News Briefs: New Era abandons plan for southeast Minn. wind farm
Editor's note: The following is a collection of news briefs from Forum Communication Company newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota.
New Era abandons plan for southeast Minn. wind farm
RED WING, Minn. -- New Era Wind will no longer pursue a turbine wind farm in Goodhue County.
Owner Peter Mastic formally made the request to abandon the project in a letter to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission made public Tuesday.
The company asked the PUC to terminate its site permit, while withdrawing a controversial avian and bat protection plan that ultimately stalled the multimillion-dollar project.
"It's probably a couple years overdue," said Marie McNamara, a founder of Goodhue Wind Truth, a citizen group that had been fighting the wind farm's construction.
She called the ongoing work done by the PUC and state employees "a waste of time and money."
Opposition from citizens groups centered largely on impacts to wildlife, including eagle and bat populations. The PUC rejected New Era's plan to protect the animals, causing a delay in construction.
Xcel Energy, which originally held power-purchasing agreements with New Era, threatened legal action this summer over contract violations caused by the delay. The agreements were voluntarily terminated shortly after the suit was filed.
The $180 million project was originally slated to begin operation at the end of 2011.
Mastic could not be reached for comment.
Person found dead in Willmar house fire
WILLMAR, Minn. -- One person was found dead after a house fire Tuesday morning in Willmar.
Firefighters, police and Willmar Ambulance Service personnel responded to the blaze after a passer-by reported seeing no flames but smoke coming from the eaves of the home shortly before 7 a.m., Fire Chief Gary Hendrickson said.
The firefighters found the fire in the kitchen and located the deceased person in their search of the residence, he said.
Hendrickson said the person’s name was not being released pending the investigation, identification and family notification.
Jerry Gesch, a neighbor, said Tuesday morning that the home was occupied by an older woman who was widowed and who had lived there for many years.
The Willmar Fire Department and the State Fire Marshal's Office are investigating.
ATV driver killed in collision with oversized load
PENGILLY, Minn. -- A Maple Plain man was killed Monday night when his ATV hit an oversized load escorted by the Minnesota State Patrol on state Highway 65 south of Pengilly.
According to the patrol, Brian K. Johnson was driving his ATV south on the highway about 10:30 p.m. when it collided with the trailer of a northbound semi. The collision happened in the southbound lane. The semi was pulling a wide-load trailer carrying the dump box for a mining haul truck. The load had warning lights, flags and signs.
The driver of the semi, Keith O. Moellering, 62, of Nashwauk, apparently was not injured. The State Patrol is investigating.
It is illegal to drive an ATV on a highway in Minnesota.
Former senator tapped for Taxpayers League
WOODBURY, Minn. -- Ted Lillie, the former Woodbury lawmaker who served one term in the Legislature, will likely be a regular fixture again at the Minnesota Capitol.
Lillie was named president of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota, a group that lobbies in support of lower taxes and smaller government.
The former Republican senator and newspaper publisher succeeds Phil Krinkie, who is leaving the position to pursue a congressional run in U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann's 6th District.
Taxpayers League board members elected Lillie to the post last week.
Lillie served one term in the Minnesota Senate but rose to power in the GOP caucus with relative speed. As a freshman, he was named majority whip and later an assistant majority leader. While a freshman in 2011, Lillie was among a small group of Republicans called in for session-ending budget negotiations with Gov. Mark Dayton -- a select group normally composed exclusively of longer-tenured lawmakers.
Despite his climb in the Senate, Lillie was unseated after one term in 2012 by Sen. Susan Kent, DFL-Woodbury.
State Supreme Court justice announces resignation
BISMARCK -- North Dakota Supreme Court Justice Mary Muehlen Maring will step down Dec. 31.
Maring submitted her letter of resignation Tuesday to Gov. Jack Dalrymple.
She served 17½ years after being appointed by former Gov. Ed Schafer in 1996 to fill the vacancy created by Justice Beryl Levine’s retirement.
North Dakota voters elected Maring in 1996 to carry out the remaining term. Maring was re-elected in 1998 and 2008.
