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President declares disaster for spring flooding in North Dakota

A Presidential disaster declaration requested by Gov. Doug Burgum for flooding in March has been granted, and will help speed public assistance for emergency work and the repair or replacement of disaster-damaged facilities in McKenzie and other counties that were affected.

Burgum made the request last month for flooding from March 21 to April 29 in several counties including McKenzie, which caused an at least an estimated $8.5 million in damage statewide. That figure may be as much as $2 million higher, once assessments are complete.

Flooding occurred across North Dakota in that time frame. Other counties affected included Adams, Barnes, Cass, Dickey, Emmons, Grand Forks, Grant, Hettinger, LaMoure, Logan, McKenzie, Morton, Pembina, Ransom, Richland, Sargent, Steele, Traill and Walsh.

“This presidential disaster declaration will help our local governments and agencies recover from extensive infrastructure damage and make resources available to help communities reduce the long-term risk of future flooding,” Burgum said. “We are extremely grateful to the Trump administration for recognizing the significant hardship that North Dakota farmers, homeowners, businesses, local governments and first responders experienced as a result of substantial — and, in some cases, unprecedented — spring flooding.”

The Fairview-Cartwright area was among locations where unprecedented flooding occurred in the state. Nearly 110 residents were displaced from their homes for days. Residents say that area has not experienced flooding for 70 years or more.

A survey by Team Rubicon of the area found nine homes completely destroyed, and 12 with major damage. Several others suffered minor damage, for a total of 29.

About 14,400 acres of cropland were also flooded, delaying, and in some cases preventing altogether, spring planting.

McKenzie County Emergency Management Director Karolin Jappe has already been talking with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about reducing flood hazards in the Fairview-Cartwright area.

McKenzie County is coming up on its five-year hazard mitigation plan. Jappe plans to stipulate that the plan must include unincorporated areas of the county, such as Arnegard, Cartwright and East Fairview.

FEMA has grants each year that emergency management directors can apply for.

“If (the projects) are in my plan, my chances of approval are greater than if they are not in the plan,” she said.

The disaster declaration could make additional funds available for hazard mitigation in the area, Jappe said.

What the disaster declaration won’t do is trigger individual assistance from FEMA. The damage assessments for individual homes weren’t widespread or high enough.

The nine families who have lost homes are working to rebuild their homes and their lives. Many of them face second mortgages. Some of them had been set to retire debt free, but no more.

The North Dakota legislature has approved low-interest loans of up to $75,000 for families in that area to use toward the cost of rebuilding.

Jappe, meanwhile, has set up a relief fund to try and help the families. It is being managed by Lutheran Social Services. Families int he flood area fill out an application and members of the Unmet Needs Committee, which is comprised of Fairview-Cartwright community members, meet with the families and review the applications to determine how best to divide the donations.

Jappe said fundraising has been good, but not as good as it was for the tornado.

Jamie Kelly • Williston Herald  

Miss North Dakota takes the stage

Miss North Dakota 2018 Katie Olson greets the audience during the first preliminary round of competition during the Miss North Dakota Scholarship Pageant on Wednesday, June 12. The competition continues Thursday at 7 p.m., followed by the Miss North Dakota’s Outstanding Teen competition on Friday at 7 p.m. and the crowning of Miss North Dakota 2019 on Saturday evening.

Williston's first Juneteenth celebration set for Saturday

Henry Cox has lived in North Dakota for about seven years, and it’s been good to him, so he wants to give back.

He decided the best way to do that would be to start Williston’s first celebration for Juneteenth. The holiday celebrates June 19, 1865, when the news of the abolition of slavery in the Confederate States of America reached Texas.

So on Saturday, June 15, Cox and others are putting on a celebration in Harmon Park from noon to 10 p.m.

“We’re going to teach and eat and have a good time,” he told the Williston Herald.

The day is going to include a speech by Mary Stevenson, a civilian employee of the U.S. Air Force, as well as entertainment from multiple groups.

Elizabeth’s Dance Expressions will perform, as will A Capital in Ruins, Tuesday X and Ding Da Entertainer and other acts. There will also be a car show.

The event, which is billed as a celebration of freedom and community unity, has also attracted more than a dozen sponsors. The Williston Herald, Eleven Lounge, Cashwise, Unreal RC and Elizabeth’s Dance Expressions have signed on to sponsor, as have First Class Auto Glass, Smoke 2.0, Tobacco Depot, Vapor Lounge, WKOAppleRU, Northwest Supply and Trophies, R and R Trophies

Getting To Know: Williston Area Chamber of Commerce President Rachel Lordemann

Rachel Richter Lordemann is the president of the Williston Area Chamber of Commerce, a position she has held since April of this year. Lordemann had previously been serving as the chamber’s Member Relations and Communications Manager since May 2017.

Lordemann is a Williston native, graduate of the University of North Dakota and has been involved with the community in a number of ways, including work with the Parks and Recreation District and the Miss North Dakota Scholarship Organization.

The Williston Herald spoke to Lordemann about her new position.

What are you most proud of accomplishing in your position?

