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5 things to know today: Fundraiser underway, tax ordinance, Teachers leaving, Agreement signed, DIY Garage

A select rundown of stories found on InForum.

Left to right father Jon Person, 44, daughter Brooklyn Person, 21, and mother Courtney Person. Jon and Courtney died in a house fire on Nov. 18..jpg
Left to right father Jon Person, 44, daughter Brooklyn Person, 21, and mother Courtney Person. Jon and Courtney died in a house fire in Lisbon, N.D. on Nov. 18.
Special to The Forum
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1. Fundraiser underway for daughter of North Dakota couple killed in fire

James Person doesn’t yet know how the fire that killed his younger brother and sister-in-law started, but the loss feels like an ongoing nightmare.

“It’s quite a shock. It’s one of those things that doesn’t seem real, like I will wake up from it,” Person said.

The fire occurred the night of Nov. 18 at his brother and sister-in-law's house at 18 Oak St. in Lisbon, a Ransom County town about 75 miles southwest of Fargo.

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Two bodies were discovered in the house, and the structure was completely destroyed, according to the Lisbon Fire Department .

While authorities have yet to officially reveal the names of the victims, James Person set up a GoFundMe webpage for the surviving daughter of his 44-year-old brother, Jon, and his wife Courtney, who both died in the fire, he said.

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

2. West Fargo holds first reading of sales tax ordinance that will take effect in spring

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After it was narrowly approved by voters earlier this month, the West Fargo half-cent sales tax will likely go into effect around April.

The West Fargo City Commission took the next step in implementing the sales tax that will be used for public safety or police and fire services at its last meeting. The measure will next be presented to the North Dakota State Tax Commissioner for certification.

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West Fargo City Attorney John Shockley said he expects it to begin collected around April 1, with the city receiving its first payments in May.

Due to charter language, the measure was proposed in two questions, and both needed to be approved in order to pass. The measure passed Nov. 8 by less than 70 votes on the first question, with 50.3% of voters approving the idea and 49.7% opposed or 5,648 votes in approval and 5,581 votes against.

The second question received 50.6% approval with 49.4% opposed, or 5,660 votes in favor and 5,525 votes against.

The results were canvassed by the Cass County Auditor the following week.

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The measure will increase the city portion of sales tax from 2% to 2.5%, creating an 8% sales tax rate including state and county taxes. In Fargo, the rate of sales tax including state and county taxes amounts to 7.5%. Moorhead's sales tax is 7.38%, although Moorhead also passed a half-cent sales tax increase after the Nov. 8 vote.

West Fargo has a half-cent sales tax to pay for economic development projects and a one-cent tax for infrastructure projects that voters approved in 2014.

The West Fargo City Commission voted in August to place the half-cent sales tax on the Nov. 8 ballot with the expectation that it will generate about $2.4 million in 2023.

Read more from The Forum's Wendy Reuer

3. Shaw: Former area teachers say they left profession feeling exhausted, unsupported

A woman with short hair and glasses sits in a living room.
Drea Greenawalt, a former Fargo teacher, left the profession after 15 years in May 2022 amid rising student behavior issues.
Jim Shaw / Special to The Forum

Teachers are leaving the Fargo and West Fargo school districts in record numbers.

From the end of the last school year compared to the end of the previous school year, Fargo reports teacher resignations and retirements jumped from 92 to 126, a 37% increase. West Fargo reports the numbers rose from 89 to 118, a 33% increase.

In contrast, the numbers in Moorhead are pretty steady, increasing from 63 to 66.

In Fargo, Superintendent Rupak Gandhi said teachers are leaving for a variety of reasons, such as “spouses leaving, personal needs and going to other professions.”

However, a number of Fargo teachers aren’t quitting jobs they once loved for higher-paying occupations.

For many of them, it’s because they couldn’t take it anymore. Some feared for their personal health or safety. Several teachers were miserable because of unruly, foul-mouthed students who refused to obey their instructions. Resigning was the only viable option.

Drea Greenawalt followed her heart and started teaching 15 years ago. The last six of those years were in Fargo. She taught music throughout the district. Her last job was as choir director at Ben Franklin Middle School.

“Student behavior was just awful,” Greenawalt said. “There was a lack of consequences and accountability for student behavior.”

She said part of the problem was caused by a change in the grading system.

Read more from Forum columnist Jim Shaw

4. NDSU, Sisseton Wahpeton College presidents sign agreement to better serve American Indian students

Two men seated at a table smile while shaking hands
Sisseton Wahpeton College President Lane Azure, left, and North Dakota State University President David Cook shake hands on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022, after signing an agreement aimed at increasing opportunities for American Indian students to receive a four-year degree.
Contributed / Justin Eiler

The presidents of North Dakota State University in Fargo and Sisseton Wahpeton College in Sisseton, South Dakota, have an agreement designed to strengthen the opportunity for American Indian students to earn a four-year degree.

The agreement, signed by NDSU President David Cook and SWC President Lane Azure on Wednesday, Nov. 30, creates a social science career pathway between the two schools.

It will allow American Indian students from SWC to earn a four-year degree in emergency management, criminal justice, sociology or political science at NDSU.

"Our goal is to provide a high quality, low cost education and cultural experience with the intention of having students graduate with little to no debt,” Azure said.

Under the agreement, SWC students who receive their two-year behavioral science associate degree, meet criteria for the major and submit an application will be accepted without further review.

The two institutions will work collaboratively to make the new opportunity known to students who may be eligible, an NDSU news release said.

Read more from The Forum's Robin Huebner

5. 7 months after closing down, Fargo DIY Garage finds new home in Moorhead

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Chris Partridge has moved his Fargo DIY Garage to 2320 2nd Ave. N. in Moorhead.
David Samson/The Forum

The Fargo DIY Garage has settled in a new location across the Red River in Moorhead.

Owner and military veteran Chris Partridge reopened the business, appropriately, on Friday, Nov. 11, at 2320 2nd Ave. N. in Moorhead. The Fargo DIY Garage is sharing the location with Mr. Mechanic.

Partridge opened the business in June of 2020 at 901 Westrac Drive in Fargo. He operated there for nearly two years before temporarily closing down the shop this past April.

Since then, Partridge has been hunting for a location where the numbers would add up, which he believes he has now found. It’s all the better that he is now paired with a fellow veteran-owned business as well. “It was very fortuitous for both of us,” he said.

Not only does the new location add up for Partridge, but it also solves two key dilemmas he faced in his previous shop.

Read more from The Forum's Thomas Evanella

Our newsroom occasionally reports stories under a byline of "staff." Often, the "staff" byline is used when rewriting basic news briefs that originate from official sources, such as a city press release about a road closure, and which require little or no reporting. At times, this byline is used when a news story includes numerous authors or when the story is formed by aggregating previously reported news from various sources. If outside sources are used, it is noted within the story.
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