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Former township treasurer accused of taking money for her business account

The former treasurer of Missouri Ridge Township, who was arrested Friday, May 31, and accused of stealing from the township, deposited six checks from the township into a business account between September 2018 and February, police say.

Deanna Senior, 49, was charged Friday with one class B felony count of theft. She’s accused of taking $29,250 over the course of several months and depositing it in her business account. She was ordered held Monday, June 3, on $5,000 bond.

The investigation started when the new treasurer of the Missouri Ridge Township Board of Supervisors contacted the Williams County Sheriff’s Office about six checks written to Elements of Design, an interior design company, according to an affidavit of probable cause. The new treasurer told investigators that the township hadn’t authorized any checks to the company.

Senior had been the previous secretary/treasurer of the board and was also the owner of Elements of Design, court records indicate. A detective for the Sheriff’s Office found that Senior had signed the checks and had endorsed the back of the checks.

Police applied for a search warrant for the Elements of Design bank account and found that six checks had been deposited between Sept. 29, 2018 and Feb. 13, charging documents state. The checks ranged in size from $7,500 to $1,800 and totaled $29,250.

On three occasions, the checks were deposited when the Elements of Design account had a negative balance, investigators wrote in the probable cause affidavit. The investigator also wrote that Senior was the only authorized signer on the Elements of Design account.

At a bond hearing Monday afternoon, Eric Lundberg, assistant state’s attorney for Williams County, asked for Senior’s bond to be set at $50,000. Lundberg said the crime was a violation of public trust, and even though Senior has no criminal record, a high bond was needed.

“The heinous type of crime this was overwhelmed the lack of criminal history,” Lundberg told Northwest District Judge Paul Jacobson.

Jeremy Curran, who represented Senior at the bond hearing, said the prosecution’s request was not just too high, that it would be a violation of Senior’s rights.

“That’s the definition of using bond as a punishment, which isn’t allowed under the Constitution or North Dakota law,” Curran said.

He said because Senior had ties to the area and no criminal history she wasn’t a flight risk and asked for a personal recognizance bond.

Jacobson set Senior’s bond at $5,000. He told Curran that because the charge was a class B felony, which carries a maximum of 10 years in prison, he wanted there to be some guarantee Senior would show up for her court dates.

Senior is scheduled to have a preliminary hearing on the charge on July 3.

7 one-of-a-kind pianos a visual wonder in downtown Williston

If you’re walking down Main Street and think you hear the chords to the ever-popular Piano Man or the classic Für Elise playing somewhere in the distance, you could be absolutely right. Seven newly painted pianos have just moved to new homes along Main Street, each of them so far playable.

It’s part of the Downtowner’s Piano Project, which was one of several items named on a task list when the non-profit’s new executive director, Daved Lundeen, came on board a couple of months ago.

Last week on Friday, pianos donated by community members quietly and without fanfare appeared downtown. They were ordinary pianos, all showing at least some signs of love and years. Most of them blended right into the downtown, all but invisible to those not looking for them.

By Monday, however, most were sporting striking collages of color and design, thanks to a number of area artists who donated their time and talents to transform each plain piano into a new and fabulous work of art.

“Our goal is to beautify downtown, and make it inviting and inspiring,” said John Geyerman, a member of the Downtown Atmosphere Committee. He was helping to sand and prime several of the pianos Friday night, preparing them for their makeovers on Saturday. “We want it to be a place where people eat, shop, and just hang out.”

Artists submitted designs for the piano they would decorate, and these were approved by a committee. After that, Whiting Oil and Gas stepped up with a donation, so that Downtowners could just give paints and other supplies to the artists.

Artists were given exterior paints to work with, so that their designs would hold up for at least a season.

“Our assumption is that by the end of the summer they won’t be playable any more, and they will just be art pieces,” Lundeen said. “The primary focus of bringing them downtown was for art. The music is an added bonus, but we don’t have anyone set up to tune them, nor money to keep them tuned.”

That said, Lundeen is open to ideas, if community members want to see the pianos stay.

“I know other cities with street pianos where music is the main goal,” Lundeen said. “We’d love it if someone would volunteer to do it, but otherwise that is not an option for us unfortunately.”

Getting the pianos in place ahead of Summer Nights on Main, which starts July 2 to avoid July 4, was a priority, Lundeen added. Summer Nights on Main blends concerts with food and free fun. It will continue each week on Thursday, after the initial one on July 2.

Main Street market also kicks off in July, and Crazy Days are ahead.

Getting the pianos done in time for all of that was a big priority, Lundeen said.

“Each of these pianos is very unique from one another,” Lundeen added. “So it’s a cool stroll through the downtown now. We go from Second and Main all the way to halfway up Sixth Street.”

The pianos have already been attracting a crowd along their five-block route on Main.

“Saturday people were stopping their cars and shouting to the artists, asking them what is going on or telling them it looks great,” he said. “We had people coming down to film it and taking tons of photos. It was much more of an event than we thought it might be, although we were hoping it would be an event. It’s had a huge, positive response so far.”

No particular concerts are planned with the pianos at this time, Lundeen said. They will just be there, available, for as long as they are playable.

“If a business has a piano nearby and wants to get people to come play to draw a crowd of people, that is great,” he said. “These are our gift to the downtown.”

