Minnesota loses its vote on Red River flood budget

Minnesota lost its say on the budget of a massive $2 billion flood control project along the Red River.

The Fargo-Moorhead Flood Diversion Authority board voted Thursday to create a separate committee made up solely of the N.D. jurisdictions that have paid into this year's $215 million budget and who will decide — alone — how that money is spent.

The measure passed with the support of the Minnesota members of the diversion authority, who are caught between the flood control project's timetable and the state of Minnesota, which has not yet approved the ­project. A federal judge warned North Dakota last week not to push ahead with a key part of the diversion project until Minnesota completes an environmental review.

Jennifer Brooks @stribrooks


City will get spiffed up, color-schemed cab service

Duluth riders soon won't have to worry about encountering a trail of smoke when they duck into a cab. The City Council passed an ordinance last week prohibiting drivers and passengers from smoking within 10 feet of taxis, starting in mid-June.

The ordinance also included new rules about where cabs can get their annual inspections and how they must list their prices. Cabs also will have 30 days to repair dents after an accident, can't be more than 15 years old and will have to be in good condition inside and out, under the ordinance. Each cab company in town also will have to choose its own color scheme for its vehicles.

City Councilor Sharla Gardner led the reform measures after more than a year of research, including taking a lot of cab rides. She said the cab companies in town were receptive to making changes: "I was really impressed with their desire to work with the city on making their businesses better."

Pam Louwagie @pamlouwagie


Free bike-sharing program launches

Willmar is unveiling a new bike-sharing program — placing a fleet of 40 yellow bikes on racks around the west-central Minnesota city.

The bikes are free to use. The city asks that riders abide by the program's motto: "Ride. Respect. Return."

Inspired by bike-sharing programs in other cities, including Nice Ride, "we thought, how can we do something like that in Willmar?" said Steve Brisendine, director of Willmar Community Education and Recreation.

The Jennie-O Turkey Store contributed $5,000 to the program. Businesses, including a few hotels, bought bright yellow racks. A bike shop refurbished the bikes, many of them never claimed from the city's impound lot. By summer's end, the fleet will number 100. A credit-card-based program wouldn't work in Willmar, Brisendine said, so it relies on an honor system. "If somebody does take them," he said, "our thought is, well, I guess they needed a bike."