Burgum may ask for federal help following heavy snowstorm

BISMARCK (AP) — North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum is expected to ask for federal help in dealing with the widespread flooding that occurred in the aftermath of heavy snow that fell last week in North Dakota, his spokesman said Friday.
The storm dropped more than 2 feet (60 centimeters) of snow in central and eastern parts of the state, closed major highways, canceled school, snarled air traffic, caused power outages and flattened unharvested crops across central and eastern North Dakota.
Widespread flooding has occurred as the snow melts. Eight counties — Barnes, Cavalier, Grand Forks, LaMoure, Stutsman, Traill, Walsh and Wells — and the cities of Jamestown, LaMoure, Valley City and Grand Forks issued flood emergency declarations.
Burgum’s spokesman Mike Nowatzki said more cities and counties are expected to be added to the list.
Losses are still being assessed. Burgum and North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring are scheduled to meet with officials, community members, farmers and ranchers next week in Fargo, Grand Forks, Jamestown and Fessenden to learn more about the impact of the storm.
Once an assessment is complete, the governor is expected to declare an emergency for affected areas, Nowatzki said, which is a step toward pursuing a presidential disaster declaration that could pave the way for federal aid.
“Everything is pointing in that direction,” Nowatzki said.
A separate request also would be forwarded to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a secretarial disaster designation that would be aimed at helping farmers and ranchers, he said.

Former ND governors’ mansion getting new roof

BISMARCK (AP) — North Dakota’s former governors’ mansion is raising the roof.
Work is under way throughout October, weather permitting, to replace and waterproof the roof of the stick-style Victorian house at 320 E. Ave. B in Bismarck.
The Society for the Preservation of the Former Governors’ Mansion raised about $40,000 for the $70,000 project. The balance was met with state funds. Twenty governors and their families lived in the home from 1893 to 1960.
Site Supervisor Johnathan Campbell said the new roof will be rows of fancy-cut cedar shingles like what was on the original 1884 house, over a waterproof barrier. A reproduction lightning rod will be installed later.
The old roof, installed in the early 1990s, was losing shingles and risked leaking, Campbell said.
Keeping up the house is a balance of maintenance with historic integrity.
“In the case like this with a roof, cedar shingles haven’t changed from what they were 130-some years ago,” Campbell told The Bismarck Tribune.
The project isn’t the most comprehensive work done on the mansion. An interior and exterior restoration about 40 years ago was more major, Campbell said.
But a roof is vital.
“Even your average house, it has to get a new roof every few decades,” Campbell said. “This is something that without a roof, you don’t have a building.”
The State Historical Society of North Dakota maintains a variety of buildings as state historic sites. Some sites include numerous buildings, such as the Fort Buford and Fort Totten military posts near Williston and Devils Lake, respectively.
Bandleader Lawrence Welk’s family homestead near Strasburg, which dates to 1899, is one site that includes original buildings, among them the sod-insulated family home.
Architectural Project Manager Tom Linn said the State Historical Society is “really trying to get ahead” on maintenance at its sites. Painting is one method that helps, such as at Fort Totten State Historic Site.
“Those buildings are painted because the brick is very soft and the paint is actually helping to maintain the historic buildings,” Linn said.
North Dakota State University history professor Tom Isern led a recent project scraping, priming and painting the summer kitchen and family house at the Welk Homestead. The project was done for the appearance and preservation of the buildings.
“Your priorities have to do with appearance and function and not messing up the experience of the building,” Isern said.
For instance, the Welk paint job involved an expensive “new-age” primer, “like transparent slime,” to vastly extend the life of the paint and the underlying wood, he said. Using historic lead paint isn’t an option.
“You can use current technology in invisible fashion,” Isern said.
The State Historical Society maintains 57 state historic sites throughout North Dakota.

Police investigate discovery of body in Fargo

FARGO (AP) — Police are investigating the discovery of a body near a Fargo hospital.
Authorities say the body was found Thursday evening between a fence and Dike East park in a low spot filled with water. First responders used generator-powered pumps to remove water and gain access to the body near Prairie St. John’s Hospital.
No other details were released.

