Another child seriously injured in local crash

     A Colorado truck driver is facing a felony charge in connection with a Nov. 19 crash that seriously injured a young girl.
     Police allege the truck driver, Jaime Machigua, 37, of 102 Nighthawk Circle, Gypsum, Colorado, was distracted by his cell phone while turning on to Cedar Avenue in Apple Valley. Machigua, who was driving Penske box truck, smashed into the back of a Kia Sorrento shortly before 2 p.m. on Nov. 19.  The collision caused a chain-reaction crash into other vehicles stopped at the traffic light at the intersection of Cedar Avenue northbound and 140th St., according to court documents.
     The Kia was so severely damaged rescue personnel had to extricate the child, who was bleeding and unconscious when police arrived, from the vehicle. Machigua allegedly admitted to police he was “probably talking on the phone” at the time of the crash, according to court documents.
     Machigua was charged with a felony, criminal vehicular operation resulting in substantial bodily harm, according to a criminal complaint. The crime is punishable by a maximum penalty of three years in prison and $10,000 fine.
     After being extricated from the smashed vehicle by Apple Valley police and firefighters, the injured child was taken by ambulance to Regions Hospital then transferred to Children’s Hospital for surgery to repair facial bones, according to court documents. She was expected to have substantial facial scarring and vision problems as a result of the crash.
     The crash is the second known vehicle collision resulting in serious injury to young children in the area during November. On Nov. 4, a 13-year-old Eagan girl was struck by a vehicle on Duckwood Drive in Eagan while she was heading home from a park. No charges have yet been filed in connection with that case, which is still under investigation, according to police.

Eagan firm fights cancer

        The next time you drive down Yankee Doodle Road past Biothera’s headquarters, you might want to wave. The Eagan company might help save your life one day.
     Inside the white building with the flagpoles out front, 36 employees are helping to fight the war on cancer. The biopharmaceutical company is researching ways to help the human body fight what can kill it. Its mission is spelled out at its entrance: Unlocking the promise of cancer immunotherapy.
     It’s an exciting time to be at the company, according to Biothera spokesman David Walsh. The company’s Imprime PGG is advancing through Phase 2 clinical trials in combination with checkpoint inhibitor therapy. It is a complex, highly technical business trying to develop a drug that works among the infinite variables of living humans. The company’s developing product attempts to trigger a cascade of responses through the immune system, serving as an immunological ignition switch to help cancer-fighting drugs kill tumors.
     The company’s ultimate product, if successful, won’t fight cancer on its own, but might help other cancer therapies work more effectively for more patients.  Such treatments are part of a revolution in cancer treatment to harness the power of the body’s immune system to attack cancers. “Cancer is ever-evolving,” Walsh said. “It’s a major disease, but it’s always changing. So the solution has to be dynamic and changing.”
     Developing pharmaceuticals to fight cancer is a long-term project. There’s no app to cure cancer. Developing products such as Biothera’s require years of research and testing.  The company is privately held, funded in part by angel investors—individuals who invest funds to further the company’s mission. A number of the company’s investors have faced cancer in their own families, according to Chief Executive Officer Barry Labinger.
     Biothera has been in Eagan since 2001 and, according to the CEO, has no plans to leave. “We plan to stay in Eagan,” Labinger said. “This is the core of our company….It’s exciting that such a home-grown company has made it this far for this long.”        
Dick Walsh, of Biothera Pharmaceuticals, works in the Eagan lab.

County tax bills arrive

    That letter from the county in your mailbox is not a Christmas card.
  Dakota County property tax bills, our annual reminder of who pays for everything, have begun arriving in local mailboxes. While the county and school district portions of the bill remain relatively steady or decrease this year, the city of Eagan’s portion of the bill is on the way up.
    City officials have attributed the increase to increased costs for public safety, with a shift from a volunteer fire department and the hiring of new police officers. But the city is also facing hefty expenses for its water park, ice rink, community center and Access Eagan, its broadband network available only to businesses.
    Taxpayers can have their say at a series of public meetings scheduled for late November and early December. The hearings are hardly one-stop shopping. One tax bill lists four separate public meetings, all in different cities.
    The public meetings are scheduled as follows:
      Dakota County: Nov. 28, 6 p.m. in the County Boardroom of the Administration Center, 1590 Highway 55, Hastings.
      Eagan: Dec. 5, 6:30 p.m., City Hall Council Chambers, 3830 Pilot Knob Road, Eagan.
      School District 196: Dec. 11, 6 p.m., Dakota Ridge School, 4629 144th St. W, Apple Valley.
      Metropolitan Council: Dec. 13 6 p.m., Metropolitan Council Chambers, 390 Robert St. N, St. Paul.
Leigh Monson reviews Wonder

Cost of city hall, police station renovations jumps

     Before construction has begun, the cost of renovations to city hall and the police station has skyrocketed from the $9.3 million approved in a 2015 referendum to a current estimate of $17 million, according to city documents.
     With no public debate or objection during a scheduled public hearing, the Eagan City Council unanimously approved an amendment to the 2018 capital improvements plan to reflect the higher price tag. According to discussion at the council’s Nov. 21 meeting, city officials expect to issue bonds to pay for their new headquarters, effectively extending Eagan’s debt, due to expire soon with the final payments for the community center, for decades.
     The Nov. 21 public hearing started the clock ticking on a 30-day deadline for voters to request a referendum on the issuance of the proposed bonds to pay for the project. Residents would need to submit a petition with 1,926 signatures before Dec. 20 to send the issue to a referendum vote.
     The increased costs raise the city’s total estimated capital project expenses from about $13.3 million to $20.2 million. In addition to expanding city hall and the police station, the city also plans to remodel its central services maintenance facility.
          The increased renovation budget follows the sale of the city’s former fire administration building, located across the street from the police station, earlier this fall for about $468,000. That price is considered too low by some critics, who questioned the sale of that building, as well as two decommissioned fire stations for which the city requested bids last summer. City officials have not disclosed the sales prices of those buildings.
     The former fire administration was sold to a local arts organization and has since been inhabited by a local rotary club and scholarship foundation.