Spring Construction Begins on North Dakota Roads

BISMARCK – Spring has arrived, which means warmer weather, and now it’s time for the North Dakota Department of Transportation to begin road construction projects. Most of the road work is expected to be complete by this fall but could create havoc for those traveling this summer in western and central North Dakota.

Projects include: Construction will begin Monday, April 24 on the US 83 West Bypass near Minot. The Bypass will be expanded to four-lanes from US 2 north to 4th Ave. NW with the construction of two new bridges adjacent to the existing bridges over the Souris River and the Canadian Pacific Railway in 2017.  Work on the existing roadway including the replacement of the existing bridge over the Souris River will take place in 2018.

Another project will begin Tuesday, April 25 on ND Highway 20 from Jamestown north to ND Highway 9. Construction consists of roadway widening, curve realignment and resurfacing.

During road construction, please be aware:

  • Speeds will be reduced to 25-40 mph
  • A width restriction of 12 feet will be in place
  • Flaggers and pilot car will be present
  • Motorists may experience delays during pilot car operations
  • Gravel and oil may be present on the roadway

Drive safely as we head into warmer weather, and for more information about construction projects and road conditions throughout North Dakota, call 511

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North Dakota Passes Law Protecting Consumers From Massive, Unexpected Air Ambulance Bills

BISMARCK – Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread today praised the signing of Senate Bill 2231, regarding the regulation of how insurance companies pay for air ambulance services in North Dakota. The bill also requires hospitals to notify patients in non-emergency situations which air ambulance providers have a contractual agreement with the patient’s health insurance company.

Air ambulance has become a more frequently used mode of transport for individuals needing medical care. Often these patients are then faced with unexpected and outrageous bills for the full cost of the flight or the balance left after a partial payment is made by the patient’s insurer, a practice known as “balance billing.” Insurance does not cover the cost of an air ambulance when the ambulance provider does not have a contract with the patient’s health plan, even if the patient is one of the 88 percent of North Dakotans who have health insurance.

“It’s important to know that these lifesaving flights often come with life-altering bills, and what is most frustrating to the Insurance Department is that many of the complaints we receive are from people who have insurance, have been responsible, and through no fault of their own, are facing insurmountable balance bills from an air ambulance company,” Godfread said. “These consumers did not have the option or ability to choose their provider, and now because of the choices made by someone else, are left facing bankruptcy.”

From 2013 through January 2017, the Department has received 28 complaints totaling $1.66 million in charges for air ambulance services, excluding one case in which the total for services rendered is unknown at this time. Based upon these complaints, each air ambulance ride has costed the consumer $59,287 on average. Consumers in North Dakota, have reported being billed amounts ranging from $75-$66,597. However, these numbers don’t include the hundreds of complaints that have been made directly to insurers regarding air ambulance services.

Senator Judy Lee (R-West Fargo) was the bill’s primary sponsor and instrumental in its passage. “It is important to protect citizens in critical medical situations from unexpected high costs beyond what insurance covers,” Lee said. “It also is important to keep this issue visible to the federal government.”

Air ambulance services are also used for inter-hospital transfers when a patient requires treatment at a different facility. According to Godfread, it was common sense to add a requirement for hospitals to notify patients in non-emergency situations which air ambulances have contractual agreements with the patient’s insurance company to the bill.

“I feel this legislation strikes a balance between ensuring we have these services in our state, while at the same time protecting our consumers from bankruptcy,” Godfread said. “Consumers in North Dakota should not have to choose between saving a loved one’s life and facing financial ruin, especially when they have health insurance. I am proud of the work we have done to find a solution by working within our insurance regulations to protect the consumers of North Dakota. I also want to commend the Governor and the Legislature for addressing this critical problem that is not only affecting North Dakota, but has become an epidemic across the entire nation.”

Defense Department Awards Basin Electric

BISMARCK – Basin Electric received a distinguished Dept. of Defense award, recognizing the cooperative for its strong support of its military employees. Fewer than 75 organizations across the U.S. have received this recognition.

The Extraordinary Employer Support Award from the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) was presented to Basin Electric CEO and General Manager Paul Sukut, and its board.

“We are thrilled to receive this outstanding award,” Sukut said. “To be among a small number of employers receiving the ESGR Extraordinary Employer Support award is truly a humbling honor.”

ESGR’s Extraordinary Employer Support Award was created in 2012 to recognize sustained employer support of National Guard and Reserve service.

According to Kevin Iverson, Employer Outreach Director for ESGR of North Dakota, fewer than 75 organizations across the country have been presented this award by the Department of Defense.

“Only those employers who have demonstrated continuous, exceptional support of their military service employees can be considered for this award,” Iverson said. “Basin Electric demonstrates that patriotism is ingrained in its organizational culture on a level that is truly extraordinary through the way it treats its members of the National Guard and reserves.”

