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News Briefs: Minnesota again nabs top 10 spot for child health

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

Minn., N.D. again nab top 10 spots for child health

FARGO – Minnesota and North Dakota retained their titles as two of the top 10 states in the nation for child health and well-being, according to recent rankings from the Annie E. Casey 2013 KIDS COUNT Data Book.

Thanks to a still-surging economy, North Dakota stayed at its No. 6 spot from last year. Minnesota moved up one spot to No. 4, reversing a steady decline since its No. 1 ranking in 2007.

The annual surveys weigh a number of different metrics, from economic factors to education, community and health. With few exceptions, North Dakota and Minnesota outperformed much of the rest of the nation in the 2013 KIDS COUNT data. New Hampshire took the top spot, followed by Vermont and Massachusetts. New Mexico was the worst state in child and health well-being in 2013.


Faulty furnace causes carbon monoxide scare

FARGO – Residents of a Fargo apartment building escaped harm early Wednesday after a faulty furnace spread carbon monoxide through the building.

According to Assistant Fargo Fire Chief Leroy Skarloken, residents of a north Fargo apartment building called authorities about 6:45 a.m. after smelling natural gas.

People living in a ground-floor apartment were already outside when firefighters arrived, but firefighters had to rouse a sleeping resident living in a lower level apartment.

Skarloken said a tester showed carbon monoxide levels as high as 260 parts per million in some parts of the building, adding that levels of 9 parts per million can be dangerous.

Skarloken said the gas furnace was turned on for the first time Wednesday morning and residents smelled natural gas about 40 minutes later.

He said had the furnace been turned on the night before and the residents gone to sleep, they could have been in serious danger.

Skarloken said the incident underscores the importance of having any gas-powered appliance checked out at the start of a heating season.

Arrest warrants issued in Valley City church burglary

VALLEY CITY, N.D. -- Arrest warrants have been issued for two suspects in one of several recent church burglaries in Valley City.

Warrants for Andrew M. Miklas, 25, of Valley City, and Nicole Lindermann, 18, of Kathryn, include charges connected with the burglary of Faith Lutheran Church, according to a Valley City Police Department news release Wednesday.

Miklas’ warrant lists the charges of burglary, which is a felony, and theft of property, a misdemeanor.

Lindermann was identified as an accomplice, and her warrant includes a charge of conspiracy to commit burglary, a felony.

“It was determined that Lindermann waited outside the church in a vehicle while Miklas was inside the church committing the burglary,” Valley City Police Chief Fred Thompson said in the release.

During the weekend of Sept. 28 and 29, multiple churches were burglarized, including Trinity Lutheran Church, Our Savior’s Lutheran Church and the Congregational United Church of Christ. The Valley City Public Library was also burglarized that weekend.

The church burglaries remain under investigation and additional arrests are expected, Thompson said.

Faith Lutheran Church also experienced a fire Oct. 21 that caused upward of $1 million in damage. The fire was ruled arson, and it is unclear whether it is related to the burglaries.

Grand Forks County picks UAS park developer

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Grand Forks County commissioners Wednesday chose a private firm to lead the development of a proposed tech park at Grand Forks Air Force Base to develop unmanned aircraft systems.

FDSL, a joint venture between FD Stonewater and Lynxs Group, will recruit tenants and develop the Grand Sky tech park.

The Air Force announced this month that it intends to sign a 50-year lease with the county, but for that to happen, the county must have a developer lined up, said County Commissioner John Schmisek.

“I think the thing that stood out to us for FDSL was they seemed to be have a stronger financial ability to do this,” he said, adding that eliminating financial risk for the county factored into their decision.

The other developer that submitted a proposal to the county is Grand Sky Development Co., owned by Texas-based Infinity Development Partners. Infinity has been working with the county on the Air Force lease proposal, Schmisek said.

The Grand Sky project is part of the state’s push to become an industry hub. North Dakota is one of 24 states that applied to be a test site to integrate unmanned aircraft into the national airspace.


