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REGIONAL BRIEFS: Two arrested on counterfeiting charges

From the Forum News Service


Traffic deaths up in 2012

ST. PAUL -- A preliminary report by the state Department of Public Safety shows that 378 people died in traffic crashes on the state's roads in 2012, the first time the death toll has risen in five years.

In 2011, 368 people died in crashes on Minnesota roads. In the last decade, the state's annual traffic deaths have trended downward from 657 deaths in 2002, with only a slight rise in 2007 deviating from the trend.

The Department of Public Safety projects the final total -- available in early summer as additional crash reports are submitted -- to be about 390, 6 percent above the 2011 figure.

Despite the increase, 2012 will be the second safest year (behind 2011) since 1944, when 356 died on the roadways.

Traffic safety officials say a warmer winter to start the year -- leading to faster, unsafe speeds -- and a spike in motorcyclist fatalities were the main factors for the increase in deaths. An early spring led to a longer and deadlier riding season as 53 motorcyclists were killed, a 26 percent increase from 42 deaths in 2011.


North Dakota

Crane exhibit opens at zoo

FARGO - Community members, children from local day cares and one giant puppet visited the Red River Zoo Thursday for the unveiling of the white-naped crane exhibit.

"That laughter is what this zoo is all about," Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker said as children's laughter filled the zoo's Carnival Pavilion.

The cranes' new habitat is outside. It was built almost entirely by volunteers using donated materials, said Lisa Tate, executive director of the zoo.

Tate said the Red River Zoo has had the male white-naped crane for four years and the female for two, but this is the first time for a public exhibit, which officially opens Saturday.

White-naped cranes are large birds native to northern China and Mongolia. They are an endangered species, and Tate said there are only about 90 of them in captivity.

"They're such beautiful birds, and this is such a beautiful exhibit," she said.


Two arrested on counterfeiting charges

FARGO - Authorities here believe they have found the men responsible for recently passing phony money in the Fargo-Moorhead area.

Two Fargo men were arrested here Thursday for counterfeiting after a SWAT team searched their north Fargo home and found items police believe were used in the production of several thousand dollars in fake bills, according to a news release from the Fargo Police Department.

Terry Bruce Higdem, 32, and Nicholas Tom Seeley, 33, are each awaiting charges for the Class B felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a $10,000 fine or both, the release stated.

Materials allegedly used in the production of several thousand dollars' worth of false $20, $10, $5 and $1 bills were discovered at the home, the release stated.


Name chosen for new Catholic school

WEST FARGO, N.D. - The name of the next Catholic school in the Fargo-Moorhead metro area has been chosen, but other particulars, such as cost and when it will open here are still being worked out.

Plans for Trinity Elementary are being put together by a steering committee including members of Holy Cross, Blessed Sacrament and St. Benedict's churches, said Michael Smith, superintendent of the Blessed John Paul II Catholic Schools Network.

The school will be at the planned new home of Holy Cross Catholic Church, a 14-acre site south of Interstate 94 and west of Veterans Boulevard in West Fargo.


Titan Machinery frustrated by water issues

JAMESTOWN, N.D. -- The controversy over who will provide water to a Titan Machinery building project has gone on long enough, according to Robert Thompson, president of C.I. Construction which is the project manager for the building.

The city of Jamestown and Stutsman Rural Water District have been engaged in a conflict over which entity will provide water service to the area the area west of Jamestown Regional Medical Center. The disagreement has prevented either group from providing water service to the Titan Machinery project.

"We've been idling on the project that was supposed to open March 30," Thompson said. "Titan wanted to be in that building by March 30. That is not doable. Maybe we make completion by June 1. Anything after that is unacceptable."

At this time, no further meetings between Jamestown and Stutsman Rural Water officials are scheduled.


Plea deals in human trafficking case

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Two men and a woman charged with pimping a 17-year-old girl in 2011 have been offered plea deals that dramatically reduce their possible prison time.

It's a sharp move away from what prosecutors had described as the first human-trafficking charges in Grand Forks County; the charges carry a maximum prison sentence of life without parole.

One of the men Joshua Harry, 27, took the deal Thursday, pleading guilty to promoting prostitution, a lesser felony with a maximum prison sentence of five years.

State District Judge Sonja Clapp accepted the deal, which would lead to five years in prison with two years suspended. He would also serve five years supervised probation and register as a sex offender.

Clapp set Harry's formal sentencing for April 8.

The others charged in the case, Amanda Stewart, 22, and Travis Levar Johnson, now 30, are scheduled to appear Jan. 10 in court when they could accept similar deals.


School opens on higher ground

MINNEWAUKAN, N.D. -- The first busloads of students filed into the spanking new Minnewaukan Public School for their first day of classes Thursday morning.

For many of the estimated 305 students, Thursday was the first time they stepped into the $10.1 million school that replaces an aging, overcrowded school a couple of miles away on the east side of Minnewaukan, a facility that's been threatened for several years by the chronically flooding Devils Lake.

As students filled classrooms and hallways Thursday, contractors milled about, too, scrambling to finish projects and making last-minute adjustments.

When the flooding began in the early 1990s, the lake was nearly 30 feet lower than it is today and about 8 miles away from Minnewaukan.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built a 3,000-foot-long temporary dike in 2011 to keep the water from reaching the school or from threatening the community's water tower, water and sewer systems and about a dozen low-lying houses and other buildings.

The new school sits alone on a hill, about 30 feet higher than the original townsite, on the west side of U.S. Highway 281 in a new development called New Minnewaukan.