Volkswagen settlement, in part, funds charging stations

BISMARCK (AP) — Ten North Dakota communities will use part of a settlement with Volkswagen to build electric vehicle charging stations.
The North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality will send $2.7 million to the local governments and businesses for clean vehicle projects, including 17 charging stations statewide. All but one are fast chargers which can charge vehicles in about 30 minutes, according to the Bismarck Tribune.
Just 187 electric vehicles are registered in the state, and North Dakota has no Level 1 fast chargers. Several dozen Level 2 chargers exist in the state, however. They are cheaper to install, but they take hours to provide a full charge.
North Dakota was awarded about $8 million through the 2016 Volkswagen settlement between the federal government and the auto manufacturer, which admitted that it programmed some of its diesel vehicles to cheat on emissions tests.
The stations will be somewhat spread across the state, with the Interstate 29 corridor in the Red River Valley having the highest concentration.
The city of Bismarck is expecting to receive $205,000 in settlement money to fund two fast charging stations, as well as a new, more efficient diesel-powered forestry chipper truck.

Administration withdraws Water Supply Rule from consideration

WASHINGTON – North Dakota’s U.S. senators on Monday welcomed the Trump Administration’s withdrawal of a proposed federal rule that would have affected water jurisdiction in the state.
The president announced the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would withdraw a rule to expand the Corps’ jurisdictional authorization.
“We appreciate the President for heeding our call to withdraw this far overreaching regulation from the Army Corps,” Sen. John Hoeven said in a prepared statement. “The water supply rule would have given the Corps control over the use of all waters surrounded by Corps property, ignoring historical precedent and the intentions of Congress. That’s why we pressed the administration to roll back this proposal, consult states and tribes on this matter and work toward solutions that preserve their water rights.”
“Thank you to President Trump and his Administration for listening to everyone who opposed this one-size-fits-all rule,” Sen. Kevin Cramer said in a prepared statement. “I led the fight against the proposal because it was bad policy. The Army Corps has no business federalizing water authority reserved for the states. I am glad the Trump Administration is staying within the confines of the law, and I look forward to working with them to make sure the Corps does not propose such egregiously bad policy like this again.”
In addition to a bipartisan group of senators urging the president to withdraw the proposed rule, the administration received input from the National Water Resources Association, the Western Governors Association, the Western States Water Council, the National Water Supply Alliance and the Conference of Western Attorneys General.
The president made the announcement regarding the withdrawal of the proposed rule at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual trade show.

Small ND town starting its own police department

GARRISON (AP) — A North Dakota city of about 1,500 residents is starting its own police department after officials rejected a proposal to continue to contract services from the McLean County Sheriff’s Office.
Travis Tesch, Garrison’s new police chief, will begin work Monday. He has 20 years of experience in North Dakota law enforcement.
The City of Garrison had been contracting services from the sheriff’s department since 1969 but over the summer the council members rejected renewing the contract for 2020. That means the town has been virtually without law enforcement presence since Jan. 1.
Garrison officials were unhappy about increasing costs from the contract and felt that the sheriff’s department was not enforcing city ordinances diligently, The Bismarck Tribune reported.
McLean County Sheriff JR Kerzmann said he was “in awe” when the Garrison City Council rejected the contract and added that he was frustrated officials didn’t come forward with their concerns sooner. Kerzmann said his office tries to be reactive to ordinance violations in other cities where they have contracts.
“We weren’t proactively going and seeking them, like we didn’t have guys driving around town that were looking for a dog that was barking or parking that might have expired three hours over the ordinance,” Kerzmann said. “To me, it’s not a good use of resources.”
Garrison officials decided in September to establish its own police force, but it became clear it wouldn’t be operational by the start of 2020. The county was still responding to 911 calls.