The Chamber’s Leadership Williston Program recently won the Community Partnership Award from Williston Economic Development. Throughout my time working for the Chamber I have always been so proud to be a part of Leadership Williston – first as a participant, then as a Program Director, and now as the Chamber President! Leadership Williston has helped shape so many of our community’s leaders and kick-started so many community enhancement projects that still add value to Williston today. We were so honored to be presented with that award, and to share it with the hundreds of alumni and volunteers who have been a part of Leadership Williston over it’s 23-year history!

What is your biggest goal moving forward?

My job as Chamber President is to ensure that we are providing the best advocacy, programs and services to help our Member Business & Organizations succeed! We know that when our business community is strong, our entire community is strong! A big goal is to engage all of our area’s industries by making sure we have programs and benefits that provide a return on investment to businesses from Ag to Oil to Retail to Finance to Real Estate to Professional Services and everything in between!

What is one thing you wish people understood about the City of Williston?

Williston is an incredibly exciting place for Young Professionals! There is opportunity here for Millennials that is unmatched anywhere in the country. The creativity, innovation, and forward thinking that exists in this community where our median age is 31 and many of our community leaders are Millennials is palpable. It gives me so much confidence that our community will remain strong long into the future. I would encourage any young person, especially those just graduating college and looking for a place to start their career, to come to Williston! Not only are there are great number of job opportunities, but the professional and personal development that comes from working in Williston’s fast paced, high energy workforce will prepare you to succeed in any career path you choose.

What does your typical day look like?

In the Chamber world there is no typical day! But most days include planning for whatever upcoming event we have next, interacting with members to assist them in utilizing their benefits, and meeting with our outstanding groups of volunteers who serve on our Board of Directors and Committees and being active in the Williston Community by attending community events and engaging with community partners. I also get to spend each day with a fantastic staff who help to make sure that each event is perfect, and each member is happy!

Tell us three things about you personally.

I was born and raised in Williston and grew up participating in Youth Education on Stage and Entertainment Inc!

I attended the University of North Dakota and have an intense amount of school spirit and UND Pride! In fact, my husband and I actually got engaged at the Ralph Engelstad Arena!

In my spare time, I love to read, play the piano, go on walks, and listen to podcasts!

SWAT keeping sharp with monthly training

A domestic case at a residence in Williston where no one could reach the residents inside was among several training scenarios a regional SWAT team worked on Wednesday in Williston, to satisfy a monthly training requirement.

“We ended up making a lot of noise,” Lt. Hugh Benzen admitted. “They basically went in to rescue the hostage and dealt with the hostage taker at that point.”

So-called “flash-bangs,” which are what made all the noise, are just one of several munitions at the disposal of the SWAT team. But it takes a lot of training to deploy these and other specialized munitions correctly.

Benzen said the SWAT team does 12 hours of training each month. Eight hours are tactical, like Wednesday’s multiple scenarios at a residence in the 100 block of Second Avenue Southeast.

The remaining four hours are centered around firearms and munitions training, at a shooting range.

While the officers trained, a drone buzzed around the scene, taking video of the action. The drone was managed by Williams County Emergency Management Director Mike Smith.

Video from the drones is used to later review the training exercise and critique the response.

The SWAT team was formed in 2016. It is a joint effort of the Williams County Sheriff’s Office, Williston Police Department, and the Williston Fire Department, to create a highly trained team that can respond to things like hostage-rescue, barricaded subjects and high-risk search warrants.

“This is what we train for,” Benzen said. “Our mission is to the safety of the public. We are a life-saving resource, not only for the police department, but the public as well.”

The team consists of 21 officers, and includes five medics. Among specialized equipment is an armored vehicle that the team travels in, which can withstand .50 caliber rounds.

The SWAT team has been called out at least 30 times since inception in 2016, Benzen said. The last time was to serve a high-risk search warrant.

“It is a regional response team, not just for Williston and Williams County,” Danielle Hendricks, public relations officer for Williston Police Department added.

The service area includes Williams, Divide, Burke and McKenzie County.

“Recently, toward the end of winter, we ended up in Montana,” Benzen said.

That particular incident involved a barricaded subject.

“This has been something we realized has been missing a long time,” Benzen said. “Most other cities the size of Williston have had a team for decades.”

Previously, the region had to wait on a team to come from Minot or another location, which could take five or more hours. Having a trained team in the region reduces the response times tremendously.

“This was just something we needed to have here,” Benzenes said. “And the support from all the agencies for it has been phenomenal.”

Things to know

Burgum to chair Western Governors’ Association

Gov. Doug Burgum has been named chairman of the Western Governors’ Association and will bring the organization’s annual meeting next year to the North Dakota Badlands, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

The first-term Republican elected in 2016 was previously the organization’s vice chairman. Fellow governors on Wednesday, June 12, chose him to succeed Hawaii Gov. David Ige in leading the bipartisan group of 20 state executives for the next year.

“Being elected to lead the Western Governors’ Association is a tremendous honor, and I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity to build upon the bipartisan, commonsense policy development that has become synonymous with WGA,” Burgum said in a statement.

His term’s policy theme will be “Reimagining the Rural West,” with an Oct. 1 workshop in Fargo and 2020 annual meeting in June in Medora.

Former North Dakota Gov. Ed Schafer, who chaired the Western Governors’ Association from 1996 to 1997, held the organization’s 1997 annual meeting in Medora, with a train ride out from Bismarck. Seven governors attended.