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Williams County will host Burke, Renville, and Divide counties for new human service zone as part of state's social service redesign

Williams County will be the host county for a new human service zone it is creating with Burke, Divide and Renville counties.

The new zone is part of a statewide redesign of social services as directed by Senate Bill 2124, which seeks to improve the delivery of human services in the state while at the same time relieving 20 mils of local property tax.

The state has 47 centers that serve 53 counties right now. The administrative functions of these will be consolidated into 19 overall zones. Counties whose 2010 census shows a population of more than 60,00 can form an independent zone.

Williams County Director Holly Snelling and Williams County Commissioner Beau Anderson were among attendees at a statewide meeting last week to discuss the redesign, and the process is moving forward.

It was during the meeting, Snelling said, that Burke, Divide, Renville and Williams County decided that this would make a good zone.

Divide, Burke and Renville have 13 employees, which would be managed under Williams County’s Human Resources once the new zone is operational.

“They would assume our benefit packages,” Anderson explained. “It’s easier for our Human Resources department to take their 11 to 13 employees into our system than it would be for another county to take on our 40 employees.”

Now that commissioners have approved forming the zone, the next step will be to put together a zonal agreement for each county commission to approve. That is to be in place by Aug. 1.

“The department will have templates for zone agreements we can use,” Snelling added.

A zone board is also to be established by Dec. 1. It would have up to 15 members, among them a representative from each county. Once that is in place, the Williams County Social Services Board would cease to function.

The zone board will be part of the hiring committee for a zone director, along with two employees from the Department of Human Services. The zone director is to be hired by April 1 of next year.

Anderson said he believes the social services redesign will be a positive step forward for the delivery of human services, based on what he heard at the meeting.

“Chris Jones stressed that these are administrative zones,” he said. “So services will not change.”

The idea of the redesign is not to “take over” social services, state officials told county representatives during the meeting.

On other matters commissioners:

• Approved a letter of support from Williams County for efforts to seek a federal grant to help four-lane U.S. Highway 85

• Approved the repair of leaking coil in an HVAC unit at a cost of about $20,000

• Approved a joint powers agreement with the city of Epping to provide building inspections and permits

• Discussed development of an ordinance that would allow temporary occupation of RVs in certain circumstances. Meanwhile, a property owner in the Marmon subdivision has requested an appeal of an enforcement matter related to RV occupation.

• Discussed two legal cases in executive session. In open session, a motion was unanimously approved allowing the county’s attorney to sue out a mediation contract agreed to in the Sorenson case, if it is not paid in full. On a separate case involving Irish Oil, commissioners unanimously approved a motion for the county’s attorney to proceed “as instructed by the commission (during executive session).”

• Had the first reading of a resolution allowing the sale of a trailer by either a Real Estate agent or by private sale. That will further require public notification and a second reading to go into effect.

• Congratulated and thanked Roger Bearce for 35 years of service on the Williams County Board for Reorganization, School Dissolution, and Annexation. His replacement on that board will be Jennifer Sumners.

• Extended the term of Brenda DeAngelo on the Williams County Social Services Board, rather than seek an appointment for a position on a board that will soon cease to exist.

• Discussed an additional appointment on the Northwest Coordinators Regional Interoperability Board. No decision was made on the appointment, pending further information about the board and the appointment.

• Approved a resolution of support for hiring a new NDSU Extension agriculture agent in Williams County. Lucas Holmes was filling the position, but has since resigned.

The state pays half the expense for the position, and the county the other half.

Man walks 4,400 miles to raise awareness for foster care

What do 1 walk, 2 oceans, 4 time zones, 5 mountain ranges, 6 days a week, 7 hours a day, 8 months, 16 states, 4,400 miles and over 9 million steps add up to? One important message.

On Feb. 1, 2018, Glenn Koster began the long journey from Miami, Florida to Seattle, Washington. A trip that would typically take less than a day by plane was going to be a bit longer for Koster and his wife, Charlcie. You see, Koster isn’t making the trip with any conventional means of transportation. He’s doing the whole thing on foot, mile after mile, to bring his message to those he meets along the way.

