1. Fire displaces 111 residents of Fargo senior care facility

FARGO — A four-alarm fire displaced 111 residents of a south Fargo senior care facility Thursday afternoon, Jan. 23, and caused significant damage to the building, fire officials said.

While no injuries were reported at Elim Rehab & Care Center, Chaplin David Juve said Thursday night the facility at 3534 University Drive S. was working with North Dakota officials to find places for displaced residents to stay. Residents were in another area of the complex or the nearby Eagles Elementary School waiting to be relocated elsewhere.

The facility initially reported that 115 residents were displaced, but later revised that number to 111. Fire officials at first described the fire as a three-alarm blaze but later struck a fourth alarm when crews on scene needed more resources.

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2. Chances of significant spring flood 'loom high', NWS warns
An outbuilding on the Jeff Turner family acreage near the Red River east of Gardner, N.D., flooded in spring 2019. Turner said he didn't move the camper because forecasts changed three different times and then water suddenly flooded the area and it was too late to move it. Special to The Forum
An outbuilding on the Jeff Turner family acreage near the Red River east of Gardner, N.D., flooded in spring 2019. Turner said he didn't move the camper because forecasts changed three different times and then water suddenly flooded the area and it was too late to move it. Special to The Forum

Soils waterlogged from record fall rains and a steadily accumulating winter snowpack mean the prospects for a significant spring flood "loom high" in the Red River Valley, forecasters warned Thursday, Jan. 23.

The National Weather Service, in its first spring flood outlook, said Fargo faces a 50% chance of a 35.9-foot flood and a 5% probability of a 40.6-foot flood, which would be slightly below the record. Fargo faces a 95% chance of a flood crest of at least 27.6 feet.

"It's early, but ... this outlook starts with a threat for significant snowmelt flooding that could beat or exceed the level of flooding seen in 2019," the weather service outlook said.

"The risk for significant snowmelt flooding is quite substantial, running above long-term historical averages across the Red River and Devils Lake Basins," the weather service said.

More from Forum News Service's Patrick Springer

3. Partisan feud over voter data erupts weeks ahead of Minn. primaries

Voters at the downtown Minneapolis Hennepin County Government Center stand in line to cast their ballots for the 2020 primary on the morning of Friday, Jan. 17. Friday marked the first day of early voting in Minnesota, and the first ballots cast for the 2020 primary in the nation. Sarah Mearhoff / Forum News Service
Voters at the downtown Minneapolis Hennepin County Government Center stand in line to cast their ballots for the 2020 primary on the morning of Friday, Jan. 17. Friday marked the first day of early voting in Minnesota, and the first ballots cast for the 2020 primary in the nation. Sarah Mearhoff / Forum News Service

A little more than a month before Minnesota's presidential primary contests, Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party leaders on Thursday, Jan. 23 said state lawmakers should set restrictions on how political parties can use voter data obtained in the elections.

The move to write new legislation comes after DFL Party leaders said they heard concerns from editorial boards, voter advocacy groups and voters concerned about keeping their party affiliation a secret. It would be the third time state legislators take a run at the rules around the information as Minnesota moves from partisan caucuses to primaries for the first time in almost three decades.

Lawmakers in 2016 agreed to make the move from caucuses to primaries in the presidential contests. And in 2018, they decided the lists of those who voted in the primaries could go to the major political parties, but not to the public.

And now, Secretary of State Steve Simon and DFL leaders said the Legislature should act quickly to go a step further and make sure the voter data is used only by national parties to comply with party rules aimed at preventing skewed results.

More from Forum News Service's Dana Ferguson

4. Fergus Falls woman pleads guilty to killing long-abused 6-year-old boy

Bobbie Bishop
Bobbie Bishop

A Fergus Falls woman has admitted to killing a 6-year-old boy in 2018 just days before she was to go on trial on charges accusing her of continuously beating the child and leaving injuries that investigators called disturbing.

Bobbi Christine Bishop, 42, pleaded guilty Thursday afternoon, Jan. 23, in Otter Tail County District Court to a second-degree felony of murder, the most serious of the six charges she faced in relation to the April 2018 death of Justis Burland. She had a pre-trial hearing the same day, and a trial was scheduled to start Tuesday, Jan. 28.

But Bishop changed her mind before the hearing, County Attorney Michelle Eldien told The Forum Thursday night.

“She indicated she had no desire to go to trial,” Eldien said.

Read more from The Forum's April Baumgarten

5. Former Minn. environmental official denies suppressing mine concerns

Plans for PolyMet include building dams to increase the storage capacity of tailings basins. One would be built in the distance to raise the basin on the right to the level of the area on the left.  News Tribune file
Plans for PolyMet include building dams to increase the storage capacity of tailings basins. One would be built in the distance to raise the basin on the right to the level of the area on the left. News Tribune file

A former Minnesota Pollution Control Agency official testified Thursday, Jan. 23., that she did not try to silence federal regulators when she asked them to delay the delivery of a letter outlining their concerns with the PolyMet mining project.

Former MPCA Assistant Commissioner Shannon Lotthammer said that she requested the delay for the sake of efficiency. At the time, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had planned to submit the letter during the public comment period for one of the project's essential permits.

In a previously leaked exchange with a top official for the EPA's regional branch, Lotthammer expressed a desire for the agency to submit its comments after the public comment period concluded. On Thursday, she claimed to have done so in a bid to save both agencies time.

"I had concern about the EPA providing written comments on a version of the permit that we already knew we were going to be revising," she said.

More from Forum News Service's Matthew Guerry