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HIPAA Law, dishonesty, impending COW meeting filter into Pine Co. Board discussion

by Ailene Croup for PiCK News
The Pine County Board has been teleconferencing its meetings from the North Pine Government Center (NPGC) for the past year because of COVID restrictions.
Meeting in person and whether masks should continue to be worn was brought up in discussion at the April 20, 2021, board meeting.
Chairman Steve Hallan said he didn’t mind having meetings like those that have been held for the last year - teleconferenced. He prefers everyone sit in front of a computer because it’s easier to hear.
Poor acoustics in the new NPGC and have been a continual issue. Wearing masks has only compounded the problem...

HCS: Hope rises from ashes

by Harvest Christian School Staff
Sirens, lights, smoke and a fiery glow turned a pleasant fall evening into a sadly memorable one for Harvest Christian School. The historic Depot building, which housed the elementary portion of the school, was on fire. It was Sept. 3, 2020, and preparations for the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year were complete. The pandemic had already complicated the opening. The fire delayed the opening and created many more challenges.
In response to this great mishap, the Harvest family and the surrounding community have shown an incredible amount of support and encouragement as Harvest attempted to recover from the fire and begin the school year.  Many churches responded, including the Sandstone Evangelical Free Church, which allowed use of their facilities so that classes could resume. The damage to the Depot was extensive enough that it was not prudent to repair. 
Demolition of the Depot building has been completed, and Harvest Christian has closed on the purchase of the former Gateway Clinic building for its new school site. In order to make this purchase, Harvest...

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photos provided for PiCK News

Top: Sept. 3, 2020, Harvest Christian School Depot building burns. Middle: Easter week, 2021, Depot demolished. Bottom: HCS closes on new home.

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Under pressure from residents, Pine Co. Commissioners pass diluted version of Second Amendment resolution

by Ailene Croup for PiCK News
Pine County Board met April 6, 2021 with the anticipated Second Amendment Resolution high on the agenda.
Sandstone area resident, Barry Burch, spearheaded the public push toward a county resolution supporting the Second Amendment. Burch is the owner/operator of Burch Tactical, in Pine County.
He began his mission more than a year ago, educating people about the Second Amendment and the importance of showing support for the right to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the Constitution.
He placed petitions and proposed resolutions at key businesses around the county encouraging the county board to adopt the resolution. The pages filled up, and were replaced with new ones over several weeks.
Commissioner Matt Ludwig waved a stack of those petitions at the board meeting calling for action on the  resolution.
Commissioners Steve Hallan and Matt Ludwig were on the committee to create a Second Amendment resolution along with County


photo by A. Croup for PiCK News

The Second Amendment Committee including Chairman Steve Hallan (background) offered a watered down version of a 2A supporting resolution.

Attorney Reese Fredrickson and County Administrator David Minke.
Not everyone was on board with the committee’s diluted version of Burch’s resolution.
Commissioner Terry Lovgren asked about the language not including important verbiage such as the county being a Second Amendment Sanctuary County. She asked that a meeting be set to further discuss the language.
Ludwig was in agreement adding they should get the version created by the committee passed then amend the language later.
Chairman Hallan said the board has had these discussions for a year and when everybody “gets back” they can have better discussions.
Lovgren was not in favor of the resolution but said she would agree if discussions on the language were not put off for a long time.
Resident Ailene Croup, PiCK News publisher and Sandstone Township Clerk, ask to speak about the resolution. Croup said Sandstone Township had already passed its own Second Amendment resolution. She wanted language that states the county would use its resources to support residents rights to keep and bear arms and prevent anyone from confiscating their guns.
Ludwig made the motion to approve Resolution 2021-25 as drafted. It was seconded by Mohr and unanimously approved.

Second Amendment under fire

Pine County residents get involved

by Ailene Croup for PiCK News
The Second Amendment is under fire.
Discussions, at the State and Federal level about doubling down on gun control with greater restrictions, have fueled fear with gun owners in Minnesota that their ownership and possession of guns is at risk.
Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America states:
“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Residents want Pine County commissioners to commit to enforcing the Second Amendment by making the County a 2nd Amendment Sanctuary County. They are signing a petition that has been circulating and has been placed at several locations in Pine County including the Victory Station, in Sandstone and Slim’s and Curt’s stations, in Hinckley.
It reads: “We, residents of Pine County, agree with the proposal to make Pine County, Minnesota a 2nd Amendment Sanctuary County.”


