Regional News in Review - February 2013

Moratorium on thrift stores debated

Tensions have flared as over a moratorium the Burnsville City Council recently imposed on new thrift stores in the Burnsville Center retail area.

At a work session, Council Member Dan Kealey tried unsuccessfully to end the moratorium and set guidelines for regulating thrift stores. Representatives of The Arc Greater Twin Cities watched as the council instead pushed ahead with the moratorium. The prohibition could doom The Arc’s effort to open one of its Value Village used-goods stores in the former Ultimate Electronics building on Burnhaven Drive. Laurel Hansen, the Arc’s business director, said afterward that a tentative purchase agreement for the building will probably dissolve before late May or early June, when the council is scheduled to lift the moratorium and vote on possible new zoning standards for thrift stores.

The Arc sought an extension from the seller after the council voted 3-2 in December 2012 to impose the moratorium. Moratorium backers are worried about the appearance and concentration of thrift stores in Burnsville’s County Road 42 retail corridor, as well as the loss of property taxes resulting from the sale of the former Ultimate Electronics building to a nonprofit. (Source: Burnsville Sun-Current)

 

Workers fired after man is pushed

Greenview North, a Hibbing assisted living center, fired two employees after a resident was allegedly pushed into a reclining chair. The incident occurred in spring 2011 and was investigated by the Minnesota Department of Health’s (MDH) Office of Health Facilities Complaints, according to a report.

Greenview is a home for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related conditions. The incident, which was captured on video surveillance, showed a staff member forcefully pushing the resident with a walker and his hands, and caused him to fall backward. The incident occurred as a resident was standing about two feet in front of a recliner. A second Greenview employee was attempting to give the resident a walker, but the resident continually pushed it away while becoming agitated.

The first employee did not intervene, according to the report. The employees were both discharged immediately—one for mistreating a resident and the other for not reporting abuse as mandated. The alleged perpetrator was also charged with fifth degree assault.

The MDH investigation found that Greenview North failed to comply with state statutes for the Vulnerable Adults Act designed to keep vulnerable adults free from abuse and ensure timely report of such abuse. (Source: Hibbing Tribune)

 

Intermediate care facility sought

An effort is underway in Nicollet County to open an intermediate care facility for the region’s developmentally disabled children. Area children now must travel to facilities in Red Wing and La Crosse, Wis., for care, a trek that takes its toll on families.

“People burn out. It just wears them down,” Nicollet County Social Services Supervisor Barb Christenson told the Mankato Free Press. She is leading the push for a five-bed site.

Christenson said there is no such facility in southcentral Minnesota. In-home services are available but are not enough for many families.

Sen. Kathy Sheran (DFL-Mankato) said the dearth of intermediate care sites in the state is a significant problem for affected children, and she plans to present a bill before the Minnesota Legislature to channel state funds toward establishment of a Nicollet County facility.

She said the goal is to fund the project by redistributing existing funding for a so-called “bed unit” in another county to augment Nicollet County’s bed allotment. The key is to not involve any “new” money. The five-bed, 24-hour care home would be in a residential setting and would serve children from age 7 to late teens who suffer from developmental disabilities such as autism and Asperger’s syndrome. (Source: Mankato Free Press)

 

HUD, US Bank settle discrimination claim

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that U.S. Bank National Association will pay $12,000 to a Minnesota man with disabilities under an agreement resolving allegations the bank imposed unnecessary documentation requirements on the mortgage applicant.

HUD found the lender required the Roseville man to establish he would continue receiving disability income for three years before it would approve his mortgage loan. The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate in the terms and conditions of a loan based on a person’s disability, including by imposing different loan application or qualification criteria.

“Holding persons with disabilities to a different standard because they rely on disability-related income violates the Fair Housing Act,” said John Trasviña, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “Reasonable income standards are a necessary part of the underwriting process but HUD will continue to take action when these practices are discriminatory.”

U.S. Bank agreed to accept SSI award letters as establishing at least three years’ income, and refrain from requiring applicants receiving disability income to provide doctors’ statements concerning the nature, severity, or duration of a disability. (Source: HUD)

 

Paraprofessional shortage eyed

St. Paul Public Schools are coping with a shortage of paraprofessionals, who work with students with disabilities. A couple of paraprofessional positions stayed vacant for more than a month. A couple of new hires turned up for their first day—and didn’t return.

