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Tioga setting its sights on capturing plastics plant

It’s often said in business that location is key, but in the case of a potential plastics plant, it is even more so. Companies need two vital elements. They require not only the right oil and gas production, but proximity to underground salt deposits for storage.

Tioga’s economic developer Dennis Lindahl believes his city has just what the petrochemical industry is looking for in that respect. He met recently with a coalition in Tioga to talk about why he believes Tioga is the top choice for a plastics plant.

“There’s a good amount of salt deposits on the border of Mountrail and Williams County,” Lindahl told the Williston Herald. “And those would probably be more to the left, according to the state. The state did a feasibility study on CO2 capture, so that is the information we received is that those would be near Tioga.”

While Williston has an old salt cavern that was mined from 1960 to 1988, but later studies determined the cavern was not suitable for storing hydrocarbons.

Tioga also has the Hess plant, which was the first facility in the state capable of extracting ethane for sale. The company has also recently added to the Tioga plant’s capacity for ethane extraction.

“That’s tremendous infrastructure for them to obtain their raw product for the manufacture of plastics,” Lindahl said. “And then you also have the rail spur that is located in Tioga, which would be useful for them to carry away the manufactured product.”

The city also has a lift station, which enables it to handle large volumes of water.

“We know that plastics plants use a tremendous amount of water,” Lindahl said. “We have a $12 million mechanical lift station for our sewage, which many communities in North Dakota do not have.”

Lindahl believes Stanley will be Tioga’s main competition for petrochemical facilities. “They don’t have a lift station,” he said. “They have a three-lagoon cell.”

Another point he believes in Tioga’s favor is the existing power set-up.

“There isn’t a good electrical infrastructure system that goes to the west beyond Tioga,” he said. “So it might make sense for a power plant to locate in Tioga, and then Minot would have several lines that come in from two directions. That would make one big loop for Minot.”

As far as housing, the city also has a leg up on competitors, Lindahl said, because it’s housing isn’t full yet.

“We’re probably at close to 80 percent occupancy, so we have plenty of room to backfill,” he said.

In addition to available housing, the community has also added quality of life projects recently, with a new $5.2 million recreation center, as well as a brand new library and an ice skating rink.

“That was a part of our strategy which we have been pursuing the past three years,” Lindahl said. “We first wanted to organize activities. Like the drone camp for kids, which I think is one of the only STEM-certified camps in North Dakota.”

After that, the city focused on facilities, like the recreation center, and infrastructure, such as the lift station, to attract industry.

“It seems like especially with the mechanical lift water treatment system that Tioga would have a good advantage, plus water towers,” Lindahl said. “We have brand new water towers, so we think we are well-positioned.”

Still, Tioga’s eggs are not all in one basket. In addition to vying for a potential plastics plant, the city is pursuing two other potential developments. One is a proposed power plant that Mountrail Williams is looking to site in western North Dakota, and the other is a 60-employee mystery industry, with whom Lindahl has a non-disclosure agreement.

“It’s completely apart from the plastics plant or Mountrail Williams’ proposed power plant,” Lindahl said. “It’s not oil, and it’s not agriculture. It’s not a primary sector industry at all.”

The new plant will help diversify the western North Dakota economy, Lindahl said.

“It will be the biggest thing that’s ever happened in North Dakota, if we can pull it off,” he said. “The North Dakota Department of Commerce is interested. The governor is interested.”

Fort Union Park Superintendent to retire after 22 years

After more than 40 years serving in the park service, Fort Union Trading Post Park Superintendent Andy Banta is hanging up his ranger hat.

Banta, who during his a career served at Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountain, Badlands, Fossil Butte and Fort Laramie National Parks, has spent the last 22 years at Fort Union, something he attributes to the staff, community and history surrounding the area.

“I’ve always felt like I was a natural history sort of person,” Banta explained to the Williston Herald. “I enjoy the outdoors, hunting, fishing and all that. So Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountain, big natural areas like that I’ve always been attracted to. But when I got here, the human history and the intrigue of the human part of the story is probably what kept me here as much as anything. It’s always the twists and turns of human nature that make the stories fascinating.”

Banta said he had been considering retirement for quite some time, but ultimately realized the time was right to take the plunge and step away.