Montessori-style education comes to Mandan Catholic school

MANDAN (AP) — Leaders at St. Joseph School in Mandan hope that starting a Montessori program to offer a more hands-on approach to education will boost student enrollment, just as it did for Christ the King School across town.
“For decades, we just haven’t really seen an influx in our school,” said the Rev. Josh Waltz of St. Joseph Catholic Church, which is connected with the school.
The school started a Montessori program last fall for its youngest children, ages 3-6, and it plans to expand the effort to cover all grades next school year. It also will add an “adolescent” program covering traditional junior high grades seven through nine, The Bismarck Tribune reported.
Christ the King began offering a Montessori-based education about four years ago amid a dwindling number of students, and school officials told the Tribune last year that the program is so popular that they now have a waiting list with 100 names on it.
Through Montessori, teachers serve as “guides” to students, who have more autonomy than in a traditional classroom setting to determine what and how they study. Much of it is hands-on.
Waltz said he visited what’s known as the “Children’s House” at Christ the King several years ago to observe the school’s youngest children in a Montessori setting.
“I was so captivated by this environment in which the children were learning,” he said. “I am 100% sold that it is the way to educate a child.”
He was struck, in particular, by the life skills the kids learned as they went about their academics.
For example, at one point, the students were using a chain of beads to learn how to count. One boy took the chain and hid it. He eventually fessed up to what he’d done when the other children realized it was missing and asked who had it last.
“He said, ‘I thought it would be funny,’” Waltz recalled. “They were like, ‘It’s not funny, where’s the bead chain?’ And he went and showed them where he hid it, and they hung it back up.”
It was a lesson in discipline that didn’t require any intervention from a teacher.
Students at St. Joseph will be grouped not just with others in their grade but with classmates in surrounding grades. That’s done intentionally as a way for younger students to learn from older ones, and for older students to take the younger ones under their wings.
Students will spend larger blocks of time focused on single subjects during the school day, rather than hit each subject every day. Within the course of a week, they’ll have spent time on every subject.
“That’s how they master something,” St. Joseph Principal David Fleischacker said. “They need that time.”
Focusing on subjects over longer blocks of time helps students become serious problem solvers when they get older because “they get how the perseverance leads somewhere,” he said.
St. Joseph and Christ the King are sometimes viewed as rivals, but leaders at both schools see the Montessori approach as a partnership, Waltz said.
For example, neither Catholic school in Mandan teaches junior high-age students, but St. Joseph plans to offer Montessori instruction for grades seven through nine, with the idea that sixth-graders from either school could filter into that program and later move on to St. Mary’s Central High School in Bismarck. Many students who start out in Catholic school in Mandan switch to public school after they finish sixth grade, according to St. Joseph officials.
St. Joseph is accepting registrations now for the upcoming school year, and its teachers are undergoing training in Montessori to gear up for the fall. The Montessori approach to education was developed by Maria Montessori, an Italian educator, in the early 1900s. It is used throughout the world.
Angela Flores, the school’s daycare director, is in her eighth week of an 18-month program that combines online instruction and practical in-class experience to work with the school’s youngest students in Children’s House.
During a recent tour of a room, she pointed out numerous stations set up for the kids — places where they can pull out maps to learn geography, practice using zippers and belt buckles, and use bins set up with soap and water.
“They wash their own dishes,” she said, as a young boy took hold of a scrub brush to clean his lunch tray.
The room’s head guide, Alex Nearing, said she tries to cater to individual students’ interests. She noticed that some children liked to take apart things they shouldn’t, so she now has stations designed for them to use keys and locks, as well as screws and fasteners.

Tribe members discuss best practices to clean up oil spills

BISMARCK (AP) — Tribal members at a Bismarck conference talked oilfield best practices, including how to clean up oil spills using microorganisms.
The oilfield service company, Chief Oilfield Services, wants to train more tribal members in the technique, the Bismarck Tribune reported.
In a breakout session panel titled “Environmental Quality: Innovation and Best Practices” at the Strengthening Government to Government Partnerships and Relationships Conference on Wednesday, Tony Damian, owner of Chief and a member of the Three Affiliated Tribes, said he plans to partner with tribal colleges to establish a bioremediation certificate, then create a maintenance program that will employ tribal members who have received the training.
“Using microorganisms is an alternative to traditional spill remediation techniques such as digging out contaminated soil, hauling it away and replacing it clean material,” Damian said.
The microorganisms, called “archaea,” can function on land and in water.
“They’ll latch onto the oil and they’ll secrete an enzyme that will break the oil down into a fatty acid,” he said.
In water, the fatty acid becomes food for fish.
Others in the session panel discussed their experiences trying to ensure responsible oil development.

North Dakota Gov. Burgum pardons 16 low-level pot offenders

BISMARCK (AP) — North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum announced Friday that he has pardoned 16 people convicted of low-level marijuana crimes, the first wave in what may be thousands under a new policy the first-term Republican said gives former offenders a second chance.
The policy adopted last year allows people with low-level marijuana convictions petition to have their records wiped clean if they avoid unlawful behavior for five years. The pardons erase the convictions as if they never occurred and records are shielded from public view.
Burgum and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem both supported the change, which brings North Dakota in line with some other states and cities. Past convictions can be problematic for people trying to find jobs and housing.
North Dakota’s pardon advisory board in November recommended wiping criminal records clean for 26 people with low-level marijuana convictions.
Burgum spokesman Mike Nowatzki said the governor’s office reviewed the cases and determined only 16 qualified.
“They went through a second round of vetting,” Nowatzki said. “This is something the governor takes very seriously.”
Burgum has said the policy change could help address North Dakota’s workforce shortage and grow its economy, while removing the stigma for what are minor cases from years ago.
People applying for pardons must complete a 1½-page form that law enforcement reviews before placing a case on the pardon board’s agenda. It costs nothing to apply.
Nowatzki said some of the people turned down for the pardons may reapply by filling out more in-depth application.
The deadline for the first round of applications was Aug. 10 but only about three-dozen people applied, and corrections rejected several before the applications came to the pardon advisory board.
Stenehjem, who sits on the five-member pardon advisory board, said he was surprised so few people had applied. He said estimated as many as 175,000 marijuana convictions over several decades could be eligible.
The Republican said his office would contact attorneys statewide urging them to let their former clients know of the change.
The deadline for the second round of applications for pardons under the new policy was Thursday. Corrections officials said 26 people applied.