Only prior recipients of the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award or the Pro Patria Award, who have demonstrated sustained support for three years after receiving one of those awards, are eligible for consideration at the committee level. Subsequent awards may be given in three-year increments from the initial award.

Basin Electric received the Defense Employer Support Freedom Award in 2012.

Basin Electric Power Cooperative and its subsidiaries have a longstanding commitment to supporting its employees who are on active duty and also those employees who may have an immediate family member on active duty who has sustained an injury while on duty or are recovering from a serious illness.

When employees are called to active service, Basin Electric provides them with technology so they can communicate with their families and coworkers, and pays the difference between their salary at Basin Electric and their military pay. The cooperative also offers an “open door” for family members to raise any concerns that develop while their loved one is deployed. Last year, Basin Electric also made the decision to provide military time off for temporary employees serving, and added time off for military members to be part of honor guards.

Photo Above: (From left) Kevin Iverson, North Dakota ESGR Employer Outreach Director; Paul Sukut, Basin Electric CEO and general manager; Robert “Bob” Wefald, North Dakota ESGR State Chair; Major General Al Dohrmann, Adjutant General, North Dakota National Guard.

Bismarck Tops Safest Cities in North Dakota

BISMARCK – Once again the National Council for Home Safety and Security, has announced their annual Safest Cities in North Dakota Report for 2017. In order are; Bismarck, West Fargo, Wahpeton, Valley City, and Jamestown are the Top 5.

Western North Dakota’s main hub and the state capital Bismarck, is the second-biggest city in the state. Bismarck remains one of the most-popular destinations in the state and is recognized as one of the fastest-growing small cities in America.

Perhaps surprisingly, it also holds the title of safest city in North Dakota, which is pretty impressive for a city of its size. How impressive? Bismarck saw 1.47 violent crimes and 13.04 property crimes per 1,000 people last year.

Originally named Missouri Crossing and later Edwinton, the city eventually came to be known as Bismarck when the Northern Pacific Railway named it after German Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck, in the process hoping to attract German investment and settlers. (It was the discovery of gold in the Black Hills that was much more successful in drawing people to the area.)

nd-bismarck

To identify the safest cities in North Dakota, we reviewed the most recent FBI Uniform Crime Report statistics along with our own population data and internal research. We eliminated any cities that failed to submit a complete crime report to the FBI and removed cities with populations under 5,000. Note that our use of the word “cities” is versatile, refers to populations of 5,000 and over, and thus includes places with the words “town” and “township.”

The Top 12 Safest Cities in North Dakota, 2017

1. Bismarck 11. Mandan
2. West Fargo 12. Watford City
3. Wahpeton
4. Valley City
5. Jamestown
6. Dickinson
7. Grand Forks
8. Fargo
9. Minot
10. Williston

The remaining cities were ranked based on the number of reported violent crimes (aggravated assault, murder, rape, and robbery) and property crimes (burglary, arson, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft) per 100,000 people. These variables were then weighted, with violent crimes accounting for 70% of the total (due to their severity) and property crimes accounting for 30%. Finally, we moved the decimal point over a few spots to show rates per 1,000 people.

University of Mary’s Coach Roger Thomas to Retire

BISMARCK – The University of Mary announced the retirement of its athletic director, Roger Thomas, effective June 30. Thomas, who has been the university’s athletic director since 2008, has had a tremendous career for the Marauders, leading the school’s athletic departments in fostering scores of top-caliber athletes to All-American citations, and making the transition to the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) of the NCAA Division II from the NAIA. During the transition from Mary’s first A.D., Al Bortke, Thomas had the duty of bringing the school into compliance with its new rank.

“It’s with great pride, gratitude and humility that I have had the opportunity to serve the University of Mary and the Sisters of Annunciation Monastery during its new era of NCAA athletics—a time of great growth for our campus and our student athletes,” said Thomas. “My hope was always for our student athletes to graduate from the University of Mary as champions in their own hearts—knowing they gave it their all in the classroom, competitively in their sport and then confidently go into their communities as true servant leaders. It’s bittersweet that I come to the end of my career in athletics. Having worked with so many wonderful athletes over the years, it’s rewarding to know we helped shape their character and better serve society—and we did it the right way.”

Coach Mike Thorson said of Thomas, “Roger Thomas’s leadership has created a tremendous opportunity for coaches and athletes to excel. Roger believes in the vital role of athletics in forming character and molding young men and women into outstanding servant leaders. His contributions to the university have been invaluable. We wish him the very best in his retirement.”

Before coming to Mary, Thomas had a distinguished career at the University of North Dakota as UND’s head football coach from 1986-98 and the athletic director from 1999-2005. As the winningest football coach in UND history he compiled a record of 90-43-1 for a win percentage of .674. He guided North Dakota to five NCAA Division II postseason appearances while his team won three straight North Central Conference championships from 1993-95. Thomas was a four-time region coach of the year and a three-time NCC Coach of the Year.

