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5 things to know today: Board candidates, Land purchase, Avian flu, Warehouse fire, Party future

A select rundown of stories found on InForum.

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The Cass County United Republican Committee hosted a panel discussion for local school board candidates on Wednesday, April 6, 2022, at Fargo's Holiday Inn.
Alyssa Goelzer/The Forum

1. Some school board candidates skip Fargo event, citing partisan host

The room was packed with people and questions for school board candidates at the “Politics and a Plate” luncheon hosted by the Cass County United Republican Committee on Wednesday, April 6.

All candidates running for Fargo and West Fargo school boards were invited to participate in a discussion panel, but only four Fargo candidates agreed to take part.

Two West Fargo School Board members told The Forum they did not attend because of the political nature of the event organized by a partisan group.

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“Due to the nonpartisan nature of school board elections, I do not intend to participate in any debates or events sponsored by a political party,” said West Fargo School Board member Mark Staples.

Candidate forums hosted by the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of the Red River Valley are coming up in Fargo at the end of April, and for West Fargo in mid-May, but political luncheons involving school board elections are not appropriate, West Fargo School Board member Jim Jonas said in an email.

Read more from The Forum's C.S. Hagen

2. Sanford confirms 67-acre land purchase in Grand Forks

Sanford Health logo

A senior Sanford Health official on Wednesday confirmed the company has purchased a 67.5-acre plot of land in southern Grand Forks, noting it likely will disclose its plans for the land later this year.

“As our community continues to grow to the south and the southwest, Sanford Health wants to be prepared to meet the future health care needs of greater Grand Forks, East Grand Forks and the surrounding area,” said Justin Stromme, senior director of Sanford Health Network.

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“Our investment in this prime location will pave the way for expansion in an area that is primed for growth,” he added. “We will continue to partner with our patients, community leaders and neighbors to develop this land into a medical hub tailored to those we serve, now and in the future.”

The land is located on the eastern side of Interstate 29, between 40th Avenue South and 47th Avenue South, Stromme said.

Read more

3. More than 1 million birds affected by avian flu outbreak in Minnesota

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A file photo of a commercial turkey flock.
Contributed / U.S. Department of Agriculture

An additional six poultry flocks diagnosed with avian flu April 5 have pushed the state of Minnesota over 1 million birds affected by the outbreak.

According to the state Board of Animal Health's daily web update posted Wednesday, the inventory of flocks diagnosed with H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza is 1,017,568.

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Twenty-one infection sites have been identified in the state since the first cases of the disease — which is fatal to domestic poultry — were confirmed March 25, according to the Board of Animal Health.

Five commercial flocks of meat turkeys were diagnosed April 5 and included in Wednesday's update, as well as one commercial poultry slaughter location in Waseca County, the first infection site in
that county and the first report from a slaughter operation.

Read more from The Forum's Susan Lunneborg

4. Early morning blaze destroys remainder of Fargo warehouse that caught fire in 2020

Flames are visible over the tops of buildings as smoke billows into the night sky.
Fargo firefighters responded to a two-alarm fire at a storage facility at 1408 1st Ave. N. shortly before 3:30 a.m. on Wednesday, April 6, 2022.
WDAY

The Fargo Fire Department is investigating a fire Wednesday, April 6, that destroyed what was left of a warehouse built in 1939 that had also caught fire in late 2020.

Firefighters were dispatched to 1418 First Ave. N. just before 3:30 a.m.

Upon arrival, firefighters upgraded the call to a two-alarm fire, as the flames had overtaken much of the vacant storage building, according to Fire Marshal Ryan Erickson. It took about two hours to extinguish the flames.

The property was t he site of a three-alarm fire on Dec. 5, 2020, which was determined to have started in the center of the building when it was owned by Gary Reinhart, whose structure attracted a lot of attention with numerous animal statues surrounding the building. The cause of that fire was never determined.

Fargo architect and developer Kevin Bartram, who is the majority partner in the company that bought the property last year and is developing the burned-out site into a 90-unit apartment building, said he hopes to start demolition in the coming weeks.

Read more from The Forum's Barry Amundson

5. North Dakota Democratic-NPL at ‘very low ebb,’ but party officials reserve hope for future

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Delegates at the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party's state convention in Minot listen to a speech by House Minority Leader Josh Boschee, D-Fargo, on Saturday, March 26, 2022.
Kyle Martin / The Forum

More than 250 party delegates attended the North Dakota Democratic-NPL’s state convention in Minot last month. Not a single one wanted to run for secretary of state or tax commissioner, two of the premier races on the 2022 ballot.

The party that entered the convention with six gaping holes in its slate of contenders for statewide office managed to find and endorse candidates for U.S. representative, attorney general, agriculture commissioner and Public Service Commission. Democrats also gave their blessing to two candidates who began their campaigns before the event: Katrina Christiansen for U.S. Senate and Trygve Hammer for the other spot on the Public Service Commission.

But before delegates departed Minot, party chairman Patrick Hart solemnly announced that endorsements for secretary of state and tax commissioner would be deferred “due to a lack of nominations.”

The Democratic-NPL's inability to field candidates in major races is an “extremely bad sign” for a party that has struggled to remain relevant over the last decade, said Mark Jendrysik, a political science professor at the University of North Dakota.

“They’re at a very, very low ebb,” Jendrysik said, adding that the party’s troubles with candidate recruitment show "how hard it is to get people to volunteer for what are basically hopeless endeavors.”

Just 12 years ago, Democrats occupied all three of North Dakota’s congressional offices, but the party currently holds no statewide or congressional offices and just 15% of the seats in the state Legislature.

Read more from Forum News Service's Jeremy Turley

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