Dickinson couple loses ‘everything they had’ in late night fire

A couple embraces while looking at the remains of their rented trailer home early Saturday morning in south Dickinson. The couple lost two pets and most of their possessions in the fire, which happened directly behind the Paragon on Villard Street. (Dustin Monke / The Dickinson Press)

A couple embraces while looking at the remains of their rented trailer home early Saturday morning in south Dickinson. The couple lost two pets and most of their possessions in the fire, which happened directly behind the Paragon on Villard Street. (Dustin Monke / The Dickinson Press)

A young Dickinson couple is homeless after a late Friday night fire consumed the trailer home they were renting, as well as their two pets and most of their possessions.

“Absolutely everything they had, they lost right here,” Dickinson Fire Chief Bob Sivak said at the scene around 1:15 a.m. Saturday.

The couple, whose names were not provided, lost their Chihuahua dog and a cat in the fire. They were only able to salvage a handful of items left unaffected by the fire.

The trailer was only about 25 feet behind the Paragon bowling alley and sports club off Villard Street. The building was evacuated for a short time until the Dickinson Fire Department contained the blaze.

Sivak said the fire likely started in the front of the trailer, but that it’s difficult to determine the cause.

“There’s nothing to investigate. That’s how bad it is,” he said. “Wires are burned right down to the copper. The walls are down and everything. We could make a guess, but I don’t want to do that because I can’t prove that one way or another.”

Sivak said the couple did not have renter’s insurance, but that the American Red Cross was at the scene and was looking into ways to help them.

Remains of ‘construction worker’ found in north Dickinson

Investigators stand in an excavation site Friday on 40th Street in north Dickinson, where investigators are exhuming skeletal remains found late Thursday night. (Dustin Monke / The Dickinson Press)

Investigators stand in an excavation site Friday on 40th Street in north Dickinson, where investigators are exhuming skeletal remains found late Thursday night. (Dustin Monke / The Dickinson Press)

Law enforcement agencies spent much of Friday exhuming the decomposed human remains of an unidentified “apparent construction worker,” discovered late Thursday at a worksite in north Dickinson.

More: Visit The Press site for more photos of the exhumation site.

The body was “relatively intact” and found in the crouched upright position near an underground utility pipeline, according to a statement sent at 8:35 p.m. Friday, according to statements from Dickinson Police Capt. Joe Cianni.

“A positive identification of the body was not possible at the scene due to the extent of the decomposition of the body and the deterioration of the related clothing,” Cianni’s statement read. “Nothing unusual or suspicious was unearthed during the exhumation.”

Phoebe Stubblefield, the forensic science program director at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, supervised the exhumation. The body will be transported to UND for Stubblefield’s forensic medical examination.

Law enforcement agencies began investigating the construction site at the corner of 40th Street East and Fourth Avenue East before 7 a.m. Friday morning, according to reports, as police taped off the area and officers stood watch around the perimeter. The exhumation didn’t wrap up until 7:26 p.m., according to Cianni’s statement.

The remains were discovered near an industrial park and directly east of the Integrated Production Services and Halliburton campuses on 40th Street. The area is north of Lincoln Meadows Apartments.

Multiple calls and messages left for Cianni were not returned.

Continue reading

Trinity teardown begins: Construction crews demolishing unusable east wing

A Veit Construction worker uses an excavator while tearing into Trinity High School’s east wing on Tuesday afternoon as part of demolition to remove the part of the building rendered unusable by the March 2014 fire. (Dustin Monke / The Dickinson Press)

A Veit Construction worker uses an excavator while tearing into Trinity High School’s east wing on Tuesday afternoon as part of demolition to remove the part of the building rendered unusable by the March 2014 fire. (Dustin Monke / The Dickinson Press)

Steel was ripped, bricks crumbled, dust flew and even chalkboards weren’t spared from the wrath of a construction excavator performing the final demolition project at Trinity High School on Tuesday afternoon.

