A former Williston resident with longstanding ties to the community expressed his appreciation for several local organizations by offering a generous donation.
“All the luck I have had in my life I trace to the wonderful life I had in Williston, North Dakota.”
That is how the letter from Ed and Joann Conlin, which arrived by surprise at the Williston Herald office, began. Ed Conlin’s family founded Conlin’s Furniture in Williston, which has now grown to 16 stores throughout four states. Throughout their time in Williston, the Conlin family has contributed much to the area, which Conlin said is in gratitude for the way Williston has treated his family over the years.
That gratitude, the letter read, is what prompted Conlin to give back yet again, enclosing three $1,000 checks for Williston Public Schools, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, and the Salvation Army.
Conlin, now 97, said one of his fondest memories is of going to school in Williston, and that the high-caliber educators, and the education they provided, are what have helped him and his family become successful in life.
“I’ve had a lifetime affinity for remembering the wonderful grounding I got and the quality of teachers in Williston,” Conlin told the Williston Herald. “They were so personal, and so involved with the students. I remember vividly each and every one of those teachers, even now. Our family has had incredible luck; my children and their children ended up at all the good schools in America and I sort of trace it all back to the solid schooling I had in Williston.”
Conlin’s brother Clem, who helped found Conlin Furniture in 1937, and his wife Pat were lifelong Williston residents, with Pat being an active member in the community, especially the Mercy Hospital Auxiliary, until her recent passing in January. Conlin said another reason for his donation was to honor them and their commitment to make Williston a better place.
“We’re so moved and touched that we’re able to get a donation like this from someone who has been a longstanding part of the Williston community.” said Williston Public School District 1 Superintendent Dr. Jeff Thake. “We promise these funds will be used appropriately for the betterment of the education of our students.”
Conlin shared his memories of growing in Williston, reminiscing on the discovery of oil in the area and meeting the head of Amerada Petroleum, Alfred Jacobsen, when the chairman presented Conlin and wife Joanna a wedding gift in 1953.
“I always took pride in that, because he was the head of a big company and we were certainly impressed that he came to Williston,” Conlin recalled.
Conlin lauded his strong faith as a longtime member of the church, which began at St. Joe’s, as another reason why Williston holds such fond memories. Conlin recalled his time as an alter boy at the church, as well as his family’s honor when father Ed Conlin Sr. was installed in the Knights of St. Gregory.
“The Catholic Church was a strong part of my upbringing,” he said. “My mother went to mass every day of her life. Eventually, as a prominent Catholic family, my father was honored by being knighted by the Pope, and we had a huge celebration for three days. Our family was very close to the Catholic Church.”
“We are so grateful for this support for our church,” said the Rev. Russell Kovash of St. Joe’s. “The last year has been challenging in many respects, so gifts to our parish like this are always appreciated. It’s always nice to hear from people who have had great experiences in Williston. The fruits that have come from Williston are really beautiful to see and hear about, and this is an example of how Williston impacted one family in a positive way.”
Nowadays, Conlin spends his days in California with Joann, taking time out to swim and thinking back to his summer days visiting Williston’s swimming pool, which he says has helped contribute to his longevity.
“I started in 1963 at the WTA swimming pool, and I’ve been doing it two or three times a week,” he explained. “I think I owe my health to swimming, going all the way back to the Williston swimming pool. We spent every single day there, and I have many memories of that swimming pool.”
Conlin also gave a donation to Williston’s Salvation Army, thinking back on his time playing with the local band and the importance the organization had in his life. Conlin said his hope is that the donations will do as much good for the organizations as they did for him and his family. The Salvation Army said donations such as these go a long way to helping them provide for those in need.
“We are extremely grateful for this donation,” Captain Joseph Irvine of the Salvation Army stated. “Any funds we get, we put a large percentage back into our community, and this will help us continue to provide food support to prevent food insecurity, and also give us the means to be out in the community with out emergency disaster services operations.”
Conlin said while he has not been back to Williston in decades, but the memories he has of the people and places that shaped his life will stick with him forever. He and his family plan to return this summer to attend a memorial for Pat Conlin.
The North Dakota Aeronautics Commission reported that while airline boardings for February are the highest they’ve been since the pandemic started.
The state’s eight commercial service airports reported a total of 51,240 passenger boardings for the month of February, the highest level of passenger traffic that North Dakota has experienced since the Covid-19 pandemic began. Passenger levels dropped an astounding 95 percent in April 2020, with the current passenger counts remaining approximately 50 percent below pre-pandemic levels.
“We are excited to see the positive trend in airline passenger counts continue as we celebrate our best month since the pandemic began,” stated Kyle Wanner, Executive Director of the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission. “We also remain optimistic that penned up demand will further drive the airline industry’s recovery as we move forward in 2021.”
Numbers in Williston continue to increase as well, with the Williston Basin International Airport reporting 2,124 passengers for February 2021, an increase from January’s numbers but still less than the same time last year, which showed 6,443 passenger boardings.
“This is down 67 percent from pre-COVID numbers, but we also had 66 percent less seats available for passengers to use,” Williston Airport Director Anthony Dudas told the Williston Herald “The continued upward trend in passengers is a very good sign of things to come.”
Dudas added that United Airlines flights averaged about 80 percent full last month, which is well above the industry average at this time.
“I’m hopeful with this trajectory and the recent economic development news in our region, we will see additional air service at the Williston Basin International Airport.” Dudas said.
North Dakota production dropped a little more than expected in February to 1.147 million barrels per day of production, a figure that is also 4 percent below the state’s revenue forecasts.