“During my time on the court, I have gained enormous respect for the judges who serve our trial courts and the Supreme Court and all the court personnel. They all work very hard to assure that our system of justice protects and serves the citizens of North Dakota,” Maring said in her resignation letter. “I have also developed great admiration for our Executive and Legislative branches and the effective manner in which they govern our state.”
Maring is a 1975 graduate of the University of North Dakota School of Law and practiced law privately for 20 years before her appointment.
Dalrymple will look to appoint a new judge to fill the vacancy. The appointee would serve until the 2016 general election. The person elected in 2016 would serve the remainder of Maring’s term through Dec. 31, 2018.
Supreme Court justices serve 10-year terms.
Fargo man pleads guilty to killing his wife
FARGO -- With his murder trial less than a week away, a Fargo man accused of shooting his wife in the head and calling police to say she committed suicide pleaded guilty Tuesday.
Ronald William Rogers Jr. was charged with Class AA felony murder -- the most grievous charge in North Dakota law -- for the Feb. 19 killing of his wife, Elizabeth Rogers.
In changing his plea, Rogers will forgo his trial, which was set to begin Monday in Cass County District Court. He also pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of willful disturbance of a body for tampering with his wife’s body to make it look like she had killed herself.
Rogers will be sentenced in the next month or two after a presentence investigation. He could face life in prison without parole.
He is being held on $1 million bail.
Asked what had changed since his client initially pleaded not guilty, defense attorney Ross Brandborg said: “Negotiations.”
Part of Rogers’ plea reversal allows him to appeal several of Judge Lisa Fair McEvers’ decisions to allow evidence. If an appeal is successful, Brandborg said it could result in a new trial or possibly change his client’s eventual sentence.
Taco Bell worker accused of groping is set to plead guilty
FARGO -- A Taco Bell worker accused of groping the breasts of two customers in the drive-thru and offering one of them free food in exchange is set to change his plea to guilty.
Austin James Brady, 20, of Fargo, is set to change his plea Oct. 21 in Cass County District Court in the criminal case against him.
Brady had pleaded not guilty to breaking into a vehicle, a Class C felony, and a count of sexual assault as a Class B misdemeanor in connection with incidents involving drive-thru customers at the Taco Bell at 2121 S. University Drive.
Charges filed in June allege that in two separate incidents in March and April, Brady asked a driver to pull out of the drive-thru lane and then grabbed the breasts of one of the women in the vehicle when he brought the food.
In the March incident, Brady told one of the women he would give them free food if they would party with him, police allege in court records.
Missing Devils Lake teen found
DEVILS LAKE, N.D. -- A missing Devils Lake High School student has been found with relatives in North Carolina, Devils Lake police said.
The family of Jonathan Linn, 16, reported him missing Aug. 10 and began appealing to the public for help earlier this month. Police used aircraft to search for him at least twice.
He is now considered a runaway, police said.
N.D. driver’s license sites to close Sept. 25-27
BISMARCK -- Drivers license offices in North Dakota will be closed Sept. 25-27 to allow North Dakota Department of Transportation driver’s license employees to attend annual training sessions.
One exception will be the driver’s license office at 608 East Boulevard Ave. in Bismarck, which will be open to the public from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. Sept. 25.
Motor vehicle offices will remain open as scheduled and will process vehicle registrations, titles, license plates and tabs, and associated work as usual.
For more information, call (855) 637-6237.
UND administrator moving to University System post
GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- A University of North Dakota administrator will work with students throughout the North Dakota University System when she takes on a new assignment next week.
Becky Lamboley, now assistant director of health and wellness promotion at UND, will move to Bismarck to become University System director of student affairs, according to a University System news release issued Tuesday.
Starting Sept. 23, she will co-chair the University System’s Student Affairs Council, serve as coordinator of the North Dakota Higher Education Consortium for Substance Abuse Prevention and work with the North Dakota Student Association, according to the release. She will coordinate alcohol and drug prevention efforts of University System colleges and universities as well as student services.
Lamboley holds a master’s degree in educational leadership in higher education from UND and bachelor’s degrees in American sign language studies and women studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Lamboley also has served as residence apartment director at UND.