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REGIONAL BRIEFS: No charges in fatal Perham accident
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North Dakota

Investigation finds no wrongdoing by Shirvani

FARGO -- An inquiry into allegations about Chancellor Hamid Shirvani has found "no substantive evidence of willful wrongdoing," North Dakota University System General Counsel Claire Holloway said Thursday.

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During a special State Board of Higher Education conference call to address the allegations, brought forward last week by student representative Sydney Hull, Holloway discussed her findings following an internal investigation that she said was "standard operating procedure" for this type of situation.

But Pat Seaworth, the University System's former attorney and author of a memo that accused Shirvani of instructing staff to disregard state open meeting laws, said Holloway's findings were "preordained."

Seaworth said he wasn't interviewed, despite being one of the main sources behind the allegations brought up by Hull, and said other employees with knowledge of the problems were not contacted.

Holloway's report, released Thursday, states that she found no legal violations with the board's dinner meetings held the evening before regular meetings, and that the allegations over improper procedures during committee meetings mostly weren't backed up in her investigation.

(FF)

Williston, Dickinson among fastest-growing 'micro areas'

WILLISTON, N.D. -- Williston ranks as the fastest-growing micropolitan area in the country for the second year, the U.S. Census Bureau said Thursday.

Census population estimates show that the Williston area gained 2,281 residents between July 1, 2011, and July 1, 2012, a 9.3 percent increase.

Dickinson ranks third on the list of fastest-growing micro areas with a population increase of 1,624 people during the same period, a 6.5 percent increase, according to census estimates.

A micropolitan area has a population between 10,000 and 50,000.

The figures came as no surprise to officials leading the growing cities in the heart of North Dakota's Oil Patch.

"We certainly feel like we are, but it's nice to see the numbers actually verify it," said Tom Rolfstad, economic development director for Williston.

The estimates put the population of the Williston micro area -- which is all of Williams County -- at 26,697 people in July 2012. The census numbers do not count temporary workers.

The Census Bureau estimates that the Dickinson area -- which is Stark and Billings counties -- had 26,771 residents in July 2012.

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N.D., Microsoft announce alliance to boost tech education

FARGO -- North Dakota's governor and Microsoft officials announced a public-private partnership Thursday that a company official said will help narrow the "opportunity gap" for young people who lack access to technology education, especially in rural areas.

The "Digital Alliance" -- touted as the first of its kind in the country -- will bring Microsoft training and resources to the state's students to boost skills in education, employability and entrepreneurship, with a specific focus on science, technology, engineering and math.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple said state officials hope the alliance "will be the beginning of a major step forward in technology access, education improvement, training for students and as well as all our residents and our small businesses."

Microsoft officials did not provide a cost figure for the company's initial three-year commitment. Kristin Rhodes, Microsoft's general manager of U.S. education, said much of its contribution will be in-kind work.

Implementation has already started and will ramp up over the next three years, with programs being made available in K-12 schools, colleges and universities, adult learning centers, job service centers and local libraries, the governor's office said.

(FF)

South Dakota

Plan for missile site visitor center advances

WALL, S.D. -- U.S. Sens. Tim Johnson and John Thune announced Thursday that legislation to allow construction of a visitor center at the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in western South Dakota cleared a hurdle after it was reported out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Johnson and Thune's legislation would transfer about 29 acres of National Forest Service land to the National Park Service to construct a visitor facility and provide parking. The legislation is ready to be considered by the full Senate.

The launch control facility and missile silo that make up the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site were preserved to illustrate the history of the Cold War and the role the Air Force's Minuteman II Missile defense system played in efforts to preserve world peace.

The site consists of the Delta-01 Launch Facility and the Delta-09 Missile Silo, located about 11 miles from each other on Interstate 90 near Wall.

(DR)

Bill addresses veterinarian shortage

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Sens. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., and Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, on Wednesday continued efforts to end the shortfall of veterinarians in rural areas by reintroducing the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act.

The legislation would provide a federal income tax exemption for payments received under the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program and similar state programs that encourage veterinarians to practice in smaller and rural communities.

"The shortage of veterinarians in our rural communities has a huge impact on our farmers and ranchers whose livelihoods depend on access to animal care," Johnson said. "The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program is a critical tool to expanding access to veterinary care."

He said the legislation has the potential to increase the number of veterinarians placed in underserved and shortage areas by more than 30 percent.

(DR)

Minnesota

No charges in fatal Perham accident

PERHAM, Minn. -- The driver of the pickup truck that struck and killed a man in downtown Perham in December will not be facing criminal charges.

Perham Police Chief Jason Hoaby said this week that no criminal negligence was found during an investigation of the accident.

The driver was identified as Lloyd Ramsay, 85, of Perham.

Ramsay was westbound on Main Street on Dec. 6 when he struck an Underwood couple with his Ford Ranger pickup. The couple, David and Marilyn Beighley, both age 74, were attempting to cross the street at an unmarked area.

The truck knocked the couple to the ground, then drove over David Beighley. David was flown to a hospital in Fargo,where he later died as a result of the accident.

Marilyn Beighley was treated and released from Perham Health.

(PF)

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