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2006 will bring many changes: People come and go

The champagne bottle is empty. The Excedrin is kicking in. It's time to clear the cobwebs from our crystal ball and look into the future. Forget about 2005, it's old news. The new year is all about new news in the newspaper - but you already knew...

The champagne bottle is empty. The Excedrin is kicking in. It's time to clear the cobwebs from our crystal ball and look into the future.

Forget about 2005, it's old news. The new year is all about new news in the newspaper - but you already knew that.

It's a year that promises to bring plenty of changes and drama.

Prominent city figures will retire or face re-election. Men accused of shocking crimes will have their day in court. An Alien will open its doors in Fargo. Major roadwork will bring back the cursing of the orange cones.

So, with all due respect to H.G. Wells and Dr. Emmett Brown's flux capacitor, we ask you to climb aboard our time machine for a brief trip through the new year.


The Chinese calendar lists 2006 as the Year of the Dog, and Fargo-Moorhead will be shedding several familiar faces this year.

Fargo Mayor Bruce Furness will say goodbye to City Hall in June after 12 years at the helm. Public Works Director Dennis Walaker, the face of Fargo's 1997 flood-fighting efforts, also plans to retire by August, but first he'll try to win the mayoral election in June.

Joining Walaker on the ballot will be longtime City Commissioner John Cosgriff and Brad Swenson, board chairman of the Chamber of Commerce of Fargo Moorhead.

With Cosgriff and City Commissioner Tim Mahoney up for re-election, the June vote has the potential to change the political landscape of Fargo.

"There could be some new faces, potentially, so there could be some significant change," Furness said.

Local law enforcement also will be looking for some new leaders this year.

Fargo Police Chief Chris Magnus is leaving town this month to take over the top cop job in Richmond, Calif. Assistant Chief Keith Ternes is filling his shoes until a committee finds a permanent replacement, hopefully in April, Furness said.

Moorhead Police Chief Grant Weyland will hang up his badge in June. The city hopes to name a new chief in April.


Folks in West Fargo will bid farewell to Chuck Cheney, their school superintendent for the past seven years. The School Board expects to choose his replacement by his June 30 retirement date.

And the Red River Valley Fair Association will attempt to hire a new leader after firing 15-year manager Bruce Olson in December. Olson isn't taking it lying down; he has sued the association and its president for more than $100,000 each.

Speaking of courtroom drama, two high-profile cases are certain to dominate the docket in 2006.

The triple-murder trial of convicted sex offender Joseph Duncan III, who had lived in Fargo since 2000, is set to start April 4 in Idaho.

Authorities say Duncan, 42, killed three members of an Idaho family so he could kidnap 8-year-old Shasta Groene and her brother, Dylan, 9, whose burned remains were later found at a Montana campsite.

Closer to home, Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. is scheduled to stand trial July 6 in Fargo for the murder of University of North Dakota student Dru Sjodin. Rodriguez, 52, could face the death penalty if convicted of kidnapping and killing the 22-year-old Sjodin in November 2003.

On the civil side of court, North Dakota educators and legislators will be paying close attention as nine school districts argue that the state's school funding system is unconstitutional. The trial is set for Feb. 23 in Williston.

Switching from courts to construction and commerce, Fargo-Moorhead is looking forward to another big year in business - although in one case, the finished product will be extremely small.


Alien Technology Corp. will begin pumping out tiny radio-frequency identification tags, or "smart tags," next fall in the North Dakota State University Research and Technology Park.

The manufacturing plant, believed to be the first of its kind in the world, should employ 50 to 75 people by the end of the year, said Alien spokeswoman Linda Prosser.

In south Fargo, the Wal-Mart smiley face will likely continue to elicit frowns from residents opposed to plans for a supercenter at Interstate 29 and 52nd Avenue South. Landowners Fred and Earlyne Hector are expected to bring the issue back to the city Planning Commission in March.

Meanwhile, Moorhead city officials are greeting two big-box retailers with open arms.

Menard's and The Home Depot both intend to build stores this year along I-94 and, in the case of Menard's, Moorhead's soccer fields - home to thousands of kids each Saturday - will move to a new site under the Menard's moniker. Walgreen's also will open a 24-hour store on Main Avenue.

To shoppers, news of more stores moving to the metro area is music to the ears.

This, however, is not:

"It's going to be a big year for construction this summer in the Fargo area again," said Kevin Gorder, metro engineer for the state Department of Transportation.


That means big headaches for motorists, especially north-south commuters in Fargo, who will face a flurry of orange cones.

I-29 will be reduced to one lane in each direction in April as work begins to widen it from two to three lanes between Main Avenue and Cass County 20. The 19th Avenue interchange also will close for the summer, cutting off a major route to Hector International Airport and the Fargodome.

The DOT will close the intersection of University Drive and Main Avenue to replace a railroad bridge. And, as if that's not enough, the quiet-zone project designed to silence train whistles in downtown Fargo-Moorhead will block several north-south crossings.

A bike would be a wise investment.

Before the streets get too messy, thousands of runners will hit the pavement in May.

Organizers of the Fargo Marathon hope to have an even better run than last year's inaugural event, which drew a surprising 2,400 entrants. Headquarters will relocate from the Fargo Civic Center to the Fargodome.

In sporting news, NDSU will play its first Division I-A football game when the Bison take on Ball State University Sept. 23. The University of North Dakota also is expected to decide whether to follow NDSU to Division I - except in hockey, of course, where UND already plays at the highest level.

On the local arts scene, the Plains Art Museum in Fargo plans to open an interactive gallery called "Fingerprints," featuring a variety of installations and other projects that will invite kids and adults to get creative.


The Northern Prairie Performing Arts Co., an offshoot of the Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre and North Dakota's only professional touring company, will hit the road in March with two shows geared toward regional school audiences.

Meanwhile, the Fargodome kicks off the new year with two national acts: country star George Strait on Jan. 14 and pop rockers Nickelback on Jan. 31.

Unfortunately, a far less enjoyable sound will assail the airwaves this year: political campaigning.

Being an even-numbered year, 2006 is full of state, county, city and school district elections.

Nationally, two North Dakota Democrats, U.S. Sen. Kent Conrad and Rep. Earl Pomeroy, will be defending their seats. In a race expected to draw national attention, Minnesota Republican Rep. Mark Kennedy will vie for lame duck Mark Dayton's Senate seat against a yet-to-be-named Democrat.

On a statewide level, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty will battle whoever emerges from a crowd of DFL contenders. North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson, who barely won in 2004, will try to keep his seat so Democrats don't lose one of their only two offices in the Capitol "tower."

Fargo voters will probably encounter one, and possibly two, sales tax referendums on the June ballot. Mayor Bruce Furness is pushing a 1-cent infrastructure tax for future water needs, but a group of citizens concerned about property tax increases also may petition to put a half-cent sales tax on the ballot to fund Fargo schools.

Another issue that has become increasingly political, the war in Iraq, will continue to draw support from some and demands for withdrawal from others.


Nearly 300 members of the Moorhead-based 2nd Battalion/136th Infantry spent Christmas at home before leaving for a yearlong deployment to Iraq. The country also will be home to 122 soldiers from the Minot, N.D.-based 164th Engineer Battalion for the next year.

The North Dakota Air National Guard has 16 soldiers in Iraq, said Master Sgt. David Somdahl, public relations officer for the 119th Fighter Wing in Fargo. Two engineers are coming home this month, and a group at Ali Base will return in the spring.

"We anticipate that the requests for personnel are going to continue in 2006," Somdahl said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528

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