“When I first came out here, I started crying,” said Dickinson Catholic Schools President Steve Glasser as he drove by to watch the demolition late in the afternoon. “It puts some closure to everything we’ve been through in the past 14 months. Now it’s real.”

Demolition of the structure began shortly after lunchtime, said Eugene Smith, project superintendent for JE Dunn Construction.

He said Veit Construction, which is a subcontractor on the job, began chipping away at the building and segregating iron, aluminum, sheet metal and concrete.

“They pull the concrete and recycle everything,” Smith said.

Continue reading

Press named best small daily in North Dakota

The North Dakota Newspaper Association's General Excellence and Sweepstakes awards were given to The Dickinson Press on Friday night.

The North Dakota Newspaper Association’s General Excellence and Sweepstakes awards were given to The Dickinson Press on Friday night.

BISMARCK — The Dickinson Press was named the state’s best small daily newspaper during a ceremony Friday night at the Heritage Center.

The Press claimed the North Dakota Newspaper Association’s General Excellence and Sweepstakes awards for daily newspapers with a circulation of 12,000 or less — the highest honors given in the category. The newspaper also won the most individual first-place and total awards in both the editorial and advertising contents.

Press Publisher Harvey Brock said winning these honors “just reaffirms what I already know — that I’m privileged to work with a team of professionals who go about the business of putting out the best paper possible every day. We’re blessed to work for a company that gives us the training, resources and a culture to succeed. Congratulations to everyone.”

Managing Editor Dustin Monke won five first-place awards and reporter Andrew Brown won two in the editorial contest. Reporters Nadya Faulx, Bryan Horwath and Meaghan MacDonald, and Sports Editor Royal McGregor each claimed one first-place award.

“Our staff deserves all the credit for the awards they received,” Monke said. “They put in long hours — working nights and weekends — and tackled a variety of challenging stories in 2014. I’m proud of their efforts and am glad to see their hard work has been recognized.”

Advertising consultant David Hanson won two first-place honors in the advertising contest, while consultants Nikki Baer, Jenn Binstock, Sam Cunningham and Sonya Sacks each won one award in the advertising contest.

“Great advertising always sells advertising, and getting awards is always nice for the team. It validates that what they do is very, very important,” Press Advertising Director Bob Carruth said.

The General Excellence award factors in a newspaper’s reporting, editing, headlines, photography, design, advertising and production from three selected days. The judges commented on The Press’ “excellent news reporting, writing, editing.”

The Sweepstakes honor is given to the newspaper with the most awards in its circulation category, and is determined by a weighted point system. The Press won 20 first-place awards, 18 second places, 17 third places and eight honorable mentions across all categories.

Click below for a full list of award-winners.
Continue reading

Wilson steps down as DHS boys basketball coach

Former Dickinson High boys basketball coach speaks to players in the huddle during a game in this undated Press file photo.

Former Dickinson High boys basketball coach speaks to players in the huddle during a game in this undated Press file photo.

John Wilson said the time is right to turn his focus away from coaching basketball.

Wilson stepped down as Dickinson High’s head boys basketball coach on Thursday after seven seasons, citing family and his health as the primary reasons for the decision.

He leaves the program with a 71-81 overall record.

“I just felt it was time for me and my family to take care of me,” he said.

Wilson endured his share of ups and downs as head coach.

Continue reading

Dickinson refinery begins producing fuel from Bakken crude oil

 

Dakota Prairie Refining plant manager Dave Podratz, left, and MDU Resources public relations manager Tim Rasmussen stand outside the gates of the Dickinson, N.D., refinery on Monday after it started producing its first diesel fuel. (Dustin Monke / The Dickinson Press)

Dakota Prairie Refining plant manager Dave Podratz, left, and MDU Resources public relations manager Tim Rasmussen stand outside the gates of the Dickinson, N.D., refinery on Monday after it started producing its first diesel fuel. (Dustin Monke / The Dickinson Press)

RURAL DICKINSON — Dave Podratz, still wearing his hard hat, safety glasses and coveralls, walked into a conference room at Dakota Prairie Refining’s main office building Monday afternoon and sat a small glass jar containing clear liquid on the table.

