Former North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Sarah Vogel has decided she will NOT be a candidate for the Democratic NPL nomination for Governor. In a statement, Vogel said she is in a better position to serve the state from the private sector. Vogel is a practicing attorney – and serves on a number of boards. So far, no other Democrat has stepped forward. Three Republicans are vying for that party’s nomination. Current Governor Jack Dalrymple is not seeking another term.
AARP Foundation Tax-Aide sites across North Dakota open next week to help people prepare their 2015 tax returns. This free service is available to low- and moderate-income taxpayers of all ages with special attention to those 60 and older. You do not have to be an AARP member to take advantage of the service. IRS-certified volunteers are trained to assist in filing accurate returns and help taxpayers receive all of the benefits, credits, and deductions to which they are entitled. All AARP Tax-Aide sites e-file returns, also at no cost, which helps taxpayers get refunds quickly. Every taxpayer's return is quality reviewed and all information is kept confidential. Last year in North Dakota 8,700 people were helped with their federal and state tax returns. This year more than 100 volunteer preparers and client facilitators will staff 10 sites across the state. Communities with Tax-Aide offices are: ·
Devils Lake - Christ Free Lutheran Church, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday by appointment only beginning Feb. 9. Call 701-662-8521 to make an appointment.
Grand Forks - Campbell Library (East Grand Forks), 1-7 p.m. Tuesday; 1-4 p.m.
Individuals should ensure that they have all of the documents they need to file before coming to a Tax-Aide site, including Social Security cards, photo IDs, and a copy of last year's tax returns. AARP Tax-Aide sites will remain open through April 15. AARP Tax-Aide began in 1968. It is the nation's largest, free, volunteer-run tax preparation service, where volunteers commit their time and talents to help their neighbors. The AARP Foundation administers AARP Tax-Aide in cooperation with the IRS.
The Red River Regional Council (RRRC) is convening a Regional Mayors Caucus on Wednesday, January 27, strengthen relations between the region’s cities and their leaders. The event is a first of its kind within North Dakota Region IV and will be co-hosted by Park River Mayor Dan Stenvold and Grand Forks Mayor Michael Brown.
“We are convening this dialogue between our municipal officials to build a cohesive region and turn what might be perceived as issues into opportunities. Collectively I’m certain we will be able to develop ideas to benefit the entire region,” said Dawn Keeley, Executive Director of the RRRC. “We fully expect to always have a continued list of required and desired investments throughout the region and we also want to help create a unified vision which includes lofty aspirations and results.”
Recent visits with all the manufacturing companies in Pembina County reveal the area has a number of key strengths to build upon. These strengths include low overhead costs, probusiness environment, lower startup costs and better access for expansion which includes local incentives, good local amenities, affordable housing, close proximity to Canadian markets and interstate system, strong financial assistance, and good trucking system.
“It is important that all communities in the region have the quality of life and economic
opportunities to make them great places to live,” said Mayor Michael Brown. “What’s good for regional communities is good for Grand Forks and vice versa. This summit will help us build even stronger relationships and awareness throughout the region that pave the way for an even stronger region into the next generation.”
The RRRC staff will be providing results of a municipal survey conducted in 2015 as well as preliminary results of a Business Retention and Expansion Projects the RRRC has initiated with the Pembina County Job Development Authority. “In 2015, we surveyed all the small cities (exclusive of the City of Grand Forks) to learn more about challenges and opportunities,” said Stacie Sevigny, Developer. “We received survey responses from 28 cities and common themes were easily identified.” The common small cities themes of needs and desires are as follows:
Basic infrastructure – nearly every community identified infrastructure improvement needs and oftentimes the inability to finance necessary repairs.
Housing – nearly every community noted the need for removal of substandard properties, several expressed need for housing rehabilitation, more rental properties, and expanded housing developments.
Business community – many communities have had to divert local sales tax funds initially designated for economic development to support infrastructure needs. There is a desire to share healthcare providers and other specialty businesses such as dentists, optometrists, plumbers, electricians.
Recreation – nearly every community identified the need for equipment upgrades, swimming pool repairs as well as the desire for enhanced amenities such as walking/bike paths and camping/RV parks.
Fire departments – many fire departments are struggling with volunteer shortages and at least six departments have noted the need for upgraded buildings which have limited funding possibilities currently.
Other needs – topping the list is additional licensed child care options.
Funding – most often, cities identified a lack of affordable funding options to address needs. Region IV has continued to experience long-term population decline. Excluding the City of Grand Forks, the remainder of the region has sustained a 34% population decline or 18,114 people while the City of Grand Forks grew 12,292 people between 1980 and 2014. Between 2010 and 2014, the pace of population decline in the rural communities has lessened. There is a growing trend of low income statistics in many rural communities in northeastern North Dakota. There are now seven of 13 communities in Walsh County that now have a majority of low to moderate income households which is up from four in 2000. Three more communities are near the 51% threshold.