At the March 16, Pine County Board meeting, discussion on the Second Amendment was added to the agenda by Chairman Steve Hallan. This came in response to unnamed commissioners saying they have been engaged by residents about the Second Amendment.
Hallan led the limited discussion, at which time he said he took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States when he was sworn in and that should be enough.
He said it would be part of committee discussions and mentioned it being addressed at committee of the whole meetings which are random meetings of all commissioners.
As of August 2020,13 Minnesota Counties had passed resolutions of support as Second Amendment Sanctuary Counties. They include neighboring Kanabec County whose county board passed the resolution more than a year ago, on March 3, 2020.
Their resolution states that its intent is that public funds of the county not be used to restrict Second Amendment rights of the citizens of Kanabec County and that county resources not be used to aid other agencies in restricting Second Amendment rights.
The board’s resolution says its intent is to “…oppose any infringement on the right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms using such legal means as may be expedient, including, without limitation, court action.
The locations in Pine County carrying the petition also have a sample resolution.

photo by A. Croup for PiCK News

Above: Victory Station in Sandstone is one of several businesses carrying the 2nd Amendment petition and the sample Sanctuary County resolution.

Pine Co. Board approves mutual aid for Minneapolis during Chauvin trial

by Ailene Croup for PiCK News
Pine County Board entered into a formal agreement, with the city of Minneapolis, to provide deputies for the upcoming trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
Chauvin is one of four Minneapolis police officers charged with the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, in Minneapolis. Floyd’s death triggered riots, arson and looting over several days in the Twin Cities. The mutual aid agreement for law enforcement services was approved by a 4-1 vote at the board’s regular meeting, Feb. 16, 2021..

photo by A.Croup for PiCK News

Pine County Sheriff Jeff Nelson

Commissioners Josh Mohr, Terry Lovgren, Matt Ludwig and Steve Hallan voted yes. Commissioner JJ Waldhelm voted no.
According to the background information provided by County Administrator David Minke, the agreement can be cancelled at any time and expires Dec. 31, 2021. The three remaining officers charged with aiding and abetting in the death of Floyd will be tried together on August 23, 2021. The agreement will still be active.
There is no specific amount of time commitment and mutual aid defined in the agreement. It would be at the discretion of Pine County Sheriff Jeff Nelson, who would consider the availability of deputies and the existing conditions...

From the editor's desk: 2021

Tolerance: What's in a word?

NLX: The train to nowhere supported by taxpayers

Editorial: Permits, fees and fines "Oh My'

For more information about these events:

- County Board meeting April 19, 2021, North Pine Government Center, Sandstone, at 10 a.m. Click on the link above to get details regarding social distancing


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Pine County Attorney determines Deputy Pepin's use of force justified

by Ailene Croup for PiCK News

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) has completed its investigation of the Oct. 9, 2020, officer involved shooting of Anthony Michael Legato.
Pine County Attorney’s Office reviewed the information collected by the BCA and concluded:
“It is our conclusion that Deputy Josh Pepin’s use of deadly force in the line of duty was necessary to protect himself or others from apparent death or great bodily harm as is permitted by Minnesota Statutes section 609.066 subdivision 2(1) and (2). Given our conclusion, we will neither issue a criminal complaint nor present this case before a grand jury,” according to the memorandum from Pine County Attorney Reese Fredrickson.
(View the MEMORANDUM and detail of the pursuit on Oct. 9, 2021)
At the Dec. 1, 2020 county board meeting, there were about a dozen virtual attendees who called for the firing of Joshua Pepin. They wanted criminal charges to be brought against him. They also pressed for the county to release the body camera and squad camera footage.
Body and squad camera footage, along with statements from law enforcement officials, Deputy Pepin and those involved in the 911 call and dispatching of deputies is contained in the information gathered by the BCA, which the county attorney’s office used to determine if lethal force was necessary.

Dispatch was contacted at 1:46 p.m., Oct. 9, 2020, by Grand Casino Hinckley security when a guest reported an assault

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12.1.20 county bd photo for pick

photos by Ailene Croup for PiCK News

Top: Pine County Deputy Josh Pepin was determined to be justified in the use of lethal force against Anthony Legato Above: Supports of action to charge Pepin criminally were present at December Pine County Board meeting.