As UND’s athletic director, Thomas oversaw the opening of the Ralph Engelstad Arena, Betty Engelstad Sioux Center and Alerus Center. Also under his watch North Dakota won NCAA national titles in football and men’s hockey – the latter of which earned Thomas and the UND skaters a trip to the White House and a congratulatory meeting with the president of the United States. In 2008 Thomas relocated his storied career to the University of Mary, helping to make the transition from NAIA to NCAA Division II.

Roger Thomas has been an exemplary leader at the University of Mary, fully committed to both athletic excellence and academic achievement, and to the vital importance of athletics in building character and fostering the Benedictine values the University of Mary was founded upon.

“The University of Mary is saddened to lose an athletic director so well respected as Roger is throughout the region, but we trust that God will continue to bless us with people like him who will continue his legacy of excellence,” said Greg Vetter, executive vice president of the university. “We are grateful for his service and know that his legacy, along with our new fieldhouse and the fulfillment of Vision 2030, will signal a bright future for athletics at the University of Mary.”

A search for Thomas’ successor will begin immediately.

Officials Encourage Producers to Monitor Flood Threats

BISMARCK – Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring is encouraging farmers and ranchers in northeast and north central North Dakota to monitor conditions and evaluate their operations for potential flood impacts that could affect livestock and other property.

Rivers and streams in northeast North Dakota are expected to crest this weekend. National Weather Service data indicates snow melt with a significant rain event could create overland or increased river and stream flooding.

Goehring suggests all producers take a few moments during their spring preparations to plan the movement of their livestock, and review the locations of feed, stored grain, chemicals and equipment both inside and outside of storage buildings. He also encourages producers to be aware of roads susceptible to floodwaters that could limit emergency travel and access to livestock or stored grain.

“Producers in flood watch or warning areas should monitor forecasts closely, identify steps to minimize impacts to their livestock and property, and keep accurate documentation, including dates and photographs of impacted property,” Goehring said.

River flow forecasts show the potential to impact agricultural operations, including the potential to cut off farmsteads. Governor Doug Burgum has also issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency in Walsh County based a potential record flooding of the Park River.

“Make sure that your weather radios and communication equipment are in good working order and monitor the radio for new forecasts,” he said.

Basin Electric’s Response to President Trump’s Clean Power Plan Executive Order

BISMARCK – Basin Electric CEO and General Manager Paul Sukut today issued the following statement on President Trump’s executive order on the Clean Power Plan (CPP): “President Trump’s announcement today is a positive step forward in our efforts to seek time and flexibility when it comes to developing a carbon management plan, hopefully, in the context of a national energy policy.

“EPA’s Clean Power Plan would have significant impacts on Basin Electric and our membership. Of the 13 states hit the hardest by this rule, eight are in Basin Electric’s service territory. Financially, Basin Electric would have to spend billions of dollars to comply. These dollars would simply cover adding new generation and potentially impact the operations of our existing facilities. This does not even include the expense of additional electric, gas or transmission infrastructure to support the new generation required to meet the proposed mandates of the CPP. These costs would be unfairly borne by our membership.

“Over the last decade, Basin Electric and our membership have taken a leadership role in the development of renewable generation. We’ve added more than 1,500 megawatts of wind generation to our system (which represents approximately 23 percent of our generation capacity), invested more than $1 billion in natural gas generation resources and have invested more than $1.6 billion in emissions control technology to make our already clean generation fleet even cleaner. Even more, our Dakota Gasification Company’s Great Plains Synfuels Plant is home to North America’s largest carbon capture and sequestration project – capturing more than 30 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2). Our most recent project to add urea production to the Synfuels Plant continues that tradition by capturing CO2 to make urea and for sale as a food grade product. It’s important to note that the CPP, as proposed, did not allow Basin Electric credit for our current investments in natural gas generation or renewables, nor our carbon sequestration efforts through Dakota Gas.

“President Trump’s action today does not, however, impact Basin Electric’s efforts to seek a viable path forward in a carbon constrained future. We are actively seeking solutions that reduce our carbon footprint while keeping coal as part of our energy portfolio, preserving both the reliability and cost competitiveness of our members energy supply. In addition to our wind and natural gas investments, we are actively working to advance clean coal technology. Examples include hosting the Integrated Test Center at our Dry Fork Station, Gillette, Wyo., and our investments in research, most recently, in the development of a high efficiency power generation technology that generates high quality CO2 as a product stream, along with participation in DOE’s CarbonSAFE program to further the science of CO2 sequestration in saline aquifers.”

In November 2015, utilities across the country, including Basin Electric, filed a Motion to Stay with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which was denied. On Feb. 9, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court granted Basin Electric and several other petitioners’ Motion to Stay the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, giving the current administration time to review the rule and issue today’s executive order.