The jar is soon to become a keepsake. It contains some of the first diesel fuel created from Bakken crude oil at the refinery facility west of Dickinson.

After more than two years of construction and testing, the approximately $425 million refinery — the first greenfield refinery built in the United States since 1976 — began making product over the weekend and is now storing it in preparation for sale.

“It’s been a long process,” said Podratz, the refinery’s plant manager.

Construction on the facility, which is jointly owned and operated by MDU Resources Group and Calumet Specialty Products Partners, began March 26, 2013, with a groundbreaking at the 318-acre site about four miles west of Dickinson.

Continue reading

Dickinson businesses begin feeling slowdown’s effect: Drop in oil prices has led to fewer customers, better employees

Todd Anderson, service manager at T-Rex Conoco in Dickinson, talks to customer Bobby Metz, who came into the shop Wednesday while looking for an oil change. Anderson said business has slowed down along with the drop in oil prices, but said he's somewhat happy to have a reprieve from the chaos of the boom. (Dustin Monke / The Dickinson Press)

Todd Anderson, service manager at T-Rex Conoco in Dickinson, talks to customer Bobby Metz, who came into the shop Wednesday while looking for an oil change. Anderson said business has slowed down along with the drop in oil prices, but said he’s somewhat happy to have a reprieve from the chaos of the boom. (Dustin Monke / The Dickinson Press)

Steve Keinzle noticed a change around the first of the year.

The manager of Mac’s Hardware in north Dickinson said his business catered to many oilfield service companies, both big and small — mostly hot-shot crews and roustabout companies — that would come in and buy everything from tools to flame-retardant gear for employees.

But when the oil prices dropped out, so did much of that business.

“Their budgets went away real fast,” Keinzle said. “And, of course, we felt that effect right away. The traffic is down.”

Many business owners and managers in Dickinson say they’re feeling the effects of the drop in oil prices as much as anyone else. For some businesses, traffic and profits are down. Others report steady customer flow not all that different from a year ago, when oil drilling in western North Dakota was at an all-time high — particularly around Dickinson.
Some say it isn’t all bad. They say they’re happy to have more time to work on projects, improve infrastructure and think ahead instead of worrying about the challenges the oil boom brought them over the past few years.

“It’s a nice reprieve to be able to slow down a little and catch a breath, because once things get going again, (business) will pick up,” said Todd Anderson, service manager at T-Rex Conoco off Third Avenue West in north Dickinson.

Anderson said he’s noticed a definite slowdown in work. Now his crew has time to take walk-in oil changes or fix vehicles without work being scheduled weeks in advance.

“I’d say equivalent to before the oil came,” he said.

On the other side of the building, T-Rex convenience store manager Vicki Nogosek said she is ordering less product than she did in 2014.

“You notice pretty much all day that it has slowed down a lot, just in gas and everything,” Nogosek said.

However, she said there is some good that has come with the slowdown in business.

Continue reading

Company touts new way to eliminate H2S

Tom Wilson, left, and his brother-in-law Dan Johnson, both of Buffalo, S.D., have manufactured a device that removes hydrogen sulfide, commonly known as the deadly gas H2S, from crude oil. They were at the Bakken Oil Product and Service Show on April 15 at the West River Ice Center in Dickinson, N.D., during the third week of April to tout their device and talk with others about its potential. (Dustin Monke / The Dickinson Press)

Tom Wilson, left, and his brother-in-law Dan Johnson, both of Buffalo, S.D., have manufactured a device that removes hydrogen sulfide, commonly known as the deadly gas H2S, from crude oil. They were at the Bakken Oil Product and Service Show on April 15 at the West River Ice Center in Dickinson, N.D., during the third week of April to tout their device and talk with others about its potential. (Dustin Monke / The Dickinson Press)

An oilfield veteran and a retired schoolteacher believe they have found a method of removing deadly hydrogen sulfide gas from crude oil at wellsites without using chemicals in the process.