Pipeline developer launches website on proposed expansion

BISMARCK (AP) — A Wyoming company is seeking permits and landowner permission to expand its pipeline network to carry crude from that state and North Dakota to a hub in Oklahoma.
Casper-based Bridger Pipeline LLC launched a website this week with information for landowners and others.
The proposed Bridger Expansion project included two separate oil pipelines. One straddles North Dakota and Montana and another is in Wyoming.
The 137-mile North Dakota-Montana “South Bend” line will carry up to 150,000 barrels of oil per day from in McKenzie County in North Dakota to Baker, Montana.
The 191-mile Wyoming “Equality” will transport up to 200,000 barrels of oil per day from Hulett to Guernsey, Wyoming.
The company says it hopes to have both lines in service by late 2021.

Police: Supply of oxycodone to reservation intercepted

BISMARCK (AP) — Law enforcement officers say they’ve intercepted a supply of oxycodone headed for the Berthold Indian Reservation.
Police arrested two men Wednesday in Bismarck during a traffic stop said they had more than 200 oxycodone pills in their possession. Authorities say each pill can sell for $80 on the reservation.
Thirty-two-year-old Michael Ellington and 31-year-old Byron Cooper made initial appearances in South Central District Court on charges of possession with intent to deliver and conspiracy to deliver drugs. Bail has been set at $250,000 each.
They were being held in the Burleigh Morton Detention Center. Court documents do not list defense attorneys.

Man charged in 2016 pipeline protest surrenders

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A South Dakota man who authorities say is linked through DNA evidence to a riot during the Dakota Access pipeline protest three years ago has turned himself in to sheriff’s officials in North Dakota.
Prosecutors in Morton County filed charges against Lawrence Malcolm Jr. last month after state investigators were informed by the State Crime Lab that DNA from a cigarette butt found at the scene of a 2016 protest was a match for Malcolm. The Bismarck Tribune says the 23-year-old Sisseton man is charged with felony criminal mischief and engaging in a riot. An affidavit says more than 100 demonstrators, many with their faces covered, halted construction and vandalized equipment on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.
Malcolm’s attorney, Bruce Nestor, says the DNA evidence doesn’t prove his client participated in the protest.

Farmers encouraged to report wintry weather crop damage

BISMARCK (AP) — Agriculture producers in North Dakota are being encouraged to contact county extension agents to report crop damage and losses associated with last week’s snowstorm.
North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring says it’s critical for producers to share information with the county agents so that the current condition across the state can be assessed. And once that’s clear, the information is forwarded to the governor who will decide whether to seek federal disaster help.
This week, agents are completing a survey to provide a snapshot of the current situation. The storm last week dropped two feet of snow in parts of North Dakota.

Oklahoma man charged in bayonet attack

WAHPETON (AP) — Police in Wahpeton are investigating after a man was attacked with a bayonet.
Police Chief Scott Thorsteinson says 31-year-old Byron Vann of Henryetta, Oklahoma, has been charged with attempted murder.
KFGO-AM reports that Vann was arrested Friday night after he returned to the scene while officers were still there.
Thorsteinson says the victim, a 30-year-old Fargo man, underwent surgery at St. Francis Medical Center in Breckenridge to repair “two significant neck wounds.” He was released from the hospital the following day.
Vann was in the Richland County jail. A court official said no attorney had yet been appointed for him Monday.

