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A former Cottage Grove City Council member has been acquitted of domestic abuse, but found guilty of disorderly conduct, in a fight with his wife earlier this year.

Derrick Lehrke, 35, was charged in February with one count of domestic abuse, but acquitted of that in Washington County District Court on Aug. 19. The charges stemmed from a dispute with his wife Autumn, a former Washington County commissioner, after she closed the Newport bar that they own. Autumn Lehrke suffered facial injuries in an argument over who would stay awake to care for their son.

Judge John Hoffman said prosecutors hadn’t proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Derrick Lehrke had committed every element of domestic abuse. However, Hoffman found him guilty of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor. Hoffman decided the case because Lehrke had waived a jury trial.

Kevin Giles

Washington County

Steep crossing is causing havoc

Washington County is warning drivers on County Road 14 (Osgood Avenue) in Baytown Township that a severe bump at a railroad crossing was “substantially worsened” by recent track construction.

Crews from the Union Pacific Railroad reconstructed the crossing to increase the slope of the curved tracks, but within hours of reopening, drivers began complaining that it wasn’t safe for traffic. Passenger vehicles couldn’t safely cross the tracks at greater than 10 miles per hour, and at higher speeds, tires left the roadway and vehicle frames struck the road, the county said.

Temporary stop signs, portable electronic warning signs, and a reduced speed limit were implemented, but the county hopes to rebuild the road in 2017. For now, engineers said, beware.

Kevin Giles

St. Croix Region

Bridge advances; work starts on trail

Work began last week on the Minnesota portion of a new loop trail associated with the St. Croix River bridge project. Crews began clearing trees along the route between the bridge and downtown Stillwater, said the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

The 5-mile loop trail will cross the new bridge after it opens in late 2016 and also the Stillwater Lift Bridge, built in 1931, once it’s closed to vehicle traffic. The old bridge also will be outfitted with safety features to protect pedestrians and will be repainted from dark gray to its original federal green.

Other portions of the bridge project recently or nearly completed include a new “Welcome to Minnesota” sign, an in-motion weigh station along Hwy. 36 in Oak Park Heights, and joining of bridge segments on the Minnesota side of the river.

The overall project will cost up to $676 million. It includes a new connecting highway in St. Joseph Township, Wis., plowed through farm fields to join with an existing four-lane road near Somerset.

Kevin Giles


School starts early amid big changes

The 2015-16 school year begins Monday in the Stillwater Area Public Schools, the only local district to skip a Sept. 8 post-Labor Day start. There are big changes ahead, too, with the district set to seek bids for major construction projects to begin in the spring.

Architects worked this summer with district design teams on a planned expansion of Stillwater Area High School as well as plans for a new elementary school in the district’s southwest corner, expected to be its fastest-growing area.

The high school is being expanded to make room for ninth-graders moving from the district’s current seventh- to ninth-grade junior highs. The junior highs, in turn, are being reconfigured into grades 6-to-8 middle schools.

In June, the district announced that it had reached a tentative agreement to purchase a Woodbury site as the future home of its new elementary school. If the deal is finalized, the school would be built near Eagle Brook Church at 11179 Brookview Road.

Anthony Lonetree

District 833

Contest nears end for summer readers

Students in the South Washington County School District have answered the call to continue reading during the summer, and now face a deadline to show where they’ve done it.

They have been invited to send photos of themselves reading to for posting on the district’s Facebook page at The photo with the most “likes” will win a prize donated by district staff members. The deadline for entries is Sept. 4, and votes will be taken through Sept. 7.

Anthony Lonetree


Police, county host car seat clinic

The Fridley Police Department and the Anoka County Chapter of Minnesota Safe Kids will host a free car-seat clinic open to all Anoka County residents from 4-7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 15, at Fridley Friendly Chevrolet, 7501 Hwy. 65 NE.

To register, call the Fridley Police Department at 763-572-3626.