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Coffee and Conversation with Dist. 1 Representatives Hatlestad and Richter
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The Chamber of Commerce’s Coffee and Conversations welcomed District 1 Representatives Pat Hatlestad and David Richter to their morning meeting to discuss the upcoming legislative session.

Meeting once again via teleconference due to COVID-19 precautions, Chamber President Rachel Lordemann hosted the session, with around a dozen guests joining in to chat with the representatives. The legislative session kicks off in just a few weeks, and Lordemann said she invited Richter and Hatlestad to give a preview of some of the topics the area’s representatives will be addressing. District 1 Senator Brad Bekkedahl was unable to take part in the meeting due to fulfilling his duties as part of the North Dakota National Guard.

Hatlestad kicked the conversation off, addressing how the legislature plans to meet amid the ongoing pandemic.

“It’s going to be an interesting session, a unique session in that we’re going to potentially be scattered throughout the capital building, and some with pre-existing conditions may be doing some of the legislative work from home,” Hatlestad explained. “I think it’s going to be a stressful situation.”

Hatlestad noted that 2021’s session will be closer to a “Citizen Legislature,” wherein the public has the opportunity to not only watch the legislative proceedings, but be active participants in the process. By being able to testify in committee meetings virtually, Hatlestad said, will be a great benefit to citizens interested in the legislative process.

Issues Hatlestad said he would be facing as a member of the finance committee is budget taxes, revenue for the state and how projected revenues are looking for 2021. Hatlestad said revenues are looking to stay flat or wouldn’t increase much, but added that Gov. Burgum had indicated that no new taxes were planned.

Lordemann asked if the representatives felt there would be any further grant opportunities or business stimulus that might come from the session, as CARES funding is due to expire at the end of the year. U.S. lawmakers recently approved a new $900 billion stimulus spending package aimed at individuals and businesses struggling through the pandemic. The stimulus highlights include direct checks to Americans and a second round the Paycheck Protection Program.

“North Dakota has been well known for its pro-business stance,” Hatlestad said. “So I’m guessing what we’re going to find ourselves doing is where the federal government has either dropped the ball or has inadequately funded a particular segment of society, I see North Dakota picking up that dropped ball, so to speak. I think we will be proactive in terms of business, proactive in terms of social services and that may stretch the budget a bit, but North Dakota is very much pro-business.”

Richter said behavioral health was a another point of discussion for the upcoming session, stating that Gov. Burgum is major advocate for behavioral health. Behavioral health and mental health issues, especially regarding K-12 students, would be at the forefront, but Richter said a strong push was being made for expanded services for those aged 18 to 40, as well as the state’s senior citizens. Richter added he would like to see more services become available in Western North Dakota, as residents often have to travel for the treatment they need.

Hatlestad and Richter both encouraged people to reach out to them regarding legislative issues, stating the importance of regular citizens helping to mold the state’s policies.

“The opportunity to become a more active participant is important,” Hatlestad said. “There are a lot of good ideas out there that maybe we can utilize to make good legislation even better.”

Reps. Hatlestad and Richter can be reached via email at phatlestad@nd.gov and dwrichter@nd.gov. Coffee and Conversations is a morning network event hosted by the Chamber of Commerce. For more information, visit www.willistonchamber.com or follow them on Facebook at facebook.com/willistonchamber for information on upcoming events.

Williston firefighters commended for service during Oregon wildfires
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Members of the Williston Fire Department were honored by the Williston City Commission for their assistance during the Oregon wildfires.

With a slideshow of photos playing in the background, Fire Chief Jason Catrambone addressed the commissioners at the Tuesday, Dec. 22 virtual meeting, sharing how five members of the department, including himself, joined with fire fighters from across the country in assisting with the devastating fire along the west coast. Williston’s volunteers made the journey to Oregon, taking on various missions to help extinguish the blazes and provide assistance. Due to their selfless and heroic work, the five crew members were honored with a Unit Commendation for Exceptional Duty.

“The Exceptional Duty award is given to members of a department for highly credible accomplishments bringing public acclaim to the department, the city and the fire service as a result of devotion to duty or service to the public,” Catrambone explained. “I’m really proud of the four that went out there, took on this role and completed this mission.”

Along with Catrambone, fire fighters Clint Bates, Mitch Byman, Jason Lewis and Hunter Voss all received certificates of commendation and ribbons to honor their service.

The commendation reads: “Upon request from the State of Oregon, Office of the State Fire Marshal, Engine Company 13 volunteered to assist without hesitation to support those in need without any knowledge of what their mission would entail. Upholding the tradition of the fire service to go above what is normally expected, and supporting operations on the Slater/Devil Fire with completion of all missions assigned. The members of Engine Company 13 represented the Williston Fire Department, and the City of Williston at the highest level, and displayed the best qualities of the fire service while supporting operations to assist the people of the Rogue Valley, Oregon.”

