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Williams County will also have to sign off on state's first TENORM facility

Secure Energy Services will need one more permit in addition to its state permit before it can lay claim to being the state’s first TENORM disposal facility.

They’ll need an amended conditional use permit from Williams County.

The prospective TENORM facility was discussed at the regular session of Williams County Commissioners on Tuesday.

“I went back through our records, and TENORM was not a consideration at the time,” Director of Development Services Kameron Hymer told Williams County Commissioners.

Hymer notified the company’s officials that they would need an amendment for their CUP from Williams County, in addition to their permits from the state, before they could begin accepting any material whose radioactivity exceeds 5 pico curies per gram.

The requested amendment will be run through Planning and Zoning first for a recommendation, before returning to Williams county Commissioners for consideration.

Kurt Rhea, radiation safety officer for Secure Energy, was present at the meeting to answer Commissioners’ questions.

Commissioner Steven Kemp wanted to know about radiation amounts, and whether they can be further concentrated.

“Let me bring some context to that,” Rhea said. “The reality is that radioactive material exists all around us. If I had detection equipment here in this meeting today, the meter would not read zero.”

Background radiation is present in varying levels in everything from sunshine to food and water, Rhea said.

The state, since 2016, is now allowing up to 50 pico curies per gram of radiation in solid wastes brought to landfills that have appropriate permits for that.

“That is extremely low,” Rhea said. “There are other facilities in Idaho, for example, that allow up to 100 pico curies. There’s one in Colorado that allows 12,000 pico curies per gram. So when we look at the number 50, it is very low.”

Rhea added that the facility will also be limited to accepting 25,000 tons of TENORM per year.

“That may sound like a large number, but the landfill design is for over 4 million cubic yards of material,” Rhea said. “The dilution is to less than 15 percent of the material allowed. And the nature of the material is not unlike what is already going there. It is a soil-like material.”

The levels present in the soil, while higher than has been accepted in the past, are still low enough to be comparable to things like a granite counter top in a home, Rhea said, or a dental x-ray.

As far as whether radioactivity can be concentrated, Rhea pointed out that the materials are from naturally occurring sources, and are not being infused with anything that creates new radioactive material.

“It’s actually concentrated through some of the process that occur,” he said. “And, literally in most cases, what we are talking about is production water filtered at saltwater disposals. The solids accumulate some of the naturally occurring radioactive materials.”

Those materials, while more concentrated than NORM, are still at low levels, Rhea added.

“Secure Energy will continue to take material out of state that exceed the threshold of 50 pico curies per gram,” he said.

On an unrelated matter, Commissioners also approved the start of a $13 million addition to the County Highway Complex for an Emergency Services Center. In addition to a shared space for 911 Dispatch, it will include space for storing emergency management and Sheriff’s Department equipment. Jim Steinman was chosen as the project manager, JLG as the architect, and the county will use the construction manager at risk process for oversight.

A building committee composed of all five county commissioners, department heads and affected groups was formed which will work on the selection of a company for the Construction Manager at Risk.

The estimated timeline will work through the winter to select the Construction Manager At Risk firm, with construction set to begin in the spring of 2020.

Commissioners also approved a lump sum of $50,000 to the Family Crisis Shelter for five missed years beginning including 2015, 16, 17 and 18. Williams County Commissioner David Montgomery said the facility was supposed to have sent a letter requesting the funds, but in the boom, it was something that fell through the cracks.

“I’m assuming that with everything that went on they forgot, and we forgot,” he said. “II think we have made a note to include this in the budget hearing process, so it isn’t forgotten again.”

On other matters commissioners:

• Approved a letter of intent to lease a tower to the state for the interoperability network.

• Heard a status report on a new agricultural extension agent for Williams County. NDSU is about to begin advertising for the position.

• Approved creation of a civil forfeiture fund for money seized from drug-related activity, prompted by legislative changes. The old process required only probable cause for forfeiture, where the new standard requires a conviction. Law enforcement agencies seeking to use money from the funds now have to write a grant requesting the funds. Williams County will let a board approve up to $2,500 in grants. More than that will require commission approval.

• Extended the closing date for the sale of county property to Busted Knuckle Brewer to Sept. 20, to accommodate title work that is still being finalized.

• Moved the Sept. 17 Commission meeting to 9:30 a.m. so that commissioners can personally attend the annual meeting of the Upper Missouri Health District that same morning at 8:30 a.m.

School enrollment up throughout Williams County

All but one school district in Williams County will be open by the end of the week, and most are seeing a continued increase in enrollment.

Williston Public School District No. 1, the county’s largest, opened classes Tuesday, Aug. 20. Enrollment was up at least 200 students. As of Monday, enrollment was 4,568, up from 4,358 at the beginning of last year.

Kaylie Bergel, spokeswoman for District 1, said she expected Monday’s numbers to be close, but that new students were registering all the time.

Williams County Public School District No. 8, which is the largest school district in terms of area and the second largest in terms of enrollment, saw another massive increase.

Last year, enrollment jumped from about 500 to more than 650. This year’s enrollment is at 839, a 28 percent increase.

Other districts are also seeing increases. Nesson Public School District No. 2, which serves Ray, has an enrollment of 378, up about 30 students from last year.

Grenora Public School District No. 99, which starts classes Wednesday, Aug. 21, expects between 200 and 212 students, up from 186 last year.

Enrollment figures weren’t available Tuesday for Tioga Public School District No. 15, where school starts Thursday, or for Eight Mile Public School District No. 6, which serves Trenton. Classes there are set to start Tuesday, Sept. 3.