“I’m 63 years old, I’ve got grandkids all over the country, and just the idea that you better start doing fun stuff while you still got your health,” Banta explained, “And part of it was that summer’s coming and I didn’t want to retire in the winter and get used to sitting around. The time was just right. I struggled with the decision a long time because part of me wonders what I’m going to do with my time. I pondered it for a long time and finally decided I just gotta do it.”

Banta said he still enjoys coming to work every day, and that he will miss the people he works with and the community he served the most. Sharing the area’s unique history, he said, has been one of the most rewarding aspects of the position.

“It’s a neat park and the history here is fascinating,” he said. “There are just so many facets of the history here and I’ve enjoyed it all. But I think I’ll miss the people, both the staff and the community the most.”

Traveling with his wife and spending time with family is how Banta said he intends to spend his time after retirement, saying that being able to travel and explore without the time constraints of work is something he’s really looking forward too. He added that he hopes to stay active as a volunteer at Fort Union, keeping track of some of the projects that began under his supervision. First, however, he just wants to take some time enjoying life as a private citizen.

Banta’s last day at Park Superintendent is Friday, May 31. At this time, he said, no candidates have been announced to take over the position. After 22 years at the site, Banta said he has learned so many great things about the area surrounding the fort. For those looking to come to Fort Union for the first time, Banta said he had but one message.

“I would tell them, ‘Hang on to your hat, because it may be a small park but it has a lot going on.’”

City of Williston declares two properties as dangerous

The Williston City Commission voted to take action in regards to properties deemed dangerous to the community.

The story so far:

At the commission meeting on Tuesday, March 26, City Attorney Taylor Olson, joined by Development Services Director Mark Schneider, presented the commission with three properties that were determined to be a danger. Two of those properties were back on the agenda at the Tuesday, May 28 commission meeting due to non-compliance.

According to an affidavit provided in March, the first property, located at 909 Sixth Ave. W, has had a dangerous building case opened since June 25, 2015. The affidavit stated that the case was opened due to the fact that the properties utilities had been shut off and the garage was falling over. The document added that the owner, Joshua Lawrence, had completed some of the necessary repairs, but the work to make the building habitable had yet to be done. The city received complaints in July of 2018 that someone was living on the premises, despite the home being placarded as a dangerous building. Due to an ongoing foreclosure process, Olson and Schneider recommended that the city revisit the case in 60 days, allowing the Bank of North Dakota to update the city on the process.

The second property, located at 512 Fourth Ave. E and owned by JTM Properties, Inc., was declared a dangerous property in 2013, according to Taylor and Schneider. At that time, the premises was placarded to prevent people from entering. According to Schneider’s memo, the property, which is the former Law Enforcement Center, continued to be a danger. Schneider said that JTM Properties had submitted drawings and reviews for a demolition plan for the property, and that the owners would be traveling to Williston in mid-April to discuss a schedule and sign a contract for the building’s demolition.

Both properties were given 60 days to come into compliance, but were brought back before the commission as they had failed to comply fully.

What’s happening now:

At the Tuesday, May 28 meeting, Olson informed the commission that the foreclosure against Lawrence’s property had been dismissed, and that he had come into an agreement with the building department in which certain items were required to be completed by Friday, May 24. Olson stated that those items had not been completed. Schneider informed the commission that while Lawrence had made progress in reconnecting many utilities, the power to the home itself was still disconnected.

“There has been some work completed,” Schneider told the commission. “But it’s not fully completed per the agreement that we set up April 24.But as far as the facts go, I think Mr. Lawrence is making progress, if I were to say this house is deemed unsafe, I believe the structure is safe; however since utilities are turned off, it’s not a livable situation. That’s why it was deemed a dangerous building back in 2015.”

In regards to the property at 512 Fourth Ave., Olson stated that the owners had agreed to submit extensive proposals in terms of a plan to demolition the property. Olson stated that she had heard from the property owners just that morning, receiving an email stating that they owners were unable to attend the hearing, and requested that it be moved to the end of June. Olson added that it was the only communication she had received from the owners. Schneider said the owners had complied with many requests, but had only submitted a demolition schedule that afternoon. One item that was requested, a signed contract from a contractor to ensure that the work would move forward, was not received, he added.

