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News Briefs: Frazee-Vergas teacher, wrestling coach suspended

Editor's note: The following is a collection of news briefs from Forum Communication Company newspapers in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.


Frazee-Vergas teacher, wrestling coach suspended

FRAZEE, Minn. -- Frazee-Vergas School District teacher and head wrestling coach John Barlund has been suspended.

Barlund was placed on administrative leave Feb. 5 for allegations of employee misconduct.

Though he won’t release the reason for the suspension yet, Superintendent Terry Karger said Friday afternoon that it will be public in the future.

Barlund has been suspended without pay Monday through Friday of next week, with his return date to the district as a physical education teacher March 3.

He also been suspended from his head wrestling coach position for the remainder of the season.

The Frazee School Board met Tuesday for two hours to discuss the matter.

“They went through all the discussions and parameters were given and direction given to me to move forward,” he said.

Though Karger couldn’t release details and explain why Barlund had been placed on leave, he said he will be able to in the future.

“That will be pending any grievance or arbitration processes,” he said.

State MNsure enrolees pass 100,000 mark

MNsure’s sometimes bumpy road has reached a milestone.

The state’s online health insurance marketplace has enrolled more than 100,000 Minnesotans, MNsure announced Friday.

Scott Leitz, the agency’s interim CEO, acknowledged a disappointing performance in the early going for MNsure. The website opened late — on the afternoon of Oct. 1 — and continued to leave would-be customers and insurance brokers frustrated for weeks.

But a news release said website and customer services have shown steady improvement during the past eight weeks.

Website errors have fallen from a high of 17 percent last fall to about 5 percent currently, the release said. Call center wait times this week averaged between one and five minutes, compared with an average of an hour or more in late December.

The total of 101,344 enrollments statewide was broken down as follows:

-- 31,088 in private health plans.

-- 21,574 in MinnesotaCare.

-- 48,682 in Medical Assistance.

North Dakota

Canadian Ambassador Doer to speak at N.D. trade summit

BISMARCK -- Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer will deliver the keynote address at the Trade and Transportation Beyond Borders summit March 19-20 in Bismarck.

Doer served as Manitoba’s premier from 1999 to 2009. He was named Canada’s ambassador to the United States in October 2009.

He is expected to speak the morning of March 19.

The summit is being sponsored by the Central North American Trade Corridor, which works to develop economic prosperity along a corridor that starts in Canada, travels through North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas and continues into Mexico, according to a news release from the organization.

The group is spearheading an effort to allow autonomous vehicles such as drones and pilotless land vehicles to pursue commerce within the corridor, the release stated.

For more information, visit

Marathon stops drilling Tyler Formation

Marathon Oil Co., still the only company fracking with modern Bakken techniques in the Tyler Formation, appears to have taken a break from drilling at its sites there, a North Dakota Geological Survey geologist said.

“As far as I know, right now, they asked for four permit sites and they basically only drilled on two of them,” Timothy Nesheim said. “And so they still have two more sites but they’ve moved their rig off-site right now.”

The wells are in northeastern Slope County. The first was spudded Sept. 12 and another Oct. 28. Nesheim said the first well the company drilled "didn’t turn out well," so Marathon “moved the rig over and started again.”

Marathon spokesman John Porretto wouldn’t comment on the status of the drilling. The wells will come off confidential status April 28.

Continental Resources, Whiting Oil and Gas, XTO Energy Inc. and Enerplus Resources have cut sample cores of the Tyler.

Valley City judge set to hear murder conspiracy case

BISMARCK -- North Dakota District Judge Jay Schmitz of Valley City was named this week by the state Supreme Court to hear the murder conspiracy case against Grand Forks attorney Henry Howe.

Howe is slated for a preliminary hearing and/or arraignment March 28 in Grafton, when he can enter a formal plea to the Class AA felony count that carries a top prison sentence of life without parole.

David Thompson, one of Howe’s defense attorneys, had filed a motion to have state District Judge Richard Geiger of Grafton removed from the case. Other judges in the northeast part of the state, where Howe, 72, has practiced criminal defense law for decades, indicated to state officials last week that they did not wish to hear the case.

Schmitz works in the Southeast Judicial District.

Howe is charged with conspiring with two convicted drug felons, including one who was his client, to kill a female informant who worked with investigators to obtain evidence against Howe’s client, Paul Lysengen, during an alleged drug buy last May in Minto.

Howe remains free after posting $100,000 bond.

South Dakota

Truck rolls with 45,000 pounds of cheese

WHITE LAKE, S.D. -- A semi truck and trailer packed with 45,000 pounds of cheese rolled on its side Friday on Interstate 90.

A South Dakota Highway Patrol trooper said the truck's driver lost control while reaching for a cigarette lighter shortly before 10 a.m. Friday on I-90 about three miles east of White Lake.

Jeremy Strotheide, 37, of Belding, Mich., was westbound on I-90 when he lost control of the semi and drove it into the median, where it tipped onto the driver's side, Trooper Matthew Petersen said.

Authorities spent nearly six hours cleaning up the scene, with much of that time spent unloading the cheese. No cheese spilled out of the trailer in the crash, but authorities and others at the scene were forced to unpack the trailer before the rig, which sustained more than $20,000 in damage, was able to be tipped upright, Petersen said.

Strotheide was wearing a seat belt and was not injured, but he was ticketed for careless driving.