“Nice fantasy, but I think it would be better in Las Vegas than North Dakota.” -- Williston architect John Biggs commenting on a proposed $145 million pyramid near Williston. At 371 feet, New Cimarron City would be the tallest building in the state. The pyramid would have 500 exterior apartments and indoor parking for 1,200 vehicles. The hollow interior would have many entertainment features including a hockey rink and baseball field. The partners proposing the deal have never been to ND and lack both permits and financing.
A symptom of too much? A $70 million recreation center is being built on the Williston State campus. The 234,000-square-foot facility will be the largest rec center in the state.
Is the porridge too hot or too cold? City officials in Minot predict their population will rise to 60-65 thousand in 5 to 10 years. Developers and builders are involved in a guessing game about what the local economy will look like when oil exploration is over leaving mainly maintenance and production. The city may already have too many hotel rooms for future needs.
Sizable companies are forming in the ND oil patch. MBI Energy Services of Belfield has 1,500 employees. A Watford City-based oil services company called PowerFuels has grown from 40 to 1,100 employees and will merge with NYSE company Heckmann Corp. Mark Johnsrud, a NDSU graduate, will be the CEO and majority shareholder of the new company.
The Reuters news service zeroed in on Stanley, the county seat of Mountrail County and center of the oil patch. Reuters said Mountrail is one of the nation’s 100 richest counties, although its millionaires are hard to spot because of their modest life styles. There is a lack of ostentation, but luxurious pickups are in.
A Bismarck commissioner said, “We are a hot spot in the country. We are going to have people come to the community. We cannot judge the human condition. We don’t know what causes people to be in the street, asking for help. Some of them legitimately need a hand with something.” He cautioned against stereotyping. Despite that plea, he joined the rest of the commission in passing a law prohibiting aggressive panhandling.
The defendants were “not smart enough, grown up enough or sophisticated enough” to understand the consequences of their actions. -- Fargo Judge Douglas Herman describing the NDSU football players who were given light sentences for a significant fraud involving election petitions. The Fargo Forum was pleased with the sentences saying the players were guilty of “ignorance, not criminal intent,” so “let’s get on with” football. Cass County State’s Attorney Birch Burdick wasn’t pleased -- he felt players with criminal histories should have received harsher penalties. The GF Herald was disappointed with NDSU for appearing to shield the players from the consequences of their actions.
Ham Shirvani, the new chancellor of ND’s university system, is shaking things up. The state Board of Higher Education accepted his recommendations to raise admission standards at UND and NDSU and limit discounts for foreign and out-of-state students. ND will have a three-tier college system common in many states. UND and NDSU will be in the top tier, the four state universities form the second, and community colleges, the third. Shirvani will also be given more power than his predecessors. There is some grumbling, Minot State, for example, believes the “no discount” policy will discourage Canadian students.
The Forum said Shirvani “is moving with unusual alacrity” and ND’s “proud tradition of allowing almost any high school graduate to attend a public university has run up against the reality of educational standards.”
“A perfect alignment of events. The supply of natural gas is increasing and the prices are decreasing. In the meantime fertilizer prices are rising.” -- A spokesperson for the NDFU describing how the right situation was created for a CHS nitrogen plant near Jamestown. Construction will last three years with 400 to 800 employees at any one time -- one of the largest projects in state history.
A man camp in Jamestown! The Jamestown Planning Commission is considering crew camps to house hundreds of workers needed to build the nitrogen plant. Taking that thinking one step further, the mayor suggested they also consider ordinances for adult entertainment.
According to the Forum, “By almost any measure, North Dakota has one of the most acute drunken-driving problems in the United States.” As drunken driving has decreased elsewhere, it has increased in ND. Referring to ND’s drunken-driving numbers, a public health spokesperson said “They’re terrible.” She said the problem is a symptom of a larger issue of rampant alcohol use and abuse -- ND ranks No. 5 in alcohol consumption per capita. Men represent more than 75 percent of the DUI arrests in ND -- almost half are in the 25 to 29 years old range. Around 28 percent of DUI arrests are repeaters -- a fourth of those are multiple repeaters.
In the most recent weekend two were killed and four injured in pickup crashes in the Williston area. The victims were from four other states -- part of a pattern. A Forum article noted, “The crashes happened in western North Dakota's oil patch, where people from around the country are working.”
The Fargo Forum seems to believe the Spirit Lake Tribal Council has gone beyond dysfunction to negligence and corruption. For over a year, the council has failed to pay a fee which would permit tribal members to appeal decisions of the local tribal court. A Forum editorial suggests this may be an effort to deny tribal members an appeal option. The Northern Plains Intertribal Court of Appeals refuses to accept any cases from Spirit Lake until the fee is paid.
Bismarck Tribune columnist Clay Jenkinson was dismayed at the “horse manure slinging” in some ND political contests, particularly, the senate race involving Heitkamp and Berg. However, he said, “There is one exception. We should all commend Ryan Taylor and Jack Dalrymple for the mutual respect, the fairness, the dignity and the class with which they are competing for the governorship of North Dakota.”
DAKTOIDS: Bismarck has the nation’s lowest unemployment rate -- Fargo and Grand Forks are also among five cities in the nation with the lowest rates . . . Second quarter taxable sales in ND grew 42 percent.