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Fairview-Cartwright residents in flooded area get helping hand from Lutheran Social Services

Checks totaling $237,237 have gone out in the mail to 17 families whose homes were damaged or destroyed by floods in the Fairview-Cartwright area this spring.

The checks came from Lutheran Social Services, one of two organizations that raised funds to help those affected by spring flooding.

Twenty-nine homes suffered some degree of damage according to an assessment by Team Rubicon, after the Yellowstone River overflowed its banks in the Fairview-Cartwright area this spring. Nine were completely destroyed.

Shirley Dykshoorn, program director for Lutheran Social Services Disaster Response, said the money was distributed based on an assessment of unmet needs, conducted by a committee that included representatives of the affected area.

“It was an objective point system and confidential,” Dykshoorn said.

Included in the assessment process was a one-on-one interview with each of the families, as well as a written application. A point system was used, based on factors like whether the home was destroyed, whether there were young children in the home, or whether someone was disabled, to name a few.

“It was very fairly done, and they actually came to meet with us and visit about our application,” said Jacki Damm, who noted the case manager had come all the way from Fargo to meet with them and discuss their case.

Damm and her husband Jack are among the families whose home was a total loss.

Jacki said several of the families in the area are now getting foundations laid for their new homes, and that the check from Lutheran Social Services would be a great help to them.

“We had to destroy our home,” Damm said. “We pushed it into a hole and burned it.”

The Damm’s new home will be placed on higher ground, but will not have a basement.

“I wish we could have a basement,” Damm said. “But we are planning that the water will come back. God forbid it does. But we are building and planning as if it will.”

The area had not flooded to the degree it did this year in better than 70-some years of history, according to residents living there. It has not been designated a flood plain, and so the residents have been unable to obtain flood insurance.

McKenzie County officials have said previously that joining the National Flood Insurance Program could be considered, but indicated there are also some complicating factors that must be weighed by the community.

Many of the homeowners were frustrated that the policies they did have were no help with anything. Those who had purchased displacement policies said they were not honored, since the displacement was due to flooding.

Damm, meanwhile, said she and other members of the area affected are grateful to everyone who helped with fundraising efforts for those affected by the flooding.

“Our community, family and friends are all amazing,” she said. “There ended up being some big donors like ONEOK, who gave $100,000. That was unbelievably generous of them.”

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Judge accepts plea deal in Atanasu case

A 20-year-old man accused of sexual contact with a 13-year-old girl when he was 18 or 19 will not have to spend any more time in jail under the terms of a plea deal accepted Wednesday morning in the Northwest District Court.

Nevada Atanasu had pleaded guilty to one count of class A felony gross sexual imposition in April.

Atanasu could have faced up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000 for the conviction. However, under the terms of a plea deal presented to Judge Benjamen Johnson on Wednesday, Atanasu was given a 10-year sentence with a minimum period of five years probation.

Atanasu will also be required to pay court costs, seek psychosexual treatment, register as a sex offender, and refrain from having any contact with anyone under the age of 18. The court costs are just over $1,000.

There was no victim impact statement during the proceeding Wednesday morning, nor were any entered into the record.

The prosecuting attorney, Eric Lundberg, told the judge that evidentiary issues were among the reasons he agreed to the plea deal.

The case had been continued a number of times, prolonging it, Lundberg said. By now, Atanasu has already spent a year and one-half in the Williams County Correctional Center. A court trial would not necessarily yield a sentence much longer than that.

Lunderberg also told the judge he believed the time already served should send a sufficiently strong message to the defendant.

“That is hard time for anyone his age,” he said.

Defense counsel Donald A. Sauviac, Jr., agreed, adding that his client’s mental capacity does not not match his age. He told the judge the plea deal was the best resolution for everything at hand and for all parties concerned.

The case was also one that the prosecution could lose, Sauviac suggested.

Atanasu’s attorney also showed the judge a letter from the young man’s previous employer stating that Atanasu could be rehired once released. The intent was just to show that his client will be able to take care of court costs and fees.

