Rig tour an eye-opening education on oil industry details

Over the last four years, it seems like all conversations in and about North Dakota have centered on oil and the impact it has made on the local landscape, culture and bank accounts.

Countless stories have been written and who knows how many more have yet to play out.
Last Monday, I was fortunate enough to see, smell and touch the source of those stories thanks to a rig tour provided by Whiting Petroleum Corp.

Blaine Hoffmann, Whiting’s superintendent for the Northern Rockies based in Dickinson, accompanied me and two European journalists to a rig southwest of Belfield. My main duty on the tour was to assist and be a photographer for Swiss journalist Charlotte Jacquemart, a business reporter for the New Zurich Times, who is in western North Dakota reporting on the oil boom and hydraulic fracturing.

Now I’ve read a lot about oil and the boom and have had a hand in some stories. But on Monday, I finally got my education.

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Social media connects us with readers

As a senior at Minnesota State University Moorhead, I started hearing about this thing called Facebook.

Friends at bigger schools told us about how great it was and some of my classmates even took to writing letters to MSUM officials basically demanding that we too gain access to this revolution.

People forget that in those early days, you couldn’t gain access to Facebook if you didn’t have college email address. That was just seven years ago this spring. It seems like a lifetime.

In less than a decade, this one website has been an absolute game changer for our world — and the media has not been excluded.

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Noodle the schnoodle, our lovable yet socially awkward dog

Columnist John Grogan was onto something when he started writing columns about his crazy Labrador retriever named Marley.

Like most people who have seen the movie “Marley and Me,” I laughed and even got choked up by watching the antics of the crazy dog that inspired the former newspaper columnist to compile a book of stories Hollywood ultimately turned into a film. After watching it a few years ago, I wondered if I would ever have a dog so lovably ridiculous it would compel me write about him or her.

Then, last September, Noodle the schnoodle came along.

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Fighting for the medals grandpa earned

Ask anyone who knows me well and they’ll tell you that if I wouldn’t have pursued a career in journalism, I would most likely have gravitated toward the subject of history — particularly, 20th century America.

I’m absolutely fascinated by stories of the Great Depression, World War II, the 60s and 70s, and how Vietnam and the Cold War led into the Reagan Era.

Perhaps part of the reason I was so interested in history was because of my grandfather, Clarence Monke.

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Dickinson Catholic Schools to reorganize board of education, dismisses layperson board members

Dickinson Catholic Schools is going through an upheaval and restructuring in its governance.

All seven layperson members of the DCS Board of Education were dismissed during a Thursday night board meeting. Their dismissal follows the resignation of Superintendent Kelly Koppinger, whose final day was March 29.

The board’s executive council — five Dickinson priests — have said the board will be reorganized with some layperson members eventually being brought back to the board.

“There will be some asked to come back,” Rev. Todd Kreitinger said on Friday.

Kreitinger said there is no timetable for when the board plans to reorganize with layperson members, none of whom were relieved because of wrongdoings.

“It isn’t a personality thing or a personal thing,” Kreitinger said. “It was more the restructuring.”

A three-paragraph email sent Friday to DCS faculty, staff and parents states that because the schools no longer have a superintendent, the five priests — all of whom signed the email — will collectively act as interim superintendent. The plan has the full support of Rev. David Kagan, bishop of the Diocese of Bismarck.

The email states, “This temporary structure will be replaced as soon as a new iteration of the board can be implemented.” It was signed by Kreitinger, Monsignor Patrick Schumacher and Revs. Shannon Lucht, Keith Streifel and Kregg Hochhalter, the chaplain at Trinity High School.

DCS is comprised of Trinity High School, Trinity Elementary East and Trinity West Elementary.

Kreitinger said the decision to dismiss the board’s layperson members was difficult and has been met with mixed feedback from the community.

“Each person’s opinion is not only important and valuable, but sometimes all of us can be anxious about the unknown or misunderstandings or even just change” said Kreitinger, the priest at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Dickinson. “I can sympathize and appreciate concerns. That’s how it can get kind of heated. Each person’s opinion is valid.”

In the email, the board’s executive council stated that the school system’s budget for the next fiscal year has been approved and all contracts for the 2013-14 school year will be issued within their usual time frame.

According to the DCS website, the board of education was comprised of Paul Ellerkamp, Joe Fridrich, Rich Holgard, Tina Jassek, Travis Leintz, Anthony Willer and Janet Williams, along with the five above-mentioned priests and Kagan.

Phone calls made to several former board members and Kagan went returned. Other former board members said they would not comment on the story.

Prescribed burn near Lemmon, S.D., sparks 14,000-acre grassland fire

Burned prairie is all that surrounds this flagpole after a U.S. Forest Service prescribed burn went wrong, scorching more than 14,000 acres since Wednesday. The rubble was once Castle Butte Country School House. It burnt down in the blaze. (Submitted Photo)

Ranchers south of Hettinger and Lemmon, S.D., are wondering what they’re supposed to do for grazing lands after what was intended to be a prescribed burn in the Grand River National Grasslands got out of control.

The fire scorched more than 14,000 acres of federal and private land over 22 square miles Wednesday and Thursday in Perkins County in northwest South Dakota.

The U.S. Forest Service said it was intending to burn 130 acres of dead crested wheatgrass when the fire broke containment areas and spread throughout the national grasslands and privately owned lands because of dry and windy conditions.

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A look inside Wildcat Pizzeria

The sign for Wildcat Pizzeria is shown in the North Park Plaza in west Dickinson. The pizzeria is located upstairs and will be accessible off State Avenue. (Press Photo by Katherine Grandstrand)











I got a first look inside the new Wildcat Pizzeria on March 20 thanks to owner Russell Meads.

What I got out of my impromptu tour after stopping by on my way home for lunch was that the New York-style pizzeria has the potential of being one of the coolest places in Dickinson when it opens April 12 (or sometime around there, Meads said).

Press reporter Katherine Grandstrand featured Wildcat Pizzeria on our Business page Tuesday.

One of the most interesting things Wildcat brings is, as Meads told me, is the pizzeria’s “great ingredients.” Great and interesting is more like it. You’ll be able to build your own pizza with corn, eggplant, many kinds of peppers and different tomatoes.

From all accounts, Meads’ Wildcat location in Williston has been a hit so they must be doing something right.

A native of Cape Cod, Mass., Meads’ restaurant also features New England clam chowder – the East Coast style, not my hometown’s style – Stromboli, nachos and boneless wings.

But, what the people of Dickinson will like most is the full-service bar that includes a patio area in the summer months.

The inside of Wildcat Pizzeria is seen March 20 while the restaurant was still under construction. (Press Photo by Dustin Monke)

Wildcat Pizzeria also happens to be in the North Park Plaza on the corner of 15th Street West and State Avenue. It’s an area where home building is booming, meaning it should do well in the long term. While it serves pay-by-the-ounce frozen yogurt, it will benefit from having Cherry Berry located in the same building.

I love pizza. Most of us do. And, honestly, Dickinson could use another sit-down pizza place now that Happy Joes is officially gone. Hopefully Wildcat will be able to fill that void.