and having a gun pointed at her. She stated that Legato, who had four active warrants for his arrest and was using someone else’s identity, was violent and had a big bag of methamphetamine when he left.
It was reported he was driving a large SUV pulling a trailer.
Shortly after, officers located Legato southbound on Hwy. 61 near Beroun. He turned around and went northbound at a high rate of speed, swerving into oncoming traffic and, at times, driving north in the southbound lane.
The pursuit continued as he entered the I-35 freeway at Hwy. 61 and Hwy. 23 south of Hinckley. He entered the freeway on the off ramp and drove against traffic. Deputy Pepin followed onto the freeway attempting to warn northbound traffic with his lights and siren.
It was Friday afternoon and freeway traffic was heavy.
Legato stopped the SUV and appeared to be trying to remove the motorcycle from the trailer when Deputy Pepin stopped his vehicle in front of the SUV. Legato got back into his vehicle and proceeded southbound in the northbound fast lane. Deputy Pepin, who had drawn his weapon, was directly in front of Legato. Legato ignored him and accelerate into oncoming traffic.
In Deputy Pepin’s interview with BCA, he said he felt his life and the life of the woman who was parked in the fast lane were in jeopardy. He fired four shots. The fourth one hit Legato. His SUV slowed down and Legato, who was wearing a grey backpack, got out and fell on the pavement. The SUV crashed into another vehicle. Deputy Aaron Borchardt and Chief Deputy Paul Widenstrom secured Legato with handcuffs thinking he was still alive because he tensed when they applied handcuffs.
When Legato was unresponsive, Widenstrom and Borchardt immediately began life-saving procedures and continued until EMT’s arrived and took over nine minutes later.
Inside the backpack was a stolen .45 Smith & Wesson, a Ruger SR40, a methamphetamine pipe and 18.396 grams of methamphetamine and the documents for the identity he was using. Legato’s DNA was found on the grips of both guns and on the trigger of the Smith & Wesson.
Fredrickson told PiCK News, “The BCA has done an extensive investigation over the past three months. They have had a large amount of material to go through. It’s impressive what they have done in that time.
“A loss of life is always tragic and we also have to think about how this affects law enforcement. They go through their whole life hoping they won’t ever have to use lethal force. Officer Pepin performed his job as a Pine County Deputy, using his years of training to assess the incident and take action.”


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Rural Pine County resident target of mail theft, sheriff issues PSA

by Ailene Croup for PiCK News
Pick News reporter Ailene Croup asked Pine County Sheriff Jeff Nelson, at a Jan. 5, 2021 board meeting, if he had heard of recent mailbox thefts in the county.
Nelson said there had been a few. She asked if he would issue a notice for the press about precautions to take to avoid mailbox theft.Most of Pine County is rural and residents receive their mail through rural delivery in a mailbox, sometimes more than a half mile from their homes.



PiCK News had received information from Barry Township resident Roberta Butler about a letter she had received, in December, from the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office.
The letter stated: “On November 10, 2020, the Sheriff’s Office (Ramsey County) conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle in which property believed to belong to you was recovered.”
Butler was told she could make arrangements to retrieve the property from the sheriff’s office.
The letter also state: “Specifically to you, the Sheriff’s Office recovered a banking document in which a bank card was removed from the document.” The letter instructed Butler to contact the property room deputy to retrieve the property and a phone number of an investigator if a report had been filed with the Pine County Sheriff’s Office.
Preparing for a trip last October, Butler realized her bank debit card was expiring and she had not received her new one. She had a temporary card issued. She didn’t realize she had misplaced the original card. The bank canceled it and sent a new card. She watched for it but it never arrived and had another card sent to replace it. The bank canceled the last card. She didn’t give it another thought until the letter arrived from the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office.
Butler now has her neighbor watching her mailbox when she’s gone.
She cautions those in rural Pine County to have a friend pick up their mail if the resident will be out of town. Incoming and outgoing mail is at risk for mailbox theft.
On Jan. 25, 2021, the Pine County Sheriff’s Office sent this public service announcement to the media.
The Pine County Sheriff’s Office would like to caution people about leaving checks and other forms of payment in any mailbox on the roadway. Deputies have responded to several reports of outgoing checks being stolen out of mailboxes. The checks can be altered and cashed. Often the victims are not aware of the theft until the rightful recipient notifies them of a late payment. The delay in reporting can make the identification process difficult at times.
If you can deliver the payment directly, please do so. The best method, if you need to mail a check, would be to take it directly to the Post Office.
If you discover a payment was not received, notify your banking institution and also report it to the Sheriff’s Office. Over this past weekend, deputies recovered checks and then had to track down the owner as the theft had not been reported yet.
If you see suspicious activity around your mailbox, get a vehicle description and report the activity.
Pine County Sheriff’s Office can be reached at 320-529-8380.

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