Johnson said the nature of the allegations and the high level of the offense were concerning to him.

“Just on the nature of the charge, I am a little hesitant to accept this agreement,” he said.

However, with both prosecution and defense in agreement on the plea deal, Johnson did accept it.

“You will have to abide by all the terms and conditions,” the judge told Atanasu.

That includes sex offender registration within three days of any change in residence or employment.

“If you fail to do that, you can be criminally charged for failing to register,” the judge said.

Williston to begin exporting beef overseas with purchase of Prairie Packing

The Williston City Commission approved several STAR Fund grants at their latest meeting, one of which will help put Williston on the international map for beef exports.

Economic Development Executive Director Shawn Wenko presented the applications to the commission at their Tuesday, Aug. 13 meeting. Among the STAR Fund grants was a Flex PACE buydown request from Yellowstone River Beef, whom Wenko said would be purchasing Prairie Packing in Williston. Wenko said his office was excited about the project.

“This is for upgrade and expansion of the plant for the international export of beef to Asian markets,” Wenko told the commission. “They’re going to be one of the only USDA-inspected meat plant export facilities in the region once they get up and running.”

Wenko added that the plant would be employing up to 15 people at the facility, and the new owners would be investing around $1 million dollars into the business. The STAR Fund board recommended approval of the request in an amount not to exceed $72,000. The commissioners voted unanimously to approve the request.

Along with the application from Yellowstone River Beef, the commission also voted to approve Flex PACE buydowns for 26th Street Liquor, with owner Sheila Goehring requesting a buydown towards purchasing her partner’s share of the business. The amount approved for the buydown by the STAR Fund board is recommended not to exceed $57,000.

The other request was for As I Do I Learn Daycare, with operator Diane Miller requesting a buydown to purchase the daycare’s property, which she has been leasing. The recommended amount approved by the board is not to exceed $25,000, with the stipulation that the property remains a childcare facilty during the length of the buydown amount, meaning that if the property ceases to be a childcare facility, those funds would have to be paid back to the STAR Fund.

In addition to the Flex PACE grants, Wenko presented the commission with two requests for Community Growth and Build Grants. The Ports to Plains Alliance requested a Community Growth Grant to help with costs associated with hosting the 2019 Ports to Plains Conference in Williston in October. Wenko explained that the Alliance is an alliance of communities that advocate for international infrastructure improvements of the highway corridor of the heartland. The board recommended a grant not to exceed $15,000, which he added would be matched by the Williston Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The second request was for a Community Build Grant from the Williston Area Builders Association. The Association requested funds to help offset operating costs for the organization. Wenko explained that the group had experienced waning membership, going from as many as 200 members to as few as 37, but that membership is currently on the rise. The board recommended a grant in an amount not to exceed $25,000.

“We had some pretty lengthy discussion on this with the STAR Fund board,” Wenko said. “The discussion was that Williston Area Builders Association is a pretty valuable asset right now with the challenges that we’re seeing in the community with housing.”

Both requests were approved unanimously by the commission, as were three Childcare Assistance Grants to assist with the re-licensing of Happy Families Daycare, Pinnacle Preschool and Tot Stop Daycare.

Things To Know: City to begin water main project along 18th Street

In the coming weeks, drivers may want to plan ahead, as work along Williston streets may delay some traffic.

Beginning on Aug. 24, Williston city officials have announced that scheduled water main improvements will begin taking place along 18th Street West between Davidson Drive and extending just passed the Second Avenue West intersection.

Drivers can expect slower, narrowed two-lane traffic, and are advised to use caution regarding construction crews, pedestrians, and other motorists in the area.

City Engineer David Wicke said the project will begin on Saturday, Aug. 24 and will continue throughout the weekend. Traffic control will be set up along the street to keep workers, motorists and pedestrians safe.

Wicke also added that crews have been advised to communicate with School District #1, to coordinate with affected schools regarding pick-up and drop-off times for the beginning of the school year.