Private schools saw a jump, as well. Williston Trinity Christian School has 306 students, up from last year’s enrollment 284, while St. Joseph Catholic School, which has preschool through sixth grade, has between 220 and 225, while it had 211 last year.

A bridge to the future

Work on the Williston Basin International Airport is continuing as the opening date continues to draw closer.

On Tuesday, Aug. 20, crews installed passenger jet bridges at the new terminal, which is set to open Oct. 10.

Michael Vosburg • Forum News Service  

For the healthiest lawn, synchronize its care with the natural cycles of grass growth.

Wearing the shoes of poverty opens eyes for Williston participants

Andrea Olson is reluctant these days to talk about what she does with just anyone. There’s intolerance and a lot of bad rhetoric when it comes to helping those living in poverty.

But, in Williston on Tuesday, Aug. 20, Olson was speaking at length about the work she does and the people who are helped by programs the Community Action Partnership of North Dakota offers to those who need a helping hand.

Olson was in Williston to lead a seminar that might might seem like an unusual way to voluntarily spend one’s time. The participants were all there to put on the shoes of a person in poverty, and walk a proverbial mile. Or in this case month. Each experienced a life in poverty, through four simulated 15-minute “weeks.”

Participant were each given a real-life scenario for their month.

An elderly woman who is a widow.

A family where the primary breadwinner just lost his or her job.

Or a family where the primary breadwinner has died.

Grandparent unexpectedly raising grandchildren.

A family that had been self-sufficient. Until medical catastrophe struck.

Tables around the room were manned by volunteers who played officials at schools and resource agencies, tellers in grocery store lines — in short the gauntlet of everyday experiences a person in poverty might face.

It was frustrating and eye-opening.

Madison Davis, with Community Auctions, said people coming into her office sometimes seem “snappy, almost ungrateful.”

She’s done a poverty simulation before, and wanted others to have the experience as well.

“Going through this, and being on this side of it, you can see it is a lot to process,” she said. “And you are thinking about a million things. It is stressful.”

When she went through a previous poverty simulation, Davis admitted dropping the “f-word” a few times.

“This is ridiculous, how do people do this?” she recalled saying at the time.

“And this is a game,” she added. “It’s fake, not real. To feel all those things that I was feeling — I cannot imagine actually being in it.”

Olson, meanwhile, recalled an occasion at a park with her children, where she was hesitant to talk about her career with a fellow parent she’d just met.

But she was pleasantly surprised when he understood.

In fact, he confided, he’d been through a similar circumstance once.

He is a veteran who served in Afghanistan. While he was away, his wife was in medical school in Boston. She had an accident one day, however, and slipped in the kitchen, cracking her head on their kitchen island.

In that instant, the family’s entire life changed.

Not only would his wife never be able to return to school due to the injury, but the family suddenly accrued substantial and overwhelming medical debts.

“It ruined their credit,” Olson said he told her. “This is why we went to the townhouse over here for $1,500 a month. Because we will never be able to buy a house for $1,500 a month.”

Olson doesn’t tell the story to make anyone feel bad, she added, but to just be mindful, and to realize that you don’t really know the circumstances that a given family is facing.

‘Crashing down’

“They were doing everything you are supposed to do,” she said. “And in an instant, it came crashing down. They were the unfortunate recipients of a catastrophic medical event that destroyed them. Physically and financially.”

Liz Bustad, meanwhile, works with the WIC program through Upper Missouri Health District.

Many of the families she works with are employed full-time. But the wages from the jobs aren’t high enough to make ends meet. Especially in Williston.

But Williston needs service people, she said.

The salaries might not be high enough to keep service workers from qualifying for assistance, but it doesn’t mean they are lazy or have poor character.

“They want the best for their kids, just like any of us do,” she said. “And most of them are very hard working, too. I think sometimes we kind of tend to think these people are out to cheat everyone. But no, that is a very, very small minority that we see.”

That’s just one of the many misconceptions, Olson said, that she hopes to dispel through the poverty simulation.

“Welfare fraud is actually less than 3 percent,” Olson said. “And there is an abundance of evidence reporting that. For example, social services is actually able to verify income with the IRS. So if there is a discrepancy, that is going to be noted. I don’t think people understand how thorough income verification really is.”

People receiving services must provide pay stubs, tax returns, disability statements, child support statements — and not just one and done. These sources are re-verified, sometimes as often as every three months.

“We want to think it’s as simple as ‘just get a job,’” Olson added. “But in reality, it’s not that simple. In my entire professional career, I’ve never worked with someone who was excited about having to ask for help. I’ve never worked with anyone who is eager to be quote unquote on the system.”

Body found at Dickinson State University identified; police suspect suicide

DICKINSON — Just before 4:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 19, the body of Nicole E. Hanson, 46, was discovered in an evergreen tree row on the Dickinson State University property.

According to Marie Moe, DSU’s vice president of university relations, law enforcement arrived on scene shortly after receiving a phone call from a member of the DSU community who found the body. Officials asked for the university’s assistance directing traffic, and they blocked a section of the road leading to the Wienbergen parking lot.

A DSU student at the scene stated that one of the university’s football players found the body following practice and notified the university. Dickinson Police Department detectives found no obvious signs of foul play and no nefarious indicators, according to Dickinson Police Captain Joe Cianni.

“The cause of death has not been officially confirmed, however some writings and other items found with the body indicate the death was likely self-determined by the victim,” Cianni said.