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5 things to know today: Cost overrun, Sworn in, Group homes, Bison beer, Enforcement funds

A select rundown of stories found on InForum.

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North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley.
Chris Flynn/The Forum
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1. North Dakota AG Wrigley says predecessor accrued $1.8M cost overrun

North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley told lawmakers Tuesday, June 28, his predecessors racked up $1.8 million in unanticipated costs while making specifications to a leased building and waited six months to tell their office's budgeting wing about the problem.

A former deputy attorney general disputes the way Wrigley characterized the aftermath of the cost overrun and said the office did nothing wrong.

Legislators voted Tuesday to investigate the overrun and how officials handled it.

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Wrigley told the Legislature's Budget Section that former Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and former Deputy Attorney General Troy Seibel learned in January 2021 they had to pay for $1.8 million in unexpected costs tied to specifications for a south Bismarck office building.

Read more from Forum News Service's Jeremy Turley

2. New Fargo city commissioners, park board members sworn in

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Fargo Municipal Judge Steve Dawson administers the oath of office to City Commissioners Denise Kolpack and Dave Piepkorn and Mayor Tim Mahoney during ceremonies in City Hall on Tuesday, June 28, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum

The newly-elected members of the Fargo City Commission were sworn into office on Tuesday, June 28, including newcomer Denise Kolpack.

Municipal Judge Steve Dawson delivered the oath of office to Kolpack, incumbent Mayor Tim Mahoney and incumbent Commissioner Dave Piepkorn in a special 4 p.m. meeting in the commission chambers at City Hall.

Kolpack takes the seat of Tony Gehrig, who did not run again in the June 14 election. City Commissioners serve four-year terms.

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After the oath, the commission convened for the appointment of the deputy mayor and to determine commission liaison assignments.

Mahoney recommended Piepkorn be reappointed as deputy mayor and asked for a motion.

Commissioner Arlette Preston responded by saying she wanted Commissioner John Strand to be considered for the position. Preston made a motion to that effect, but the motion died for a lack of a second.

Read more from The Forum's Robin Huebner

3. Group home closures put many disabled Minnesotans at risk, advocates say

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Group home residents, staff, and family members gathered at the Minnesota governor's residence Friday, June 24, in St. Paul, calling for more state funding for disability services.
Courtesy / Erin VonRuden

From MPR News via Forum News Service

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Minnesotans with a range of disabilities face a worrisome future as a wave of group home closures hits the state, driven by staff shortages and low wages for direct support professionals, advocates say.

More than 170 group homes across Minnesota have closed since the fall, said Sarah Abbott, a director at ACR Homes, which serves residents who need wheelchair-accessible housing and individualized medical care.

That’s more than 4% of the state’s group homes closing in less than a year, according to ARRM, a Minnesota nonprofit that represents home and community-based service providers.

Abbott joined staff, parents, family members and disabled residents at a rally Friday, June 24, outside the governor's residence in St. Paul to get their concerns in front of Gov. Tim Walz and press for a special session for more funding.

“When we’re asking people to sign up to do physical labor working in challenging health care environments, and at a wage that is less than what you can get working at a fast food restaurant, at some point — we have to stop kidding ourselves,” said Kevin Zabel, communications director at ARRM.

Read more

4. Fargodome takes first step in allowing beer sales at Bison football games

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North Dakota State fans celebrate during an NCAA FCS semifinal game against Montana State at the Fargodome.
David Samson/Forum Communications Co.

Prohibition at North Dakota State football games may be on its way out. The Fargo Dome Authority took an initial step of sorts on Tuesday afternoon with a general approval to a change in language to its lease agreement with NDSU.

The seven-member Authority stopped short of taking a vote that would allow the dome the right to sell alcohol at Bison games. But in going around the table and asking for a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” from each member, there was no opposition.

Beer and Bison could happen as soon as this season. The Authority and the athletic department still need to clarify details like percentages each would take with concession revenue.

“We’ll have more conversations with NDSU regarding just refining, No. 1, any request NDSU may have to receive a larger share of food and beverage,” said Rob Sobolik, the dome’s general manager. “That may trigger some conversations on other things that may be shared revenue wise. And then come to a general understanding of what could be sold, where it would be sold and setting the cutoff times, such as typically a lot of them do at the end of the third quarter.”

Read more from The Forum's Jeff Kolpack

5. Minnesota governor to use American Rescue Plan funds for law enforcement, gun locks

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Gov. Tim Walz

Gov. Tim Walz on Tuesday, June 28, announced a plan to spend just under $40 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to boost public safety, mental health and child care needs around the state.

After negotiations for a special legislative session to pass $8 billion in tax relief and new spending fizzled to a halt last week, Walz said that he would use remaining American Rescue Plan dollars to increase funding to law enforcement agencies, the Department of Corrections and other groups that requested dollars from the state.

The new funding falls short of what Walz proposed in his supplemental budget proposal earlier this year but increases expenditures to some of his top priority items. Lawmakers on the Legislative COVID-19 Response Commission will have to green-light the plan before it could take effect.

"We put that money into programs specifically focused around gun violence prevention, around public safety ... some of the things I wish the Legislature would've been able to do and didn't," Walz told reporters at the Capitol.

Under the proposal, the Minnesota State Patrol and Department of Natural Resources Officers could see an additional $4 million to fill budget gaps, almost $5 million would help the Department of Corrections to address staffing shortages and $7 million would go toward opening up additional spots in the Child Care Assistance Program.

The governor's office also proposed starting a campaign to help Minnesotans learn about how to safely store firearms and provide free cable gun locks at community events.

School-based mental health programs could also see a $7 million boost under the plan and food banks, food shelves and other nutrition support programs could receive an extra $5 million.

Read more from Forum News Service's Dana Ferguson

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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