5 things to know today: Police turnover, Suspended trials, Boundary changes, New library, Pot legalization
A select rundown of stories found on InForum.
1. Fargo City Commission wrangling over police chief as police department turnover continues
Fargo City Commission wrangling over Police Chief David Zibolski and turnover in his department continued Monday, Jan. 24, with Commissioner Dave Piepkorn suggesting staffing issues at the department warranted the chief's immediate dismissal.
At Monday night's meeting of the commission, Piekporn said his phone has been ringing non-stop since information about police department turnover was underscored in recent media reports, noting that 45 department employees have left since Zibolski was hired about a year and a half ago.
"I believe that what he's brought in is a toxic culture," Piepkorn said, adding that he has heard officers are sometimes asked to respond to high-risk situations like domestic calls by themselves.
"This is grounds for immediate dismissal," Piepkorn said.
2. Cass, Traill and Steele counties suspend jury trials as omicron cases surge
Trials in Cass, Steele and Traill counties will be pushed back at least a month after the omicron variant of the coronavirus has caused cases to skyrocket.
East Central District Presiding Judge John Irby signed an order last week that suspended trials in the three counties starting Thursday, Jan. 20. The order is slated to expire Feb. 25.
“The prevalence of the omicron variant in Cass County is creating stress on the court systems, including the clerk’s office, the state’s attorney’s office and the Cass County Jail,” Irby wrote in the order.
The order came as the omicron variant surged in Cass County. The county had the most active cases in North Dakota as of Friday with 3,583, more than double the record set in November 2020 and nearly five times the count reported a month ago, according to the North Dakota Department of Health.
The Friday number also made up nearly 30% of the North Dakota active caseload, which was 12,063, the health department said. Cass County makes up about 24% of North Dakota’s population.
3. Mustangs to Hawks: West Fargo School Board approves boundary changes, adding students to Horace High School
The West Fargo School Board is changing its elementary school boundaries in an attempt to ease overcrowding in the Sheyenne High School feeder system.
The changes mean about 70 Aurora Elementary School students in each grade, who live west of the Sheyenne River, will become part of the Heritage Middle School and Horace High School feeder system, instead of entering the Sheyenne High School feeder system.
The board approved a change to the boundaries on a 4-to-2 vote, Monday, Jan. 24. Board President Jim Jonas and member Jessica Jackson voted against the proposal.
At the board’s Monday meeting, five parents took the opportunity to speak to the board about the proposed change. All are also employees of the district.
4. New Moorhead library, community center headed to November ballot
Moorhead's City Council voted unanimously on Monday night, Jan. 24, to put a half-cent sales tax on the Nov. 8 ballot to fund a new regional library and community center downtown.
Lisa Borgen, who chaired a 12-member task force on the issue after the state Legislature gave the nod last summer to allow the city to put the issue before voters, said the facility could transform the city's downtown.
"This could provide the next great experience for Moorhead," she said.
With the vote, she said they plan to hold public meetings and other input sessions with residents to see what they want in the building, with funding approved for up to $31 million.
The facility would replace the current library built in 1962 that requires about $1 million in maintenance and repair expenses in the next five years.
5. Push to get pot legalization on ballot in North Dakota falls short
A group aiming to cement the legalization of recreational marijuana in the North Dakota Constitution has failed to collect the more than 31,000 signatures needed to put the measure on the ballot this year.
Secretary of State Al Jaeger told Forum News Service the group behind the measure had not turned any signed petitions into his office by the deadline of Saturday, Jan. 22, and the proposed measure is no longer considered active.
Jody Vetter, the chairwoman of the sponsoring group, did not respond to Forum News Service's request for comment. The group previously failed to collect the necessary signatures to get the measure on the 2020 ballot.
The renewed push to legalize recreational marijuana came after North Dakota lawmakers came closer than ever before to legalizing the drug via the legislative process. Spurred on by the prospect of voters passing a legalization ballot measure, the House of Representatives passed a bill to create a recreational pot program, but the Senate killed the proposal by a wide margin.