• The Anoka County Attorney’s Office May 24 filed a motion in Anoka County Juvenile Court to have a 17-year-old Andover boy certified to be tried in adult court on allegations that he robbed a couple at gunpoint May 17 in their Ham Lake home.

    Brendon Michael Crayford made his first appearance in juvenile court on felony first-degree burglary, aggravated robbery, receiving stolen property and possession of a firearm.

    Crayford May 24 pleaded not guilty to all four charges, according to court records.

    According to the criminal complaint, Crayford admitted in a post-Miranda statement that he entered the home and was there for approximately five minutes before he awakened the Ham Lake couple at gunpoint.

    Police responded to the home around 12:50 a.m. May 17. The couple told police that they woke up to find a young man with a black bandana around his face point a gun at them and demand money, according to the complaint.

    During the robbery, the couple allegedly noticed that Crayford had their Nikon camera hanging from his shoulder. They called 911 after Crayford left and looked around their house to find doors open and the lights on. Missing from their home was an Apple Macbook computer, a SLR lens for a Nikon camera, two Nikon cameras, four pairs of sunglasses, a green iPod Nano, an LED flashlight, a cell phone and a watch. Crayford also allegedly took between $35 and $55 in cash from the couple.

    On May 23, the husband found a digital camera on Craigslist that looked like their stolen digital camera. He contacted police, who set up a sale with the camera seller. An undercover officer met a male, later identified as Crayford, at the McDonald’s restaurant on Bluebird Street in Andover under the guise of purchasing the camera, according to the complaint.

    The officer confirmed the serial number on the camera and arrested Crayford.

    During a search of Crayford’s car, authorities allegedly found a handgun in the glove compartment. The gun and magazine were not loaded. They also allegedly found a pair of sunglasses that the couple had reported stolen.

    According to the complaint, police conducted a follow-up interview at the suspect’s home and found the stolen property in Crayford’s bedroom.

    The Anoka County Sheriff’s Office said the suspect’s parents were shocked by the allegations, but were cooperative with the detectives working the case.

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  • A drumroll and countdown preceded the ceremonial flip of switch Friday afternoon at Westborough Middle School to showcase the new solar and energy efficiency upgrades to South San Francisco schools.

    The South San Francisco Unified School District celebrated its $13 million project Friday. Expected to reduce the district’s utility costs by $20 million over the next 25 years, the project includes solar panels at 15 elementary, middle and high school sites throughout the district. Overall, the systems are expected to produce 1.68 megawatts of electricity, cutting the district’s electricity use in half, said Teresa Mayer, CFO and director of finance for Chevron Energy Solutions, which partnered with the district on the project.

    “Harnessing the power of the sun helps make our schools more environmentally sustainable, cuts their energy bills, and creates thousands of teachable moments for our students,” said California State Superintendent Tom Torlakson. “That’s a win-win-win proposition, for our schools and for California.”

    Funded through Measure J funds, a $162 million bond measure approved by voters in November 2010, the project will result in cost savings. That boost will directly support school programs, said board President Judy Bush.

    South San Francisco Superintendent Alejandro Hogan said the work will not only allow the district to reduce its carbon footprint but also provide new education opportunities for students.

    In addition to solar panels, the district included upgrades to the heating and lighting system to help cut usage.

    In September, the San Mateo Union High School District held a ceremony for its $31.5 million solar project on six school sites which corresponded with Torlakson’s release of the statewide Schools of the Future Report. The 89-page document outlines plans to support efforts to make schools sustainable, a statewide bond measure to offer seed money and greater opportunities for students to learn about emerging green technologies because of the on-site technology.

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  • Shane and Erinn Farrell never planned on tearing down their early 1900s bungalow in Minneapolis. For the first six years they lived there, the modest two-bedroom home was perfect for just the two of them. But for three or four? The Farrells decided they needed more room for the next chapter of their lives - as a family.

    “We wanted to stay in our Linden Hills neighborhood,” Erinn said. At first they considered adding a second story for a nursery and master bedroom. But architect Eric Odor, of SALA Architects in Minneapolis, discovered that the existing foundation wouldn’t support a new second story, the front porch was sagging and the basement ceiling was awfully low.

    “With all the needed improvements, it would cost virtually the same to build a new home,” Odor said. “If we just put on a second story, they would still have this 100-year-old house.”

    After crunching the numbers, the Farrells agreed.

    “We decided that it would make more sense financially to start over,” said Shane. “Then we could take advantage of the new technologies and build green.”

    Designing a new house from scratch offered endless options. But the couple were clear about their top priorities: an open floor plan, lots of glass for natural light, three bedrooms upstairs, and maximum energy efficiency. And lastly, Shane requested an unfinished basement to serve as his floor-hockey rink and bike-repair workshop.

    The couple’s desire for eco-friendly features and SALA’s commitment to sustainability led Odor to register the house as a LEED for Homes project, with a gold rating expected this month. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a national program that promotes the design and construction of green homes.

    “Building a LEED house wasn’t on our radar at first,” Shane said. “But we wanted to do something socially responsible and we knew we would make up the costs eventually in our energy bills.”

    Odor suggested panelized construction of the home because it reduces waste, construction time and impact on neighbors. Plus it would garner a tenth of the required LEED points.

    “We’d never heard of panelization,” Shane said. “Eric explained the benefits. It wasn’t more money and it would save us time.”

    Panelized construction means that the walls and floors are built as modules in a factory and then trucked to the site and assembled in place.

    “It was amazing,” Shane said. “In one day it went from a hole in the ground to a framed house with walls and floors. We were able to walk through a house we had seen only on paper.”

    Other green features include passive solar heat from south-facing patio doors and windows, water-saving fixtures, locally sourced materials, a high-efficiency furnace, a Thermomass-insulated foundation and fiber-cement siding.

    When the Farrell home was completed in 2010, Odor estimated that it cost 2 to 3 percent more than a traditional non-LEED home.

    The couple have never regretted their decision to tear down the bungalow and build new. “We have a brand new house, built exactly the way we wanted, and it’s also increased our equity,” Shane said.

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  • As if on cue, a big, bronze moon rose over the rim of Lake Tahoe as the evening’s speaker – California Sen. Dianne Feinstein – stood at the podium.

    “Oh my goodness,” Feinstein said, as beams of silvery light rippled across the lake and her audience at the West Shore Cafe and Inn on Monday night. “Is that something – or is that something? Wow!”

    Feinstein was on hand the next day to host this year’s Tahoe Summit, an annual gathering of public and private officials held at the Homewood Mountain Resort. The event, launched in 1997 by former President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore, serves as a both a pep rally and environmental status report for the health of the world-class lake on the California-Nevada border.

    This year, despite the moon’s serene glow, there were reasons for concern, from dwindling federal funds for restoration at Lake Tahoe to rebellious Nevada politicians who – frustrated with Tahoe’s tough development rules – this year passed a law threatening to pull out of the 42-year-old Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

    The lake itself took a turn for the worse, too. Water clarity dropped from 68.1 feet in 2009 to 64.4 feet in 2010, the second-lowest clarity level on record. The decline caught many by surprise.

    But Feinstein and others, including California Gov. Jerry Brown, showed no discouragement. They unveiled more plans and strategies to restore the lake, and shared hopes of moving beyond litigation to innovation aimed at swapping out the lake’s ailing, pollution-prone infrastructure with more environmentally sound development.

    “If we plan too much, we’re never going to build anything,” Brown said. “And if we build too much we’re not going to have very good plans. Somehow we’ve got to have the builders and the environmentalists … come up with a game plan that will keep Tahoe economically and environmentally sane, sound and sustainable.”

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