Dan Johnson and Tom Wilson, brothers-in-law from Buffalo, S.D., and cofounders of Blue Bull Lamont, gave a short presentation April 15 at the Bakken Oil and Product Show in Dickinson about their machinery and methods they say have been proven to eliminate the gas commonly known as H2S.

The new company — which is funded by and shares a name with Aberdeen, S.D.-based venture capital and private equity firm Lamont Enterprises — has patented a 40-feet-by-8-feet mobile processing unit that was fabricated in Johnson’s Dickinson shop and has been proven by independent oil-testing laboratories to work at wellsites in the Bakken.

“We dreamed it up, we proved it, we patented it,” Wilson said.

Continue reading

Expendable industry: Oilfield service companies, workers deal with layoffs in wake of low oil prices

Command Center branch manager Kristen Vesledahl, left, speaks to staffing specialist Rena Olheiser on April 22 at their downtown Dickinson, N.D.,office. Vesledahl and Olheiser said more people are coming to their staffing service looking for work since the oil prices dropped. (Dustin Monke / The Dickinson Press)

Command Center branch manager Kristen Vesledahl, left, speaks to staffing specialist Rena Olheiser on April 22 at their downtown Dickinson, N.D.,office. Vesledahl and Olheiser said more people are coming to their staffing service looking for work since the oil prices dropped. (Dustin Monke / The Dickinson Press)

A few weeks ago, a man walked into Command Center, a temporary labor and staffing service in downtown Dickinson, and said he needed a job after being laid off from a high-paying position on an oil rig.

The man said he’d only work for $35 an hour, needed a minimum of 50 hours guaranteed each week, and wanted his housing paid for along with a $150 a day per diem.

After realizing the man wasn’t joking, staffing specialist Rena Olheiser responded in the kindest manner she could muster.

“Well good luck with that,” she said with a smile.

The days of high wages, overtime, free meals and company housing for many oil workers in the Bakken are coming to an end. At least for now.

This is especially true around Dickinson, where there isn’t a drilling rig within 50 miles and likely won’t be until the price of oil climbs back to levels oil companies deem profitable.

“I tell them here, ‘Everyone is expendable. Everyone,’” said Kristen Vesledahl, Command Center’s branch manager.

Continue reading

Energy showcase: Slowdown impacts Bakken product show, but exhibitors keep making connections

The slowdown of oil production and drilling in the Bakken Oil Patch is apparent even in the sales and trade areas.

Foot traffic was a little slow at times Wednesday during the inaugural Bakken Oil Product & Service Show, exhibitors said, but picked up in the afternoon as attendees stayed busy networking and showcasing new products at the West River Ice Center. The trade show continues at 9 a.m. today.

“We’re seeing some of the effects of the slowdown,” said Jeff Zarling, president of DAWA Solutions Group, which promoted the event. “Just like everybody else in the marketplace, we’re waiting to see what’s going to happen and anxious to see when things are going to accelerate again.”

More than 200 exhibitors from across the country showcased products and services, and exchanged information while hundreds of others walked the Ice Center talking to business owners and representatives, taking in product demonstrations and workshops.

“Everybody likes to see lots of people, but there’s also the fact that they like to see quality people,” Zarling said. “It only takes one to make it all worth it.”

Continue reading

Wild stallion

A wild horse in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park South Unit stands atop a ridge near the scenic route while taking a break from grazing on Sunday afternoon near Medora.

A wild horse in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park South Unit stands atop a ridge near the scenic route while taking a break from grazing on Sunday afternoon near Medora.