With the largest special education program in the state, the district is having a harder time recruiting and retaining such key support staff. Other Twin Cities districts echo the issue, especially in intensive programs that serve children for most or all of the school day.

Recent years have seen a national push to make what once passed for a “mom job” more of a profession, with beefed-up education and training requirements for paraprofessionals. Meanwhile, schools have seen an influx of students with higher needs, and pay has remained modest.

Other districts have run into the same issue, particularly larger districts where programs serve students with multiple, complex special needs. Officials in South Washington County and Anoka-Hennepin said they’ve had a harder time filling positions in the more restrictive programs. (Source: Pioneer Press)

 

Support group forms for burn survivors

The wounds of burn survivors go beyond skin deep, which is why Independent Lifestyles Inc. began a support group to help them. The Sauk Rapids center promoting independence and choices for people with challenges hosted the first meeting in January.

“It’s physical, emotional and mental scarring,” said Mike Mills, a veterans’ peer mentor for Independent Lifestyles Inc. and a retired Minnesota Army National Guard staff sergeant from Freeport.

Topics such as socialization, resources, finding new ways to gain back independence, coping strategies, relationships and mobility are discussed.

Mills said his life was changed forever by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2005 that caused third-degree burns, which damaged all the layers of his skin. The 48-year-old suffered burns over 31 percent of his body as well as other injuries. “With burns, our skin is constantly contracting, tightening, so we have to constantly stretch our hands or wherever we are burned,” Mills said of his recovery, which included skin grafts.

The group provides informational and emotional support for burn survivors, and their families and friends. “I would tell burn survivors, ‘Don’t let your burn or your disability run your life. Take control of it,” Mills said, “The doctors can take skin from wherever and place it wherever they want to for the burn, but they can’t heal our insides. Only we can do that and by talking about it, we’re healing.” (Source: St. Cloud Daily Times)

 

Man sentenced for hit-and-run death

A Rosemount man was sentenced to 60 days in jail in connection with a 2009 fatal hit-and-run in Apple Valley.

Eric James Hunter struck Joan LeVasseur, 26, of Apple Valley, with his car on March 6, 2009. She died a week later.

Hunter was also sentenced to three years’ probation and will be ordered to pay restitution to the victim’s family, according to a news release from the office of Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom.

Hunter was tried on two counts: leaving the scene of a fatal accident and driving with a suspended license. He originally was tried two years ago. But the jury was unable to reach a verdict.

During the evening of March 6, 2009, LeVasseur was crossing the intersection of Cedar and 153rd Street in Apple Valley when Hunter struck her. He then drove away and did not notify authorities. Police continued to investigate this incident based on witness descriptions. It wasn’t until March 11th that the Apple Valley Police were told about his possible involvement.

Backstrom expressed his sympathy to the family and friends of Joan LeVasseur for their loss. Backstrom praised Assistant County Attorney Kevin Golden who prosecuted the case. Backstrom thanked the Apple Valley Police Department and the Minnesota State Patrol for their thorough investigation in this matter. (Source: Patch)

 

Copper theft affects nonprofits

Richfield police are investigating a rash of copper thefts targeting industrial air conditioning units, and one victim is a nonprofit that helps people with developmental disabilities.

According to Lt. Mike Flaherty of the Richfield Police Department, at least 5 incidents have been reported along Penn Avenue in the last three months. “They take the copper and scrap it then receive some sort of monetary payment for that,” Flaherty said.

Arc’s Value Village was hit with $12,000 in damage. The thrift store is one of four that raises money for Arc Greater Twin Cities, a nonprofit dedicated tohelping those with developmental disabilities. Laurel Hansen of Arc Greater Twin Cities said, “There’s a whole lifetime of services that we provide so every penny counts.” In reaction to the crime, Jean Bender whose disabled son David relies on the services, said “when someone steals from The Arc they are taking away from all of the Davids of the world.”

Police are still investigating leads. Flaherty said that the other victims include St. Richard’s Catholic Church, Fraser School and New Perspectives treatment facility. (Source: KSTP-TV)