, county records said. The court records don’t list the name of an attorney who could comment for Cook.
From at least Dec. 10, 2018, she took 33 checks totaling more than $116,000 from Spraytec and deposited them into her own bank account, prosecutors said. Her preliminary hearing is scheduled for Feb. 24.

In interview, Klobuchar, Steyer can’t name Mexican president

By The Associated Press
Democratic presidential hopefuls Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer were stumped when asked during a televised interview in Nevada to name the Mexican president.
Klobuchar, Steyer and fellow 2020 candidate Pete Buttigieg were asked during one-on-one interviews with the Spanish-language station Telemundo on Thursday night if they knew the name of the president whose country borders the U.S. It is Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who took office in December 2018.
Klobuchar, a three-term senator from Minnesota, responded, “No.”
Steyer, a billionaire businessman, replied, “I forgot.”
Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, was the only one of the three who knew the answer. “Lopez Obrador, I hope,” he said with a smile.
The interviews occurred after a candidate forum hosted by the League of United Latin American Citizens, the nation’s largest Hispanic civil rights organization. Buttigieg, Klobuchar and Steyer were the only 2020 candidates to attend. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders addressed the audience via video.
Nevada has a large immigrant population, and Hispanics are a critical constituency for Democrats. The state will be the third to weigh in on the Democratic presidential nomination when it holds its caucuses Feb. 22.
Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”

Michigan Legislature OKs more tax breaks for data center

Associated Press
LANSING — The Republican-led Michigan Senate on Tuesday approved additional tax breaks for a major Grand Rapids-area data center, sending the bill to Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for her expected signature.
Las Vegas-based Switch opened a mega-campus of computer servers in Kent County’s Gaines Township in 2017, after Michigan exempted it and “co-located” clients from sales, use and business-equipment taxes. Switch also was freed of many property taxes under a 2016 agreement.
The legislation cleared the Senate 25-12 after barely advancing from the GOP-controlled House amid a contentious debate in December, even after Switch and two school districts had worked out their differences.
Seventeen Republicans and eight Democrats supported the bill Tuesday. Seven Democrats and five Republicans opposed it. Whitmer’s office said she was reviewing the measure. She is expected to sign it, however.
The legislation would clarify that Switch is exempt from certain school taxes it was assessed for the first time more than a year ago.
Switch has conceded that the deal as written clearly does not abate some taxes but has said the levies run counter to its “understanding” of the agreement with the state, Kent County and Gaines Township.
The nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency estimates that the bill would reduce school millages by $242,000 for the 2019 tax year, though much of it could be offset by raising the rate on other property owners.
The Legislature also gave final approval to bills that would require that the school aid fund be reimbursed for all revenue lost from tax exemptions for qualified data centers.
When the breaks were enacted for the industry in 2015, it was estimated they could total $111 million over 20 years.

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Klobuchar faces tough questioning in case of juvenile lifer

NEW YORK (AP) — As voters made their way to the New Hampshire polls, Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar faced pointed questions Tuesday about her oversight of a high-profile murder case in which a black teen was sentenced to life after a flawed police investigation.
“I mean, how do you defend something like that, to someone like me, who is the mother of a black boy, a black teenager?” asked Sunny Hostin, co-host of the ABC show “The View.” “This case would be my worst nightmare.”
Klobuchar, a Minnesota senator who has drawn enthusiastic crowds following her debate performance Friday night, said, “All of the evidence needs to be immediately reviewed in that case. The past evidence and also any new evidence.”
The back-and-forth between Hostin and Klobuchar, the former top prosecutor in Minneapolis, concerned an Associated Press investigation into the case of Myon Burrell. Burrell was 16 when he was apprehended in the 2002 death of an 11-year-old African American girl, killed by a stray bullet while doing her homework.
No gun, fingerprints or DNA were ever recovered, and the case against Burrell relied on the testimony of a teen rival who offered conflicting stories when identifying the trigger man, who was standing 120 feet away, mostly behind a wall, the AP reported.
The AP also uncovered questionable police tactics in the case, including an investigator who offered cash for information, and interviewed a prison inmate who said that he was the triggerman and that Burrell was not on the scene when Tyesha Edwards was shot and killed.
Klobuchar, whose office prosecuted the case, has raised the case throughout her political career — even during her 2020 presidential campaign — as an example of how she helped find justice for victims of violence.
After the AP’s story, Klobuchar said evidence in the case should be reviewed. But her exchange with Hostin was especially heated and took place at a pivotal moment in her candidacy.
“You’re a U.S. senator now,” Hostin said. “You’re a powerful woman. What do you intend to do to right this wrong?”
Klobuchar replied: “It must be reviewed. Sunny, I think you know that I care so much about justice, and this case must be reviewed.”
McDowell reported from Minneapolis.
This story has been corrected to show “The View” airs on ABC, not CBS.