I took a drive through Theodore Roosevelt National Park’s South Unit near Medora on Sunday and captured a couple photographs of the park’s wild horses, including one close-up with a lone stallion. For more photos, check out my photo site.

Bringing back Bailey: Couple reunites with lost golden retriever 2 months after she went missing in Oil Patch

Luke Rodenbough, of Blaisdell, and Staci Moore, of Dickinson, sit with their dog, 13-month-old golden retriever Bailey, on the steps outside of their Dickinson apartment building on Wednesday. They reunited with Bailey on Monday after the dog went missing Jan. 27 near Parshall. (Dustin Monke/The Dickinson Press)

Luke Rodenbough, of Blaisdell, and Staci Moore, of Dickinson, sit with their dog, 13-month-old golden retriever Bailey, on the steps outside of their Dickinson apartment building on Wednesday. They reunited with Bailey on Monday after the dog went missing Jan. 27 near Parshall. (Dustin Monke/The Dickinson Press)

Bailey can be a handful.

A loveable, smiling and prancing handful of soft, golden fur.

On Wednesday afternoon, the 13-month-old purebred golden retriever — still very much a puppy at heart — tore around a Dickinson apartment. She played with her toys, teased a cat and nuzzled up to whoever would pet her.

Bailey was happy. She was home.

It was a welcome and relieving sight for her owners, Luke Rodenbough, of Blaisdell, and his girlfriend, Staci Moore, of Dickinson.

A little more than two months ago, Rodenbough thought he had lost Bailey forever.

The dog he had raised, trained and loved since he got her last May as an 8-week-old pup disappeared Jan. 27 after he had taken her to a job site near Parshall.

“We just couldn’t find her,” he said.

Continue reading

City should build an event center

A few weeks ago, I found myself sitting in a room with some lifelong community members.

Like men who like to talk do, we started fixing the world’s problems — starting with Dickinson’s.

Because this happened inside of a room at Trinity High School during the Region 7 boys basketball tournament, the conversation quickly turned to sports and the 2,300-person crowd packed into the Knights of Columbus Activities Center gymnasium just down the hall.

Each March, thousands of fans sardine themselves into arguably the best high school gymnasium in North Dakota to watch high school basketball tournaments.

Why? Because it’s all Dickinson, a regional hub city, has to offer.

So finally, I asked everyone a question: “Do you think this community would support a 5,000-seat event center?” The resounding answer was, “Yes.”

Continue reading

Southwest ND farmers slowly start spring planting

The spring planting season has begun in southwest North Dakota.

County extension agents and farmers south of Dickinson said fertilizing and seeding of fields is slowly starting throughout the area thanks to a mix of warm temperatures, dry conditions and general anxiousness.

“Right now, everybody is tickled,” said Duaine Marxen, Hettinger County’s extension agent.

But it isn’t full-speed-ahead quite yet, farmers said.

“We’re kind of piddling along here,” said Terry Kirschemann, who farms near Regent. “We need another week of temperatures before we can get into the heavier stuff.”

Continue reading

Dickinson Charities shuts down bingo after 33 years, citing declining interest

image

Dickinson Charities Manager Carol Klemm sits inside the group’s vacant bingo hall in north Dickinson. Sunday was the final day of bingo at the hall after 33 years.

As Carol Klemm turned on the lights in the large, empty hall Monday, she got an “eerie feeling.”

The spacious room in the Dickinson Charities building on 21st Street East hosted its final bingo games Sunday. After 33 years, Dickinson Charities has decided to end its bingo nights due to a decline in participation.

“Everything runs its course,” Klemm said.

The bingo hall has been affected by the aging population of its players and additional opportunities to play bingo in the city, she said, as well as trouble finding consistent help.

In the end, it was a financial decision. Dickinson Charities also runs blackjack, pull tabs and raffles throughout the city. It had been holding bingo on Friday night and Sunday afternoon.

Continue reading