Your Friday News Brief: February 9

By: News Director Larissa Donovan

BEMIDJI– The former Bemidji Middle School assistant principal was sentenced in Beltrami County court Thursday morning. Thirty-four-year-old Brandon Mark Bjerknes was sentenced to 25 years in a federal prison Tuesday, but the state prosecutors felt it appropriate to sentence Bjerknes on the state offenses. In the state court, Bjerknes was convicted of four counts of engaging in sexually explicit electronic communications with children, and given four 15-to-30 month sentences to be served concurrently with his federal sentence. In the federal court, Bjerknes was convicted of producing child pornography and enticing children, and is believed to have engaged in this type of behavior with over 50 minor children, some of them students at Bemidji Middle School. State prosecutor David Frank described Bjerknes’ actions as “an elaborate scheme to trick 50 children for his disgusting sexual behavior.” Frank also requested that Bjerknes be released to the Bureau of Prisons, rather than the state commissioner of corrections, so that Bjerknes would be as far away from this community as possible.

Former Bemidji Middle School assistant principal, Brandon Bjerkness, age 34. Retrieved photograph.

BEMIDJI– The speed limits on several highways in northwest Minnesota will increase from 55 to 60 miles per hour according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation. The new speed limits take effect when the new signs are posted. Highways that will receive new speed limits signs include:

·         Highway 34- Detroit Lakes to Park Rapids

·         Highway 64- Highway 200 to Highway 87

·         Highway 172- Baudette to Wheeler’s Point

·         Highway 310- Roseau to Canadian Border

PARK RAPIDS– The Hubbard County Sheriff’s Office is seeking information about a woman last seen in Akeley. Kara Blevins has been missing since Friday, February 2nd and is listed as a missing person. Blevins is believed to have no phone, car, money or extra clothing in her possession. Anyone with information about Ms. Blevins’ whereabouts is urged to contact the Hubbard County Sheriff’s Office at (218) 732- 3331.

Blevins. Photo courtesy of the Hubbard County Sheriff’s Office

BEMIDJI– The City of Bemidji will discuss a pending lawsuit concerning perflourinated chemicals, or PFCs, during their work session Monday. The lawsuit discussion will be during a closed meeting, but a discussion on City Water will follow after the meeting is re-opened. In May, a notice from the state Department of Health informed the city that two of their five wells near the Bemidji Regional Airport was contaminated with PFCs due to the firefighting foam concentrate used. PFCs have been linked to causing high rates of cancer and premature births according to DHS, but in a one-billion-dollar lawsuit with 3M, DHS could not prove that PFCs caused those issues in the east metro.

WASHINGTON– U. S. Senator Tina Smith recently introduced legislation to address the “skills gap” found in high-demand industries in Minnesota and across the nation. The “Community College to Career Fund” Act is designed to bring together technical colleges, community colleges and local businesses to prepare people for jobs that are in high demand. The legislation, based on models that currently exist in Minnesota and across the country, is also designed to reduce education costs for students, fill jobs, and raise America’s competitiveness in the global economy.


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