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Death of baby tops 2018 stories

Justice Lange addresses the court Thursday in Stutsman County. John M. Steiner / The Sun

The top Jamestown area stories of 2018 as selected by The Jamestown Sun included two deaths in which criminal charges resulted, the closings of some longtime area employers, economic turmoil in the agricultural sector and the launch of residential recycling after months of delays, among other stories.

The death of a baby topped the list. Here is the list of major stories in the Jamestown area during 2018.

Death of Tyr Lange

The news broke on Friday afternoon, July 5, that a woman had been found wandering near Woodworth. Justice Lange, 25, Carrington, was first taken to the home of a relative and then to a hospital. Further investigation showed she had been missing for nine days and her 4-month-old son was missing.

A search began the afternoon of July 6 for the baby but without success. Officers from multiple agencies returned to the Woodworth area July 7 and recovered the body of Tyr Lange near a slough in the afternoon. An autopsy listed the baby’s cause of death as “starvation and environmental exposure due to caretaker neglect.”

Lange was charged with manslaughter, a Class B felony, and child neglect, a Class C felony. She is scheduled for trial in March and is currently being held on $250,000 cash bond.

Commodity prices

Farm commodity prices, led by soybeans, began to decline as a trade war between the United States and China escalated during the summer.

By October, prices for soybeans were nearly $2 per bushel below projected prices from the spring. Farmers were forced to choose between selling at low prices or storing the beans. Early winter weather also made it difficult to harvest some crops and reduced the amount of soybeans harvested from the fields.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture stepped in with the Market Facilitation Program making payments of about $12 million to farmers in Stutsman County this fall.

School referendum

A $34.4 million general obligation school building bond for expansion, repair and upgrades throughout Jamestown Public School District was defeated by 70 percent of 3,909 voters on Sept. 25. The referendum would have resulted in a 35.71-mill increase for the school district, or approximately $160 annually per $100,000 of residential home value.

The projects included ventilation for the middle school and elementary schools and closing Washington Elementary upon completion of an addition to Louis L’Amour Elementary. Other projects included roofs, windows and boilers, renovations, learning spaces, safety and security upgrades, a new transition house and a $7.5 million high school athletic complex.

Gututala murder

Nicole Halia'aloha Gututala, 25, was shot and killed May 12 while sitting in her car in the parking lot of her Jamestown apartment. Her ex-husband, Kevin Hoff, 27, Montpelier, has been charged with her murder.

Gututala and Hoff had met while Hoff served in the U.S. Army in Hawaii in 2013. When he was discharged, the couple moved to North Dakota but the marriage failed in 2017. In the days before the shooting, the North Dakota Supreme Court ruled against Hoff in an appeal of the order that granted Gututala custody of the couple’s two children.

Hoff pleaded guilty to murder and awaits sentencing on Jan. 10.

Cargill closing

Cargill Malt announced the closing of its Spiritwood malting plant in April and the plant ceased operations in October. The facility had once been one of the largest in the world for producing malt from barley for the production of beer.

The closing was attributed to a change in tastes by beer consumers away from the six-row barley more commonly produced in this area.

Cargill announced in December it intended to sell its malt division to Boortmalt, the malt subsidiary of Axereal. That sale is pending regulatory approval.

Recycling program launches

After a number of delays, the residential recycling program officially launched on April 2 in Jamestown, operated by Recycling Center of North Dakota. After the delays, the City Council had set a deadline for the program to begin by April 7 or its contract with Ralph Friebel, owner of Recycling Center, would be nullified.

In October, the Recycling Center relocated to the former Coca-Cola bottling plant. Materials that are picked up are brought to the Recycling Center, and residents may also bring materials to the center.

First Avenue lane change

Jamestown was awarded a $2.4 million grant in July for transportation improvements to the First Avenue area of Jamestown. The project includes new traffic lights, bumpouts at the intersections to improve pedestrian safety and a “lane diet” that would reduce First Avenue from a four-lane street to one lane in each direction with a center-turning lane.

The project drew complaints from some residents who feared the bumpouts would slow snow removal efforts and the reduction in lanes would increase traffic congestion.

The project is currently being designed with possible construction in 2020.

Soybean plant seeks equity

The planned North Dakota Soybean Processors plant at Spiritwood was the Sun’s top news story of 2017. A year later, the sponsor of the project is still trying to raise equity investments in the company.

Plans for the soybean processing plant were originally announced in February 2017. If constructed, the facility would be located at the Spiritwood Energy Park Association industrial park.

After two extensions, the equity drive now has a deadline of March 31. The company is attempting to raise another $50 million toward the $258 million project before construction can begin.

JRMC cancer center breaks ground

After five years of planning and fundraising the construction of the new cancer center at Jamestown Regional Medical Center broke ground in September with a goal to open its doors in spring 2019. The announcement came that the board approved construction following a Sept. 30 fundraiser when JRMC Foundation announced it had raised $1.2 million of its $1.5 million goal for capital expenses.

The cancer center will serve the approximately 252 people who are diagnosed or die from cancer each year within a 60-mile radius of Jamestown, said Trisha Jungels, chief nursing officer and acting CEO of JRMC. The clinic will be in partnership with the Roger Maris Cancer Center at Sanford Health in Fargo to help eliminate approximately 160,000 miles that patients travel each year for similar care elsewhere.

Fargo Assembly closes 3 plants

Fargo Assembly Company announced in late May it was closing three of its five North Dakota plants in Edgeley, Ellendale and Lehr. The 43-year-old wiring harness manufacturer operates two more plants in Fargo and Lisbon, N.D., and also owns companies in five other states and England.

Existing contracts pushed work into late summer and fall when the companies shut down the leased plants in Ellendale and Lehr. At the time of the announcement there were 42 employees in Edgeley and 52 employees in Ellendale, some of whom took work at the Fargo Assembly plant or commuted to work in Lisbon after the shutdown.