Whistleblower accuses Bismarck clinic of kickback schemes

FARGO (AP) — The former CEO of a North Dakota clinic filed a whistleblower lawsuit accusing the facility of participating in kickback schemes that cost the federal government millions of dollars in fraudulent Medicare and Medicaid claims.
Jeffrey Neuberger alleges in his lawsuit that doctors from Bismarck’s Mid Dakota Clinic, P.C. and its building partnership boosted their salaries by referring patients to the clinic’s ambulatory surgical center, because they all shared in the profits of that center.
The document says Mid Dakota Clinic had a similar kickback arrangement with another physician group in Bismarck.
Neuberger “repeatedly heard and observed MDC surgeons routinely discussing the fact that they received referrals from their primary care or non-surgical physician shareholders at MDC,” the complaint says.
“The scheme is straightforward,” it reads, and the government would not have paid the claims had it known about the kickbacks. The doctors “knew full well” that every referral would raise their salaries, which were above the national averages, the complaint says.
The complaint also accuses the clinic’s board of directors of denying three doctors the chance to invest in the company unless they produced more business, which they did in part by referrals to Mid Dakota Clinic doctors and procedures in the surgical center.
Neuberger, who ran the company from April 2007 until January 2013, filed the suit in January 2017 and it was unsealed last month.
Mid Dakota Clinic has not filed a response, and lawyers for Neuberger and Mid Dakota Clinic did not immediately respond to phone messages.
Federal anti-kickback laws are intended to prevent abuses that occur when a person profits from a patient referral, or by ordering unnecessary procedures. There is no indication in the suit that patients were referred for treatment they didn’t need.
Mid Dakota Clinic began trying to sell the business in 2013. The suit says Catholic Health Initiatives, a large hospital chain that owns St. Alexius hospital in Bismarck, showed interest but told Mid Dakota it was worried that the clinic’s ownership structure allowed for kickbacks.
The suit asks for a civil penalty of $11,000 for each violation of the federal False Claims Act alleged to have happened before Nov. 2, 2015, and a $21,563 fine for each violation after that date. That includes every allegedly illegally submitted invoice.
In a separate document, the government declined its opportunity to intervene in the complaint, saying Neuberger and Mid Dakota Clinic are “far along in settlement negotiations.”
A status hearing by telephone is scheduled Oct. 30.

Main Street Initiative Summit provides tools for all communities

BISMARCK – Community development experts and advocates from around North Dakota will gather in Bismarck Oct. 29-31 to share best practices, learn, network and be inspired at the Main Street Initiative Summit.
The three-day summit will serve as a forum for information on the community planning principles behind the three pillars of Gov. Doug Burgum’s Main Street Initiative: a skilled workforce; smart, efficient infrastructure; and healthy, vibrant communities.
“Most of the communities engaged in the Main Street Initiative are rural, and it’s important to ensure everyone knows that you don’t have to be an urban community with a big downtown to participate in the Main Street Initiative,” said Emily Brown, community engagement manager for the North Dakota Department of Commerce.
Brown added that in addition to rural focus, the summit will also feature breakout sessions specifically targeting the needs of the state’s urban communities.
“While our state’s urban and rural communities have many of the same priorities, they also have some very different needs, particularly when it comes to smart, efficient infrastructure development,” Brown said.
Executive director of Strengthen ND, Megan Laudenschlager is familiar with both rural and urban needs. Based in Minot, Strengthen ND is a multi-faceted organization that works across North Dakota to elevate nonprofits and rural communities. According to Laudenschlager, both urban and rural communities can benefit from each other’s scenarios and solutions.
“It’s important to focus on urban specifics as well as rural, because each community is going to have its own different needs, resources and assets, Laudenschlager said. “The urban-specific sessions will provide learning opportunities for the rural communities to also learn from.”
Laudenschlager said she is looking forward to learning about rural livability for aging communities at this year’s summit.
“We need to learn not only how to make our communities work for the young people, but also how we can retain our older community members,” Laudenschlager said.
“I am really excited to talk about real-life North Dakota examples such as Tuttle Rural Innovation Center and the Maddock Opera House,” she added. “Along with building momentum in small towns, we will also be talking about generating local champions that can lead growth and development.”
Laudenschlager said she hopes participants learn that every community has something unique it can build upon.
“Every community has the tools and foundation to be successful and can access complementary skills or toolsets from other communities, and from their service providers within their communities, to be successful,” Laudenschlager said.
Visit www.MainStreetND.com for more information about the 2019 Main Street Initiative Summit.