Mayor Howard Klug stated that he hoped in the near future the city would be able to hold a formal ceremony to recognize the crew, but stated how proud he was at how Engine Company 13 represented their department and the city of Williston.

Commissioner Tate Cymbaluk applauded Catrambone for his service and humility, as well as the hard work his team put in.

“What they did is just remarkable,” Cymbaluk said. “With your leadership, we thank you as well, Chief. This is certainly well deserved.”

The Chief shared his thanks for city leadership, and the support they continually give to the department.

“Operations and opportunities like this to help others wouldn’t be possible without the support of the administration, the mayor and the commission,” Catrambone said. “Everything from allowing the crew to go, to their support with training, equipment and hiring the types of people that are willing to go above and beyond to get the job done.”

In addition:

• The commission denied a tax abatement request from Motel 6 property owners Williston Hospitality, LLC for a value reduction from $3,047,300 to $800,000. Darcy Anderson, Director of Tax Equalization for Williams County recommended denying the request, which was approved unanimously by the commission.

• The commission approved a recommendation to transfer $2,500,000 from Gross Production Tax to the General Fund for a projected End of Year balance satisfying the 15 percent General Fund Minimum Reserve requirement. Finance Director Hercules Cummings said the transfer accounts for all expected payables and payroll for 2020. The minimum reserve is a best business practice used to cover 60 days of General Fund expenditures and future project opportunities which will also serve to strengthen the City’s credit ratings.

• The commission approved liquor license renewals for 60 businesses, and 167 business licenses for 2021, contingent upon passing any required inspections, final signatures and maintaining compliance with any other license requirements as stipulated by the city Code of Ordinances.

• The Regional and Urban Projects Program was approved by the commission, which is a funding program that will be utilized for the development of the intersection of Highway 2, 26th Street and 2nd Avenue in order to extend 2nd Avenue into to the Williston Square. The project has been a collaboration between the City and the North Dakota Department of Transportation.

• Director of Development Services Mark Schneider presented a Resolution from the Housing Commission regarding housing incentives for certain new single family residential properties and condominium and townhouse properties. The Resolution would allow for an exemption from property taxes for the first two taxable years after the taxable year in which construction is completed, the residence is owned and occupied for the first time, and other conditions are met. The maximum exemption allowed is $150,000 of true and full valuation of improvements only. The Resolution was approved by the commission.

• The commission approved an amendment to the Ground Lease Agreement between the City and Williams County, which will allow the County to sublease their space to the University of North Dakota in support of the State of North Dakota Northern Plains UAS Test Site program. UND is looking to place a radio antenna to accommodate the Vantis Beyond Visual Line of Sight network installation in western North Dakota.

Community shares spirit of giving by donating to CHI St. Alexius
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2020 has been a year full of adversity. But despite economic difficulties; businesses, individuals and organizations continue to give back, and CHI St. Alexius Health Williston has been one recipient of the community’s generosity.

Janna Lutz, director for the CHI St. Alexius Health Williston Foundation, said the hospital has seen the surrounding community come together and give back like never before during 2020, at a time when many are facing hardship due to the pandemic. Not only have people opened their wallets to help the Foundation, which raises funds for the hospital’s programs, project and equipment needs, but donations have come in to support CHI’s staff and patients as well.

Earlier in December, CHI’s hospital gift shop donated $10,000 to the Foundation, mostly from employees, to go towards renovation of the Medical Surgery and ICU wings. Lutz said that with COVID restrictions limiting public access, the gift shop has mostly been utilized by CHI staff, many of whom also donate to the Foundation independently.

“It’s just a testament to type of people that work here,” Lutz told the Williston Herald. “It’s just been amazing the type of generosity that folks have. Always going above and beyond.”

Above and beyond is exactly where one anonymous donor went, Lutz shared. The unnamed individual reached out to the hospital, and in one fell swoop paid off more $6,000 worth of medical debt for several patients.

“In the spirit of Christmas, they wanted to help in a tangible way, and this donor asked ‘Who are some of your patients that are having trouble paying their bills?’” Lutz explained. “So we identified six patients, and they generously took care of all their bills. What a wonderful way to share the Christmas spirit and really make a difference in someone’s life.”

Thrivent Financial For Lutherans has been a longtime supporter of CHI and the Foundation, and in the same spirit of giving, Thrivent donated 100 cancer care packages the Leonard P. Nelson Cancer Center to be given out to patients during the holiday season and beyond.

Lutz said project started through a Thrivent Member activity and included many local sponsors such as Mountrail-Williams Electric Cooperative, Red Rock Ford, Walmart, Books on Broadway, Williston Lions Club, American State Bank & Trust, and the ‘pack rats’ ladies group from Concordia Lutheran Church in Crosby. Cancer patients will be given care packages beginning in December that include snacks, water, blankets or neck pillows, socks, inspirational books and journals.