Koster is walking to raise awareness for foster care and adoption, a cause that has deep, personal meaning for him. Abandoned at the age of six, Koster was adopted, removed from that home 13 months later and placed back into the foster system, where he remained until the age of 10, when he was adopted a second time. As a recovering alcoholic and spousal abuser — Koster is celebrating 30 years sober and violence-free this year — Koster is unable to become a foster or adoptive parent himself, so he feels his best way to give back is by walking, sharing his story and raising awareness.

“There are 500,000 kids in this country in foster care or waiting for foster placement,” he explained to the Williston Herald. “If a child is in foster care at the age 10, their chance of being adopted drops by half. At age 13, the chances drop in half again. At 15 they become virtually nil. For every child that ages out of the system in most states, 80% of them will end up in the penal system. That’s the crisis we’re in.”

And so Koster walks. Averaging about 22 miles a day, less if the weather is uncooperative or more if necessary, Koster made his way from Miami to Nebraska before mechanical and health problems waylayed his journey in July 2018. The RV his wife drives as he walks had issues with its brakes, making it necessary to stop. With the RV fixed and his health back in order, Koster and his wife began the journey once again in May 2019, picking up where they left off in Nebraska.

The pair made a stop-over in Williston this week, once again due to mechanical issues with the RV, but planned to head back out onto the road on Tuesday, June 18, headed for Bainville, Montana after repairs had been completed.

Koster says so far he has spoken to 44 different groups along his path, mostly churches, to help promote his cause. He says he continues to have “God Moments,” where circumstances show him that he is where he needs to be, doing the work he’s meant to do. Those moments, he said, are the push that keep him going.

“Those are our ‘God Moments,’” he said, “And those are our inspirational moments that tell us that we’re on the right track doing the right thing.”

Well it’s all said and done, Koster will have walked over 9 million steps to “dip his toes in the Pacific Ocean,” marking the end of his long journey. Originally planning to be in Seattle by his birthday, August 22, Koster now says they should complete their trek by August 27. Ultimately, he said, he hopes that his story and his journey will inspire others to take a step themselves, a step towards becoming a foster parent and adopting a child.

“I expect to walk more than 9 million steps,” Koster said. “And if just one family steps up to become a foster family, one family steps up to become an adoptive family, then every single step will have been worthwhile.”

You can follow Koster’s journey by following his facebook pages, facebook.com/kscharitysteps and facebook.com/glenn.koster. For information on becoming a foster parent yourself, contact Williams County Social Services at 701-577-4500.

Author will talk about growing great roses, gardens in the Northern Plains

He doesn’t only stop and smell the roses. He takes pictures of them, too.

Nurseryman and author Eric Bergeson is a little more than halfway through a tour of 50 North Dakota towns and cities, a trip that is part book promotion and part stopping to smell the roses and other Plains beauties along the way.

“What I’ve been doing is when I go to the next town, I drive around to see what grows in each town,” Bergeson said, right after he’d stopped in the middle of an interview to go take a photograph of a particularly stunning rose. “I’ve learned a heck of lot doing that. Especially out west. I was driving around Lake Sakakawea last week, and the lake itself creates a microclimate that alters things a bit. That was interesting to study.”

Bergeson has written one of the only books in existence for gardeners in the Northern Plains. He’ll be stopping in Williston Sunday to discuss his love for gardening in the Northern Plains and share what he has learned over a 17-year career as a nursery man out of Fertile, Minnesota. His talk is 2 p.m. Sunday, June 23, at the Harmon Park Gazebo.

Bergeson got the idea for his gardening tour when a Minnesota library group asked him to do one for 10 cities in four days, to talk about gardening and answer questions.

“I kind of enjoyed that, and so I decided to instigate a tour of my own in North Dakota,” Bergeson said. “I decided to do 50 towns, and so far the response as been great. We’ve had good crowds, and I have my book with me, so I’ve been selling that and it is paying my expenses.”