Olson requested that the commissioners declare both properties as dangerous buildings, so that the city could move forward on any action to address the issue. The city would then have the option to tear down the properties themselves and assess the cost to the owners’ property tax via a special assessment.

City Administrator David Tuan offered comment in regards to the former Law Enforcement Center property.

“The amount of time in non-compliance has been excessively long,” he stated. “In the case of the JTM properties, I’ve personally visited with the land owner, the developer; they are very difficult to deal with and it’s taken a very large amount of staff, time and resources, and also our attorney’s time to try and negotiate with these folks. They continue provide different information, change their plans. At this point I have very little confidence that any commitment to a schedule will be met.”

Commission President Howard Klug and Commissioner Tate Cymbaluk both stated that they had received complaints about Lawrence’s property, with both agreeing that the ongoing non-compliance had become a public safety issue that needed to be addressed.

“I think we have an obligation to this community for both of those buildings to be demolished,” he stated. “They’re unsafe, they’re a trap, they’re creating undue hardship for those neighbors and it is not right at every level. So it’s time that we make that decision.”

With that, Cymbaluk made the motion to declare both properties as dangerous, with a second from commissioner Deanette Piesik. The motion passed unanimously.

Williston Fire Department memorializing the son of one of its firefighters Thursday

The Williston Fire Department is holding a celebration of life at 1 p.m. Thursday, May 30, for the 4-year-old son of one of its firefighters who recently fell ill and died.

Jerry William Stewart, the 4-year old son of Ian and Rachael Stewart will be laid to rest Thursday with firefighter honors.

WFD Battalion Chief and PIO Mike Fronimos wrote in a news release, “Affectionately known as Jer-Bear, he made a huge impact upon the firefighters and everyone he came in contact with.”

A Celebration of Life will be held at Williston Fire Department Station No. 2, on Thursday at 1 p.m. with a procession leading to Our Savior Lutheran Church. The community is invited to come celebrate little Jer-Bear’s life by lining the processional route and wearing bright colors. All the firefighters will be wearing red and blue colored bands over their badges, the colors of Superman — Jerry’s favorite superhero after his Dad.

“I find myself wanting to shout from the rooftops about the short life on earth Jerry led and how much joy he brought to everyone’s life that he entered,” his mother, Rachel Stewart, said. “Even though he was only in our lives for 1,572 days, he left an eternity of laughter, hope, love and sunshine for us to share with the world in hopes that we will all hold fast to that little anchor in heaven.”

The procession will begin shortly after 2 p.m. and move from Station 2 on 58th Street West to Second Avenue West, turn left onto 11th Street West at Harmon Park, follow 11th Street to East Dakota Parkway, turn right on East Dakota Parkway, follow that to East Broadway, turn left onto East Broadway/1804, then follow 1804 to County Road 9 and the church.

What you need to know about Lemonade Day in Williston

The weather has been getting warmer, and if you’ve been feeling thirsty, then there’s a program to check out on Saturday, June 8 — Lemonade Day in Williston. The annual event offers children a chance to set up and run a lemonade stand for a day to learn about entrepreneurship, as well as sharpening some other skills.

Here are a few things you should know about Lemonade Day.

1 It’s free.

Participation in the program, including a backpack full of resources, costs nothing. Parents can register with their kids online at lemonadeday.org/williston

2 Participants learn life skills.

In the information about Lemonade Day, the organization talks about the impact the day can have.

“The objective of Lemonade Day is to teach youth how to start, own, and operate their own business — a lemonade stand. Children learn the entrepreneurial skills necessary to be successful in the future and become contributing members of their communities. They learn how to create a budget, set profit-making goals, serve customers, repay investors and give back to the community. For kids, one of the best parts is that after covering their expenses and paying back their investor, they can keep what they earn. We encourage them to spend some of their profit as a reward for their hard work, save some of their profit for a rainy day or to re-invest in their business, and share some of their profit with the community that supported them.”

3 There are multiple events, starting next week.

Despite the name, Lemonade Day isn’t just a single day. The big event is June 8, when dozens of participants will set up their stands. But there is a tasting contest Monday, June 3, at 5:30 p.m. at the Williston Community Library and an awards barbecue Tuesday, June 18, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.