“The City of Park River made very deliberate decisions a decade ago to make significant investments in our community and lead our way into the future,” said Mayor Dan Stenvold. These decisions have led to an array of completed projects which include extensive water system upgrades, a new RV park and vision for a new sports complex, and a new housing subdivision. In partnership with the Pembina County Job Development Authority, the RRRC is also leading a Business Retention and Expansion Project in Pembina County. Twenty eight one-on-one company visits have been completed to date by Maggie Suda, an RRRC Developer. Suda will also report on her findings at the Mayors Caucus.
Manufacturing is the leading employment sector in Pembina County with more than 600 jobs and visits have been completed with 14 manufacturing firms. BR&E feedback has focused on lack of sufficient labor, need for increased child care services, lack of adequate housing options, need for phone and technology infrastructure upgrades, and the flood insurance requirements as a detriment to housing growth. Kristi Mishler, Community Foundation of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks, and Region, will also present information on the concept of establishing a regional community foundation to engage private philanthropy in community investments as well as a vehicle to increase professional development staff capacity in partnership with the RRRC. Blake Crosby, ND League of Cities, will also provide an update on League activities.
Sunshine Kids Center will be providing a meal to the Caucus attendees which has been sponsored by Polar Communications. The Caucus will be held at Park River City Hall from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday, January 27. RSVPs are requested. More information can be found at www.redriverrc.com
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to review a stricken-down North Dakota law that would have banned abortion if the fetus has a detectable heartbeat, which is at about six weeks of pregnancy.
The high court’s ruling comes six days after justices refused to review Arkansas’ ban on abortion at 12 weeks of pregnancy.
U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Hovland declared North Dakota’s 2013 law unconstitutional and permanently blocked it in April 2014 after it was challenged by New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights and Bismarck attorney Thomas Dickson on behalf of the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, the state’s lone abortion provider.
A federal appeals court upheld Hovland’s ruling in July, and North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem petitioned the Supreme Court in November to review the law signed by Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple, though Stenehjem said it was a “long shot” that the court would take it up.
Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement, “This utterly cruel and unconstitutional ban would have made North Dakota the first state since Roe v. Wade to effectively ban abortion -- with countless women left to pay the price.”
The six-week ban was one of three anti-abortion bills that Dalrymple signed into law in March 2013, at the time calling them “a legitimate attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe V. Wade,” the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled states can’t ban abortion prior to viability, or about 24 weeks.
The attorney general’s office has spent more than $314,000 defending the state’s abortion-related laws since February 2012, according to a tally through Oct. 14 provided by the office.
Former state Rep. Bette Grande of Fargo, the Republican who introduced the bill in 2013, said she wasn’t surprised by Monday’s Supreme Court decision and believes the cost of defending the law was “absolutely worth it.”
“It has given so much to the mothers and the people to know what is in the womb. It’s to help make the proper decisions for life,” she said.
Grande echoed the sentiment of the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeal’s three-judge panel that upheld Hovland’s ruling when they wrote that “good reasons exist for the (Supreme Court) to reevaluate its jurisprudence,” and that medical and scientific advances show the concept of viability is subject to change.
“We’ve had such advances in technology and medicine, there comes a time we have to truly look at what is in the womb,” Grande said.
Grande lost in the November 2014 election, when 64 percent of voters also rejected a ballot measure that would have amended the state constitution to read that “The inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.”
North Dakota Women’s Network Executive Director Renee Stromme applauded the Supreme Court’s decision not to review what she called one of the most extreme abortion bans in the nation.
“The Legislature clearly and knowingly overstepped their bounds,” she said in statement. “We are glad the Supreme Court rejects the political attempts to infringe on women’s private medical rights and reproductive health. With this matter settled, we now have the opportunity and responsibility for the state to focus on the issues that truly improve the lives of women and children.”
The North Dakota State University Extension Service has released its short- and long-term agricultural planning price projections for North Dakota, says Ron Haugen, Extension farm economist. The publication shows 2016 price projections for crops and livestock produced in the state and price estimates for future years. Price projections are given for the major crop commodities: wheat, durum, oats, feed barley, malting barley, oil sunflowers, non-oil sunflowers, corn, soybeans, canola, flaxseed, winter wheat, dry beans, dry peas, lentils, alfalfa hay and mixed hay. Price projections for livestock and livestock products include beef steers and heifers at various weights, cull cows, slaughter steers, slaughter hogs, slaughter ewes, slaughter lambs, feeder lambs and milk. The publication also provides historical prices as a reference. "Crop and livestock prices are down from the previous year," Haugen says. "The estimated short-term planning prices should be used as a guide in setting price expectations for 2016 production. These planning prices can be used for preparing annual enterprise budgets and annual whole-farm cash-flow projections." He adds, "With tight margins this year, cash-flow projections are more critical than ever. The short-term prices should not be used for planning capital purchases or expansion alternatives that would extend beyond the next production year."
To obtain this publication, "Plotting a Course 2016" (EC1090), call (701) 231-7882 or write to NDSU Agriculture Communication, Distribution Center, Dept. 7070, Box 6050, 10 Morrill Hall, Fargo, ND 58108-6050, or contact a county office of the NDSU Extension Service.
