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Answer Man: Billboard message is don't drink and drive

Dear Answer Man, have you seen the billboard near Pine Island about drunken driving? It has a photo of the young man who was killed in a DUI hit-and-run accident a few years ago. Who paid for that?

The billboard has been along southbound U.S. 52 at Pine Island since early December, and it was paid for by the family of Austin Melville, the 23-year-old Rochester man who was struck and killed while walking across South Broadway one night in November 2010. The driver of the car, whose blood-alcohol content was more than twice the legal limit for driving, was convicted of multiple charges in January 2012; he's now serving a 16-year prison sentence.

Sandy Melville, Austin's mother, has been a passionate advocate for getting drunken drivers off the road, for educating young people about the dangers of drinking and driving and for tougher laws. She talks at victim impact panels and to student groups all over the area; she'll talk to a driver's ed class in Pine Island on Thursday.

"We're trying to get people to listen and get the message out in any way we can," she said.

Among Sandy's current efforts: She's pushing for a state law to require ignition interlock devices for people convicted of drunken driving. She says 20 states already have such a law, and she's pressing the cause with area lawmakers.


Her activism to prevent drunken driving isn't something she does by choice, she said. After what happened to her son, "it's something I have to do."

I'll add links to the story about Austin's tragedy and other DUI resources online , but if you want to get involved in the issue , one number to call is the state office for Mothers Against Drunk Driving : 651-523-0802. Or send me an email and tell me you want to get involved, and I'll get input from Sandy.

Wrecking ball looms

The latest on the Chardonnay house, the grand old house on Second Street that has made more than a few appearances in this column recently: A city demolition permit has been pulled for the property, at 723 Second St. S.W.

Though the job value on the permit is only $2,500, which is barely enough to pay for a wrecking ball, the document is explicit about the project description: "Demo of Melissa's on 2nd," which is what the most recent restaurant in the house was called.

As you'll recall , I talked with the property owner, Curt Schuster , of Easton, just a few weeks ago and was told, "There are no immediate plans to knock it down in the next 90 days." Since then, I've heard other information that just validates the concern that the historic house, about 120 years old, soon could be gone.

If it goes, you can chalk it up to an early collateral impact of Destination Medical Center.

What would you do without the Answer Man? Send questions to P.O. Box 6118, Rochester, MN 55903 or answerman@postbulletin.com.

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