5 things to know today: Positivity rate, Diversion project, Chief Zibolski, Downtown projects, Traffic study
A select rundown of stories found on InForum.
1. North Dakota breaks COVID-19 positivity rate record for 5th consecutive day
The North Dakota Department of Health reported nine new COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday, Jan. 19, as the fast-spreading omicron variant of the virus continued to push the state to new case testing records.
The Department of Health reported 3,131 new cases on Wednesday, a single-day pandemic high, while the rolling average positivity rate cleared 18%, marking the fifth consecutive day that the metric set a new record.
Following are the COVID-19 case rates, deaths and hospitalizations tracked by the North Dakota Department of Health as of Wednesday. Because all data are preliminary, some numbers and totals may change from one day to the next.
2. Hoeven, Klobuchar secure $437 million for diversion project, fulfilling federal funding for project
Sens. John Hoeven and Amy Klobuchar announced they have secured $437 million in federal funds for the Fargo-Moorhead Area Diversion Project, an amount that completes the government's $750 million contribution to the project.
"This $437 million fufills the entire federal funding commitment for the project, providing certainty that it will be built on or ahead of schedule and ensuring the Red River Valley is permanently protected against the threat of flooding," Hoeven said in a statement announcing the funding on Wednesday, Jan. 19.
The $3.2 billion diversion project under construction is the first in the nation to use a public-private partnership model — a financing method that officials said helped the project to garner federal support.
In partnership with the Metro Flood Diversion Authority, a consortium of private companies called the Red River Valley Alliance is building the $1 billion, 30-mile diversion channel to carry Red River floodwaters around the metro area during severe floods.
3. Fargo city commissioners taking action against Police Chief David Zibolski
Despite Commissioner Dave Piepkorn calling for Fargo Police Chief David Ziboslki's immediate dismissal during a radio interview Wednesday morning, Jan. 19, Mayor Tim Mahoney and other commissioners don't agree.
Commissioner Tony Gehrig said he is working with city administrators on a performance improvement plan for the police chief, which Mahoney also favors.
In Gehrig's mind, there are three ways the city commission can address concerns about morale and staffing issues in the department.
"One, we do nothing," he said. "Two, we fire the chief right now. Or three, we can do the process I laid forward and try to fix the issue. I don't think doing nothing is an option. I don't think firing the chief is going to fix anything."
4. Developers make pitches for several downtown Fargo projects
Members of two city business incentives panels and several City Commissioners listened to developers make their sales pitches for three downtown area properties at a special meeting Tuesday, Jan. 18, at City Hall.
The presentations mirrored housing and commercial proposals made public in November, but the meeting of the Economic Development Incentives Committee and the Renaissance Zone Authority gave officials a chance to ask questions on five of the seven proposals, which promised dramatic changes along the riverfront.
The properties where officials hope to see development start this year are 1 2nd St. S. (along Main Avenue and Second Street next to the roundabout and Veterans Memorial Bridge); 401 3rd Ave. N., (the former city public health office); and 419 3rd St. N. (a former school district warehouse).
All of the projects include housing, but only one includes a hotel - and that comes with a twist.
5. West Fargo approves traffic study, examines areas of the city where speeding is excessive
Speedy drivers in West Fargo may soon have to slow their roll when going through residential areas.
The West Fargo City Commission approved a new policy that will allow engineering and other city staff to consider installing street features that would cause drivers to slow down in areas that neighbors have made numerous complaints regarding petal-to-the-medal drivers.
At the City Commission's Monday, Jan. 17, meeting, City Planner Malachi Petersen and Luke Champas,
associate transportation planner at Fargo-Moorhead Metropolitan Council of Governments presented the findings of a joint study done last year. The study examined streets that had reported numerous complaints regarding speeding and identified the top offenders.
"Anytime anyone calls us about speeding, they kinda believe that their street should be the priority or is the worst," Petersen said. "This kind of gives us an objective view. We’ll formalize the process a little more and that will just help staff in the future when it comes to these types of things."