Tax refunds in North Dakota will be coming out a little slower this year. That's because the state Tax Commissioner's office is upgrading "preventative measures" to combat tax fraud. North Dakota Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger didn't give specific details over fears of tipping off potential scammers, but he did say the new, stricter security means it'll take a few days longer to process refunds.
"We're going through checking, making sure that who's actually filing for a refund is actually who they say they are," says Rauschenberger. "So, this is all about detecting and preventing tax fraud."
During last year's tax season the commissioner's office says it flagged more than 900 suspicious returns, which ended up saving the state more than a million dollars in wrongful payments.
The U.S. Treasury Inspector General estimates that IRS fraud payments could hit $21 billion by the upcoming tax season. Dan Hendrickson, spokesman with the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota, says the most common types of tax fraud can happen without the victim knowing it.
"All scammers need, really, is your Social Security number, your birth date and your address," says Hendrickson. "Conceivably, they could file a tax return in your name and claim any refund that's due to you."
Before filing a tax return, Hendrickson says people can take simple steps to protect their information. He says guard your Social Security number like you would cash. Hendrickson agrees with the Tax Commissioner that filing early and electronically are the safest ways to avoid being scammed. But Hendrickson says you still need to be smart about it.
"You want to make sure your home computer has anti-virus software, a secure firewall," says Hendrickson. "You maybe wouldn't want to do this at a library or other places like that where maybe your information could be shared with others or accessed by others."
North Dakota will start accepting both electronic and paper returns on Tuesday.
Grand Forks, ND (WDAZ-TV) - Police say they have taken a heroin and meth dealer off the streets of Grand Forks.
According to court documents officers found meth, heroin and a scale inside 34-year-old Brandon Eppler's apartment.
Members of the Grand Forks Narcotics Task Force say they also found records of who he was dealing to on his phone.
Lt. Brett Johnson, GFPD: “When you can put a team of that size together everybody brings something different to the table so whenever you've got a group like that that's all working together across the region here, it definitely is a good tool and those guys do an excellent job and we're glad to be a part of it.”
Eppler is being charged with drug possession and intent to sell. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison.
Grafton Police Chief Anthony Dumas has rescinded his resignation from the Grafton Police Department and will now retain the chief position. Dumas made the announcement during Monday night's city council meeting. The council unanimously accepted his rescission. The Grafton Ways and Means committee had accepted his official resignation just last week when Dumas told the committee he'd taken the position of Chief Deputy Sheriff in Pembina County. Dumas says his earlier decision to leave the force was for pay and family reasons. However, a recent pay agreement with the city convinced him to stay in Grafton, "the City Administrator and the Mayor had been asking if it was a financial decision, which it was, but that being said, there was some room financially in the budget to negotiate with me." He said. "These are the people I've been working for for a vast majority of my adult life, so the ability to continue in that capacity, when presented was an easy decision for me to make." Grafton Mayor Chris West says he's happy the city was able to negotiate a deal. West says he's glad Dumas will be able to continue to provide his service and dedication to the force. The Mayor says moving forward the city will be looking at a pay study to ensure that all the city's employees are paid fairly and in keeping with pay averages across the state, "all of our employees are valuable, you know, we have great employees, they do great service for their community and we want to make sure that we're fair and adequate for all of them," West said.
Job Service North Dakota is reducing staff and closing offices – to deal with a budget shortfall. The agency is federally-funded. And Job Service says over the past ten
years, the agency has faced flat or reduced budgets. The cuts will amount to about $4.1 million. Seven of the 16 Job Service offices will be closed – those in Valley City, Oakes, New Town, Beulah, Grafton and Rolla, all of which lost their staff immediately as of yesterday. Twenty two regular employees were laid off statewide along with 12 temporaries and another 26 vacant positions were cut. Job Service Employees from neighboring offices will visit Grafton twice a month until April 30th when the office will officially close. Following this, staff will visit other locations in the city twice a month through June before switching to a regional based service with nine offices across the state.
The North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) and the North Dakota Highway Patrol (NDHP) reports 2015 traffic fatalities are the lowest in five years. Based on preliminary crash data, 131 motor vehicle fatalities occurred in 2015, the lowest number of traffic fatalities since 2010 when there were 105. "The state has made significant investments into our infrastructure in recent years so it is encouraging to see the decrease in the number of fatalities," says Grant Levi, NDDOT Director. "Infrastructure improvements can help save lives but those improvements need to be combined with drivers who aren't distracted, drive defensively and abide by the rules of the road in order to continue to reduce fatalities." Of these 131 motor vehicle fatalities, 62 percent were not wearing their seat belt, 41 percent were alcohol-related, and 28 percent were speed-related. Lack of seat belts, alcohol and speed are consistently the most significant factors in motor vehicle fatalities in North Dakota. Colonel Michael Gerhart, superintendent of the NDHP, adds "The single greatest partnership in law enforcement is with the public. With their support and cooperation to drive sober, buckle up and slow down, many lives can be saved on our roadways."