The lower than expected production rate was somewhat offset by prices that were 10 percent higher than expected for January and 50 percent higher than expected for February.
North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms said the unexpected production drop was largely due to 90 miles per hour straight line wind, which put the lights out for around 50,000 barrels per day of production for 10 days or so.
Averaged out over the month, that’s about 16,000 barrels per day of lost production.
The price rally, meanwhile, is also due to an unexpected turn of events. OPEC in its March 4 meeting had been expected to add 1.5 million barrels per day to production quotas, but that’s not what they did after all.
Instead, Saudi Arabia argued for continuing their voluntary million barrel per day cut. Ultimately, the body added back 150,000 barrels per day, just 10 percent of the expected addition.
That sparked a rapid rise in oil prices.
“Now, interestingly enough, folks who are tracking tankers leaving Saudi ports say they are not cutting a million a day,” Helms added. “They only cut about 300,000 barrels a day.”
Making up that big a difference would take very significant cuts, well beyond what’s likely for any voluntary cut.
“And so they’re trying to manage oil prices,” Helms said. “They have increased their price projections. They were trying to keep prices between $45 and $55. They’re now targeting between $50 and $60.”
Storage around the world, meanwhile, continues to drop. Except in the United States. The February energy debacle in Texas caused a refinery shutdown. And that will take some time to work through.
Gas production, meanwhile, dropped 1.4 percent to 2.847 billion MCF per day. That was with a 94 percent gas capture rate, which meets or exceeds state requirements. For now.
Rig counts in North Dakota are up three from January at 15 — right on track with what the state projected for its revenue forecast.
Don’t expect any big changes to rig counts for 2021 until at least October. That’s when companies will begin considering their 2022 capital expenditures. They may make some adjustments then, depending on market conditions. That is all assuming nothing dramatic happens between now and then to change the market’s mind.
“The market doesn’t think that these are the long-term oil prices,” Helms said. “If you look at EIA, or even if you look at NYMEX, they all see this as a short-term peak, and that the oil prices dwindle off to the upper 50s by you know within the next year or two.”
Given these conditions, companies could take in more capital than expected. But finishing Drilled Uncompleted Wells, returning wells to production, and debt repayment are more likely uses of such capital than added drilling rigs.
North Dakota still has an estimated 107 or so wells shut in from the pandemic, and it has lots of DUCs waiting in a row for completion.
“We are down to the last stages of the shut-in wells from the pandemic and the price collapse we saw in May,” Helms said.
With 20 percent of North Dakota’s population experiencing mental health issue, a recent health survey shows that access to behavioral or mental health services is among the highest concerns among those affected.
One barrier in creating and bringing more resources to the area is funding, something District 1 Rep. David Richter said he hopes to change. Richter said part of the state’s new budget has targets in Northwest North Dakota in regards to behavioral health.
Richter said a portion of the Health and Human Services budget is intended to resolve discrepancies in behavioral health funding in northwest North Dakota, southwest North Dakota and regions around Devil’s Lake.
That funding, Richter said, would be critical to creating resources within the region, rather than requiring individuals to travel to other parts of the state.
“In a crisis situation, how is it effective to deal with that crisis by sending someone six and a half hours away, versus keeping them local and letting their parents or their family be around and getting them that care right now?” Richter said. “It’s a struggle to figure out how to address it, but we’re working on it.”
One focus in the upcoming legislative session on on early childhood development with the creation of a program for 4-year-olds. The program would provide funding for school districts, Head Start programs and daycares to work with children to give them the skills needed to move into kindergarten.
Richter stated school districts statewide have reported that a large portion of disruptions come from younger students in kindergarten and first grade. This program, he said, would hopefully help to curb some of those disruptive behaviors.
“You have a lot of kids coming in to kindergarten who emotionally and socially aren’t ready to be there,” Richter explained. “So this four year old program is to get them ready, to learn those behavioral and social skills to advance.”
Richter said as he continues to push for more funding in the Williston region, his ultimate goal is to bring resources closer to the people who need them. When an individual experiences a behavioral or mental health crisis, Richter added, one does not know how long that crisis could last, and that getting individuals the care they need in a timely manner is essential.
“I would like to see a facility for crisis management that deals with individuals from little kids all the way up to people with Alzheimer’s,” he said. “I would like to have health professionals here, in a facility that’s local, to deal with that crisis.”
One roadblock to bringing a facility to the region is the recruitment and retention of qualified care professionals, but Richter said he believes mechanisms are being put into place within future bills that would address those concerns, such as incentives for staff to come to the area, telehealth options and more.
Another focus of upcoming funding are much needed renovations to the State Hospital in Jamestown. Overall, Richter said, representatives across the state have been pushing for comprehensive changes to North Dakota’s behavioral and mental health services, with a hard focus on bring necessary services to Northwest North Dakota.
“There’s going to be things that are coming through to help this part of the state,” he said. “(The state) wants to provide and try to help this part of the state, because they see it is a better service, they see it’s more effective and less expensive in the long run.”
Doses administered statewide: 290,051
Residents who have gotten at least one dose: 174,787
Statewide rate for one dose: 24.3%
Statewide rate for two doses: 13.9%
Williams County rate for one dose: 12.8%
Williams County rate for two doses: 7.9%
Divide County rate for one dose: 31.4%
Divide County rate for two doses: 16.2%
McKenzie County rate for one dose: 15.8%
McKenzie County rate for two doses: 8.6%
Mountrail County rate for one dose: 28.7%
Mountrail County rate for two doses: 13.6%