Bergeson will take questions about gardening while he is in Williston. He has a lot of advice to offer.

“The Northern Prairie is unique, because we have the cold of course,” Bergeson said. “You have a little less in Williston, but you have wind. The other factor that makes us so different from the rest of the nation is we have alkaline soil, and most of the country has acid soil. So our fertilizer recommendations are different.”

That’s not the only thing that’s different, Bergeson added. Rose labels, for example are written for California, because it’s the largest market. But the planting depths recommended for California are not right for North Dakota and other Plains states.

Roses should generally be planted deeper than the labels suggest, Bergeson said, or they are very likely to die in winter.

Bergeson wrote his book, Successful Gardening on the Northern Prairie, in 2017, after selling the nursery his grandfather had started in the 1930s to his brother. He felt a need to put everything he had learned together in one book.

He was surprised when the book started to sell in North Dakota and South Dakota as well. But then, when nursery owners from Great Falls, Montana, showed up to buy multiple copies of the book for their employees, he realized he had something with broader appeal than he had initially thought. The book is now in its third printing and has sold 13,000 copies.

“That’s when I realized they don’t have a gardening book that’s for them,” Bergeson said. “But their situation is precisely what ours is, right by the border, and many of the solutions that work for us work all the way to Great Falls, Montana.”

Bergeson will talk about tree planting on the prairie, proper soil amendment, vegetables and perennials while he is in Williston.

“We’ll have a good time,” Bergeson said, “and hopefully help people have better results in the garden. There’s a lot of (gardening) information out there, and it’s not bad information, but some of it is just not for us.”

20-year-old sentenced to 2 years in prison for sexual contact with 14-year-old

A 20-year-old originally charged with gross sexual imposition pleaded guilty Tuesday, June 18, to a lesser charge and was sentenced to serve two years in prison.

Deacon Marburger pleaded guilty to luring a minor by computer, a class C felony. That charge was amended Tuesday by prosecutors as part of a plea agreement. Marburger was originally charged in November with a class A felony count of gross sexual imposition.

In court on Tuesday, Kelly Dillon, assistant attorney general, told District Judge Todd Cresap, who was appointed to handle the case by request from judges in the Northwest Judicial District, that in November, Marburger was communicating with a 14-year-old girl using social media and asked her to send nude photos. Dillon said the girl sent partially nude photos.

Marburger asked the girl to come to his apartment on Nov. 9 and the girl agreed, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed in Northwest District Court.

“The ultimate goal was sexual acts,” Dillon told Cresap.

Under the plea agreement Cresap OK’d Tuesday, Marburger was sentenced to five years in prison, with three years suspended.

He’ll spend five years on supervised probation when he is released.

He’ll also have to complete sex offender treatment while in prison and will have to register as a sex offender for at least 15 years after he’s released.

Marburger spoke very little during the proceeding, apart from answering questions put to him by the judge. Before the sentencing, though, Marburger apologized.

“I just want to say sorry for causing a bunch of emotions,” he said.

Cresap told him that the best way he could apologize is to remain law-abiding in the future.

He said the harm has already been caused in this case, but it isn’t clear how it will affect the girl involved long-term.

“I’ve seen it go both ways, where the victim does very well and where the victim doesn’t do so well,” Cresap said.

But, he said, Marburger could change his future actions.

“The biggest apology you can make is to never step foot in a courtroom for anything marginally close to what you’re here for today,” he told Marburger.

Fire injures worker Tuesday morning

A worker was injured when a commercial building in Williston caught fire early Tuesday morning, according to the Williston Fire Department.

The Williston Fire Department responded to the 5100 block of 16th Avenue West in Williston at 2:46am Tuesday, June 18, and found a fully involved commercial building, according to department Battalion Chief Mike Fronimos. Firefighters also found a worker with burns to his arms and a leg.

Crews were able to bring the fire under control in just over an hour.

Twenty six firefighters responded and no injuries were reported to firefighters, only one civilian was injured and he was flown to Minneapolis. For a few hours 16th Avenue West was closed. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.