North Dakota woman charged with leaving 6 kids with dead man

FARGO (AP) — A North Dakota woman has been charged with felony child neglect after she was accused of leaving six children with the body of an acquaintance who overdosed.
Amber Barrett of Fargo also is charged with a misdemeanor count of failing to report a death.
Documents filed in Cass County District Court said police were called on Nov. 16 to a home on a report of an unresponsive man. Officers were let into the home by six minor children, ages unknown, who directed them to the man lying on the living room floor.
Efforts to revive the man were unsuccessful. Police contacted Barrett, who was at work, and she returned home.
Barrett told an officer that her friend was sweating heavily and slurring his words earlier and she believed he was likely overdosing. Police said, however, that Barrett knew the man was dead before she left for work.
Court records do not list an attorney for Barrett who could speak on her behalf.

Burgum cites accomplishments in tribal-government relations

BISMARCK (AP) — Gov. Doug Burgum sees progress in state government’s relationship with American Indian tribes in North Dakota, but he acknowledges there is more work to do.
Burgum talked about the accomplishments with the tribes since he took office in 2016 during a tribal conference in Bismarck Wednesday.
An oil tax revenue-sharing compact with the the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, updated agreements for child welfare services for Native American families and the display of tribal flags at the state Capitol are among the moves Burgum cited.
But Burgum said there’s more to be done.
“We know that there are serious gaps that still exist,” he said. “And we know that each of the tribal nations represented in our state have different challenges and different approaches and different starting points and different opportunities. Each has different needs, whether it’s transportation or employment or emergency services or addiction or health care or economic development.”
Tribal leaders discussed the need for understanding issues such as addiction, unemployment, youth engagement and the upcoming 2020 U.S. Census on reservations, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

North Dakota lawmaker blames opponents for anti-Islam posts

BISMARCK (AP) — A Republican state lawmaker in North Dakota said he doesn’t know how a pair of anti-Islam posts appeared in his Facebook feed, and speculated Tuesday that his account may have been hacked by political opponents.
The Fargo Forum first reported on the posts Tuesday, saying a post shared from Rep. Jim Kasper’s account reads: “The whole world has one common problem(:) Islam.”
“I don’t know how the hell it got there and I took it down immediately,” Kasper said of the posts that appeared Monday night on his Facebook page. “It’s political season and the time to do political tricks has started. It’s a sad state of affairs this stuff has to happen.”
According to the newspaper, another post shared from Kasper’s account read: “Minnesota’s Twin Cities are lost” to “the Islamic Movement.”
Kasper, of Fargo, posted an apology Tuesday on his private Facebook page. He said he has about 4,000 Facebook friends, most of whom he does not know personally. Only his Facebook friends may access his page.
“I have all kinds of Facebook friends: conservatives, liberals, libertarians and atheists,” said Kasper, who owns an insurance business and has served in the state House since 2001.
Kasper said he was deleting some of his Facebook friends on Tuesday, and was having his computer checked for security breaches.
“I’m going to be much more cautious on the security of my Facebook now,” he said.
Kasper, who often carries a copy of the U.S. Constitution in his jacket pocket, is one of the most conservative lawmakers in the GOP-led Legislature.
He unsuccessfully pushed legislation last year aimed at giving North Dakotans more power over their personal data online. The measure would have allowed people to ask companies what personal data has been collected and how it has been shared. It also would have allowed residents to demand the data be deleted and not collected in the future.
The bill was amended to study the issue first.

Burgum appoints Parks and Recreation interim director

BISMARCK (AP) — North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum has appointed an interim director of the state Parks and Recreation Department.
Burgum said Ryan Gardner will serve as interim director of the agency beginning Monday. He replaces Melissa Baker, who resigned to take a job as the Virginia State Parks.
Gardner joined the agency in 2010 as a seasonal park ranger at Grahams Island State Park near his hometown of Devils Lake. He began working full-time for the department in 2012.
The Parks and Recreation director oversees North Dakota’s 15 state parks and recreation areas and is a member of the governor’s cabinet. Applications are currently being accepted for the director’s position.