2017 a year of endings in Grand Forks, East Grand Forks
Olympic-caliber UND women's hockey is shut down. A post-flood downtown park dies by referendum. A legendary bar and eatery in East Grand Forks is sold. And an anchor department store in Columbia Mall calls it quits.
After either drawn-out debate or surprise decisions, the community spent much of 2017 saying goodbye. Seven of the Herald's Top 10 Stories of the Year involved some sort of ending. Here's a look at the past 12 months:
No. 1: UND cuts sports teams, budget. In a community where hockey is king, the city was abuzz March 29 when UND President Mark Kennedy and Athletic Director Brian Faison announced women's hockey, along with men's and women's swimming and diving teams, would be cut in a move to tighten the budget.
Kennedy directed Faison to cut $1.3 million out of the athletics budget. Faison said the decision was both difficult and sad. "Anger, shock, frustration, disappointment, and understandably so," he said of the reaction he heard. "One thing some people don't understand with teams, in particular, is that it's family. What you're doing is ripping family apart."
No. 2: Altru plans new hospital. A little more than 10 months after structural damage led to the evacuation of Altru Health System's Main Clinic, leaders announced plans Nov. 8 to build a new hospital to replace its aging facilities and make room for new medical technologies.
Altru CEO David Molmen said the facility, expected to cost more than $250 million, also will reflect the future needs of the region's changing demographic.
"What we're going to be seeing is a rapid increase in that (aging) population and, subsequently, a rapid increase in the needs that we have for health care services," he said.
No. 3: Macy's closes. Before it was Macy's, it was home to Dayton's and Marshall Field's. The Columbia Mall anchor store was the place where many people for years shopped for dress-up clothes, china, silverware, fine linens or other wedding gifts. But citing heavy online competition and poor sales and performance in 2016, Macy's corporate office announced Jan. 4 the Grand Forks store would be among 100 stores nationwide the retail giant planned to close in 2017.
No. 4: Arbor Park axed. After grabbing headlines for months, the contentious debate over the fate of Grand Forks' downtown Arbor Park ended June 20 when voters defeated a ballot measure to preserve the park in a citywide referendum.
The park first attracted community attention in 2016 when the city made a request for development proposals. As a building deal came to a close, others seeking to save the park submitted thousands of signatures in a petition drive to try to stop construction. The measure was defeated 2,451 to 2,269, giving developers the go-ahead on a $7.5 million, five-story condo and commercial building on the site.
No. 5: Goodbye Brian Faison. In October, UND Athletic Director Brian Faison announced his retirement effective Dec. 31, ending nine years at the helm while the university was peppered by several major changes.
The announcement came just weeks after UND President Mark Kennedy hired a consulting firm to review the top four officials in the athletic department.
No. 6: Sales tax passes. Grand Forks voters in November approved a half-penny city sales tax increase. Proponents of the change said the estimated annual revenue of $5 million will help pay for water and road projects, including a new $150 million water treatment plant.
No. 7: Rolette County Sheriff's deputy killed. Rolette County Sheriff's Deputy Colt Eugene Allery, 29, father of four children and soon-to-be-father of a fifth stepchild, was shot and killed Jan. 18 by Melvin Gene Delong, Belcourt, N.D., after a high-speed chase ended in a shootout at a rural intersection about 8 miles south of Belcourt.
Allery had joined two other Rolette County deputies, a Rolla, N.D., police officer and a BIA officer in the chase involving a stolen Devils Lake pickup. It later was determined Delong had fired first and law enforcement officers were justified in shooting back. Delong also died.
No. 8: Whitey's closes. It was the end of an era for the longtime East Grand Forks eatery and bar when Starmark Hospitality announced Aug. 21 it would close Whitey's Wonderbar and Cafe to open Sickies Garage Burgers & Brews. Edwin "Whitey" Larson first opened the iconic restaurant in 1925 as the Coney Island Lunchroom. It had survived the Prohibition Era and the Flood of 1997, and thousands had come to call the art-deco supper club with the horseshoe-shaped bar their favorite watering hole.
No. 9: James Patrick Whalen pleads guilty, sentenced. Former Grand Forks Central High School teacher James Patrick Whalen, 42, pleaded guilty Jan. 23 to one count of sexual assault and two counts of corruption of a minor, all Class C felonies, after he admitted to having a sexual relationship with a student.
A more serious Class B felony charge of corruption solicitation of a minor was dismissed as part of a plea agreement. In April, he was sentenced to four years in the Grand Forks County Correctional Center with two years suspended. He also will have to register as a registered sex offender and will be placed on five years of probation.
No. 10: Hagerott has problems. North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott has been embroiled in controversy for months after the September release of a 2016 office climate survey that found others thought he treated men with more respect than women and described him as having a "militaristic" leadership style. He denied any unfair treatment and said the release of the report was politically motivated. Lisa Feldner, a former vice chancellor who served as his chief of staff, was fired without cause in September. By November, she filed documents alleging discrimination in the NDUS office. Her discrimination complaint since has been forwarded to a federal office for investigation.