Detroit Tigers hope to finally pull out of doldrums

AP Baseball Writer
DETROIT — Detroit general manager Al Avila hopes the worst is over for the rebuilding Tigers.
“I don’t think anybody was trying to hide away from the difficult couple years, three years that we’ve been having,” Avila said. “Went through a full teardown, full rebuild, and now we’re in a process where we’re ready to step up and start getting better.”
Detroit began its new path in earnest in 2017, when Justin Verlander and some other significant players were traded away. The results since then have been predictable, but after 114 losses last year, Avila and the Tigers are hoping this coming season will include some signs of progress.
Detroit has some highly touted pitching prospects who could certainly help at some point this season, and the Tigers added some power in an effort to improve on last year’s anemic offense.
There’s still a long way to go, a fact that was underscored by Detroit’s hesitance to make any major, long-term commitments in the free agent market. If the Tigers finish with a more respectable record and the young players pan out, there may then be more pressure on the front office to boost the payroll.
For now, expectations are still measured.
“We’re looking forward to the competition with some of our young guys,” Avila said. “We feel we’re going to have a better team and a better year.”

Detroit added second baseman Jonathan Schoop and first baseman C.J. Cron, both of whom hit over 20 home runs last year. Nobody on the Tigers hit more than 15. The Tigers also signed right-hander Ivan Nova and catcher Austin Romine.
Right-hander Casey Mize, the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft, headlines a group of pitching prospects that also includes righty Matt Manning. It sounds like they will start the season at Triple-A, but they will be at spring training, and any sign of progress from them in 2020 will be welcome news for Detroit fans.
Minor league left-hander Tarik Skubal came on strong last year as well.
There is no area on the Tigers that can’t be improved, but the starting rotation could be respectable even without immediate help from the prospects. Matthew Boyd struck out 238 batters last year, and if he can reduce his number of home runs allowed, he could have a fine season. In Boyd, Spencer Turnbull and Daniel Norris, the Tigers had three regular starters with ERAs between 4.49 and 4.61 last year. Not great by any means, but hardly the team’s biggest problem.
The Tigers finished last in the American League in home runs and OPS and last in the majors in on-base percentage. Miguel Cabrera’s decline was a big part of the problem. The 36-year-old Cabrera hit .282 but had a slugging percentage of only .398. Even after adding Schoop and Cron, this lineup isn’t particularly intimidating.
The presence of Mize, Manning and Skubal makes spring training intriguing for Tigers fans, even if they might not be in the majors for a little while. Cabrera, who is under contract through at least 2023, will also be under scrutiny.
Detroit opens the regular season at Cleveland on March 26.

Minnesotans are drinking water contaminated by nitrate

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Years of unchecked agricultural pollution has led Minnesotans to drink tap water that is contaminated with unsafe levels of nitrate, a chemical associated with cancer and other serious health problems.
In a report released Tuesday morning by the Environmental Working Group, it was found that one in eight Minnesotans are drinking nitrate-tainted tap water, according to the Star Tribune.
The environmental group says Minnesota is on “the brink of a public health crisis.”
Nitrate, a chemical component in fertilizer and manure, is being washed away by rain and irrigation off crop fields and seeping into groundwater. Based on public records from the state Department of Health and Department of Agriculture, the nitrate contamination is far worse in privately owned wells, given they are not required to be periodically tested like Minnesota public water systems are.
“I think we would all be surprised how much nitrate is in these wells if we actually tested them,” said Anne Weir Schechinger, a senior economic analyst in the the organization’s Minneapolis office and co-author of the study.
Drinking water high in nitrate has been linked to different types of cancer, elevated heart rates and a potentially fatal condition known as blue baby syndrome in which infants are deprived of oxygen.
In efforts aimed to stop the use of nitrogen fertilizers, Minnesota implemented at the beginning of this year, the Groundwater Protection Rule.
It prohibits applying commercial nitrogen fertilizer in the fall and in drinking water supply management areas that already have elevated nitrate levels.
The rule also establishes an enforcement program encouraging farmers to adopt greener practices.
Farmers are in full support of the new nitrogen fertilizer restrictions but conservation groups and some agricultural experts criticize the new rule doesn’t address manure or contamination of private wells.
Retired University of Minnesota soils scientists Gyles Randall said a big miss in the rule is it only focuses on when commercial fertilizer is applied and not how much is applied.
The Environmental Working Group praised the rule as a strong first step, and said other states are watching to see how it’s implemented.