Prosecutor rejects plea deal in double murder case

GRANITE FALLS, Minn. — The prosecutor in the case against the man charged with killing two people last month in Granite Falls will not accept a plea in the case.

Prosecutor Robert Plesha, with the state attorney general’s office, on Wednesday refused to accept Andrew Joseph Dikken’s plea to second-degree murder charges.

Plesha said during a hearing in Yellow Medicine County District Court that he would convene a grand jury and seek first-degree murder charges for the shooting deaths of Kara Monson, 26, of Granite Falls, and Christopher Panitzke, 28, of Redwood Falls. Under state law, only a grand jury can bring first-degree charges, which are punishable by life in prison.

Dikken, 28, of Renville, had offered to plead to the two second-degree charges with the expectation of receiving a sentence of 52½ years in prison.

Dikken is accused of entering Monson’s home her and her boyfriend Panitzke as they slept. Monson and Dikken had a past relationship.

Dikken is in the Yellow Medicine County Jail in Granite Falls on $3 million bail. He was the focus of a two-week manhunt after the shooting. He has been in custody since Sept. 17 when his parents turned him into authorities.

Pedestrian killed in Cottage Grove identified

COTTAGE GROVE, Minn. -- Authorities have identified the man who was struck and killed while crossing a street Tuesday in Cottage Grove.

Cottage Grove police said Wednesday that Benjamin F. Tims Sr., 85, was hit by an SUV as he walked back from his mailbox. The crash happened about 2 p.m. Tuesday in the southeast St. Paul suburb.

Paramedics found Tims in the road unresponsive, and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

The driver of the SUV was a 52-year-old Cottage Grove woman, police Capt. Pete Koerner said Wednesday. She cooperated with police and has not been cited or arrested. The woman showed no signs of impairment, and she was “obviously pretty upset” after the crash, Koerner said.

A man in another vehicle who witnessed the crash estimated that the woman was driving 35 to 45 mph, but the speed has not been confirmed by the crash reconstruction.

“We have no indication from this witness or even (the driver’s) statement that there were excessive speeds,” Koerner said.

A final report will be forwarded to the Washington County Attorney’s Office for review for possible criminal charges.

Outgoing Minneapolis mayor plans new jobs

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak has plans for when he leaves office, running an education-related group and teaching.

The mayor, who has served since 2001, is not seeking re-election in Tuesday’s election and on Wednesday announced his plans.

The former and possibly future governor candidate will be executive director of Generation Next, a partnership among government, education, business, philanthropy and others to close the achievement gap between whites and people of color in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Rybak and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, who is seeking re-election next week, are among founding board members.

Rybak’s new job begins Jan. 2.

“Improving education for all children is clearly the civil rights issue of our time, and there is almost no region in the country that has to close a wider gap than Minneapolis-St. Paul,” Rybak said. “A great region like ours cannot become greater if kids get a different education and their success can be predicted by their race, their family’s income and where they live.”

The Generation Next co-chairman is University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler. Rybak also plans to work for Kaler’s university.

Rybak will teach a class next spring called “Mayor 101.” He will teach two additional courses, one in fall 2014 and one in spring 2015.

Rybak also will plan a university conference for faculty, students and civic and policy leaders, focusing on the key challenges facing urban areas in the United States.

Man in custody after lockdown in Red Lake

RED LAKE, Minn. -- A 35-year-old man was peacefully taken into custody here Wednesday morning after a lockdown of the hospital and local schools.

The Red Lake Department of Public Safety responded to a 911 call Wednesday after a man barricaded himself inside a residence near the Red Lake Hospital. He was reportedly the lone occupant of the residence and suicidal. He was in possession of a long-barreled rifle, which was recovered after officers made entry into the residence, authorities said.

The Red Lake Department of Public Safety placed the Indian Health Service Hospital and local school districts on a lockdown status as a precautionary measure between 9:07 a.m. and about 11:30 a.m.

According to law enforcement, the man was taken into custody without injury to himself or officers. He did not threaten officers.

The man faces several charges in addition to a mental health evaluation.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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