“Our Thrivent team in Williston, Northwest Dakota Financial Associates, was thrilled to find out earlier this year that we would be receiving funds to make an impact in our community. We all have loved ones, including Thrivent Financial Representative Terry Oxendahl, who have been blessed by the care and treatments they have received at the Leonard P. Nelson Cancer Center,” said Kristin Iverson, Financial Associate at Thrivent. “We knew right away that this was an organization that we wanted to help with the Thrivent Community Program funding we received. It was exciting to purchase a new infusion chair for the facility a few months ago, and the timing worked out great to provide gift bags for first time cancer patients right before Christmas. A special thank you to Jessica George and Peggy Sundet for their time volunteering with us to make the project successful!”

To show appreciation for the hard work CHI’s health care workers have and continue to put in this year, St. Joe’s in Williston delivered a whole myriad of items to be given to CHI’s staff. Everything from snacks, personal care items, and other goodies were donated, which have now been used to create “Care Carts.” The Care Carts are taken around the facility by CHI’s leadership, visiting each department and dropping off bits of good cheer along the way.

“People are selflessly thinking of others, especially at this time.” Lutz said. “It’s been a real big hit, and it’s good for morale.”

Despite all of 2020’s setbacks, Lutz said she feels inspired to look at the city she lives in and see so many people willing to set aside their own hardships to offer a hand to their neighbors.

“The generosity of people in Williston is amazing.” Lutz said. “This community gives back in so many different ways, and it really goes to show you the kind of community that we live in. People that may themselves be struggling during this time are still willing to give back and think of others really shows the Spirit of Christmas that people are feeling. The strength of this community is heartwarming.”

For more information on the Williston Foundation and how you can get involved, visit www.chistalexiushealth.org/williston-foundation or contact the Foundation at 701-774-7466.

In-person learning resuming for some in new year
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Starting in January, Williston Public School District No. 1 will move students at Williston Middle School and Williston High School from a hybrid schedule to all-day in-person teaching.

Hagan, Lewis & Clark, McVay, Rickard, and Wilkinson Elementary Schools will continue to operate on the current 4-day schedule.

Bakken Elementary and the ASB Innovation Academy will continue all-day in-person attendance Monday-Thursday and will add interventions on Fridays.

Both WMS and WHS will spend the first week of January on the hybrid schedule. Group A will meet Monday, Jan. 4 and Wednesday, Jan. 6, and Group B will meet Tuesday, Jan. 5 and Thursday, Jan. 7.

At WMS, students will be in school full time Monday through Thursday starting Jan. 11. Fridays are being set aside for intervention time with students.

At WHS, the in-person learning is being phased in over two weeks. Freshmen and sophomores will attend in-person Monday, Jan. 11 through Thursday, Jan. 14, with Friday set aside for interventions. Juniors and seniors will stay on the hybrid schedule that week.

All four grades return to in-person learning on Tuesday, Jan. 19 (Jan. 18 is Martin Luther King Jr. Day) through Thursday, Jan. 21, with Friday reserved for interventions.

The Virtual Academy will continue to operate as normal.

“Student achievement and safety continue to be the top priorities as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic,” Leon Walter, chief technology officer for the district wrote in a news release announcing the changes. “This decision was reached after careful consideration of COVID-19 data in our schools, current recommendations from the ND Department of Public Instruction and ND Department of Health, and feedback from students, parents, staff, and the community.”

The move comes as COVID-19 infection rates have fallen statewide. In mid November, there were 31 active cases among students and staff, along with 69 school-related quarantines and 169 non-school-related quarantines.

The most recent weekly report card for the district showed five active cases and a total of 61 quarantines, all of them from outside school.

The District 1 school board voted earlier this month to start offering free rapid COVID-19 tests for school staff. Those tests will start in January and are part of a state-sponsored pilot program to use rapid tests to slow the spread.

1,696 citations issued during Click it or Ticket enforcement campaign
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Law enforcement agencies across the state participated in the Click It or Ticket enforcement campaign from Nov. 16 to 29.

A total of 1,696 citations were attributed to the overtime enforcement patrols. Of the total citations, 570 were citations for failure to wear a seat belt and 19 were child restraint citations. Tickets for speeding totaled 587. The traffic stops also resulted in 81 other traffic citations (i.e. disobeying traffic signals, equipment violations), 32 uninsured motorists, 72 suspended/revoked license violations, 18 drug arrests, 13 citations for distracted driving, 14 warrants served, and four drunken driving citations.

Every 11 days one unbelted vehicle occupant died in North Dakota in 2019. Seat belts are the single most effective safety device to prevent death and injury in a motor vehicle crash.

High-visibility enforcement for traffic safety is one element of a collaborative effort to help meet the state’s goal of zero motor vehicle fatalities and serious injuries on North Dakota roads.

Learn more about traffic safety initiatives at VisionZero.ND.gov or join the conversation on the Vision Zero ND Facebook or Twitter page.