North Dakota Oil Patch faces a power-hungry future

Each and every barrel of oil taken from the North Dakota ground takes a certain amount of energy to produce, process and transport. That means there is a correlation between projected oil and gas production rates and future electrical consumption — even if it’s a quite complex mixture dependent on which well the oil came from.

The North Dakota Transmission Authority is using the state’s projected production and population statistics to outline future energy needs for the Oil Patch, through a study it commissioned with Barr Engineering Company.

The study’s results were presented last week during the North Dakota Industrial Commission meeting. It estimates that electric consumption in the Oil Patch is set to increase by at least 44 percent for the low scenario of production estimates from the North Dakota Petroleum Authority or, in the higher case, consensus scenario, by 77.1 percent over the next two decades.

That translates to 15,000 gigawatt hours for the low scenario or 18,000 gigawatt hours for the higher, consensus projection. Compared to the 2018 baseline, that’s an increase of between 4,600 to 7500 gigawatt hours and will imply an increase in generation capacity of 670 to 1,000 megawatts over and above the state’s existing 4390 megawatts.

The study broke the oil industry’s power needs into three broad categories, one for production, one for population growth, and one for large industrial/commercial facilities like gas processing facilities and crude oil transmission pumps.

By the numbers:

• 4,300 additional gigawatt hours for oil and gas production in the low case, 5400 in the higher, consensus case.

• 5,300 gigawatt hours for large industrial in the low case, and 6,300 high case.

• 5,600 gigawatt hours for increased population int he low case, 6,300 in the high case.

The highest annual growth rate is expected to happen in the first eight years of the study period, from 2019 to 2025. In that timeframe, power demands are estimated to grow between 2.5 to 3 percent annually for the state’s low production scenario, and between 3.6 to 7.7 percent annually for the consensus scenario.

The study further breaks down the power needs by county.

By the numbers for Williams County:

• 886,000 to 1,128,000 MWh hours for oil and gas production by 2038, low to higher case, consensus

• 1,670,000 to 2,108,000 MWh for large industrial/commercial

• 929,000 to 1,162,000 MWh for additional population

By the numbers for McKenzie County

• 1,492,000 to 1,821,000 MWh for oil and gas production by 2038

• 2,541,000 to 3,033,000 MWh for large industrial/commercial

• 435,000 to 522,000 MWh for additional population

In April, Williston saw a major increase in hotel occupancy and the number of building permits issued

Between April 2018 and April 2019, hotel occupancy in Williston jumped more than 16 percent, and tax revenue from hotels and restaurants increased by nearly 38 percent.

The month of April also saw the first building permit for a new apartment unit in more than a year.

Here are the numbers on Williston’s economic health, as collected by Williston Economic Development.

1.8 percent: Williams County unemployment rate in April, down from 2.2 percent in April 2018.

$1,422,982: sales tax revenue distributed to Williston by the state, up from $1,368,320 the previous April.

$7,467,649: sales tax distribution for January through April 2019, compared to $6,317,640 for the same period in 2018.

31: Number of single-family homes sold in Williston in April, compared to 35 in April 2018.

113: Number of single-family homes sold in Williston for January through April 2019, compared to 119 for the same period in 2018.

$270,316: Average single-family home price for the first four months of 2019, up from $246,719 in the first four months of 2018.

6,876: Number of boardings at Sloulin Field in April, up from 5,810 the year before.

26,141: Number of boardings at Sloulin Field for January through April 2019, compared to 22,231for the same period in 2018.

$4,692,983: The value of a property for a new apartment complex in Williston that got a building permit in April.

28: The total number of building permits issued in April 2019, which had a total value of $7,847,606. That compares to 23 the year before, which had a total value of $2,900,217.

83: The number if building permits issued between January and April 2019, which had a total value of $15,707,318. That compares to 74 the year before, which had a total value of $4,289,821.

57.9 percent: Hotel occupancy rate in April 2019, up from 41.6 percent from the previous previous.

48.5 percent: Hotel occupancy rate from January through April 2019, up from 36.9 percent the prior year.

37.5 percent: The increase in restaurant and lodging tax collected in April 2019 ($74,370) compared to April 2018 ($54.062).

30.8 percent: The increase in city occupancy tax collected by Williston in April 2019 ($30,745) compared to April 2018 ($23,496).

Things to know today

Microchipping event Wednesday

NextHome Fredricksen Real Estate, in partnership with MonDak Animal Rescue, will be hosting a “There’s no place like home” microchipping event on Wednesday, June 5, from 4:30 to 7 p.m. at MonDak Animal Rescue, 6207 First Ave. W. The groups will be microchipping 100 pets.

Luke Day is scheduled for national launch in June celebrating the birthday of NextHome’s mascot, Luke, whose official birthday is June 15.

Bring your pets with their up-to-date immunization records for Rabies/Distemper/Parvo to MonDak Animal Rescue on Wednesday. The first 25 pets microchipped will be free; a discounted price will be given for the remaining 75 microchips.

Minot man who died in crash identified

OBERON — Authorities have identified a Minot man who died early Saturday morning, June 1, in a crash southwest of Devils Lake.

Stephen Zewick, 30, was westbound at 12:15 a.m. Saturday on North Dakota Highway 57 about 5 ½ miles northeast of Oberon when he drove through the U.S. Highway 281 T-intersection, according to a news release from the North Dakota Highway Patrol. He drove off the road, hit construction equipment and died at the scene, the release said.

He was not wearing his seat belt. It’s unclear if alcohol or distracted driving contributed to the crash.