Watford City’s student count up by 19 percent

WATFORD CITY — School enrollment in North Dakota’s fastest-growing small town has increased by 19 percent since May.

Enrollment in the McKenzie County School District, based in Watford City, increased by 255 students since the end of the 2013-14 school year, Superintendent Steve Holen said Wednesday.

“We’re doing as best we can,” Holen said.

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Dickinson needs a longterm population solution

Last week, one of my work colleague’s struck up a conversation with a Dickinson newcomer who had recently moved here from Idaho.

The man said he had left an economically depressed area but was doing well here. Still, he had no intention of bringing his family to Dickinson so that he could both work and live here. Why not? It was economically infeasible for him to do so. He was making good money but not enough to find an affordable living situation to make the move work.

So, here the man stays, working hard away from his family and sending most of the money he earns in North Dakota back to his real home. Like so many others, he’s not much more than a visitor to our city and state.

This man’s story shows a reality of what’s really happening in Dickinson and western North Dakota.

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Noodle vs. The Bunny

Noodle on the lookout for The Bunny.

Sometimes, I wonder if my dog doesn’t have an inner monologue that only other animals can hear. Like a cartoon character.

If you read my column, you probably know I love our dog, Noodle, a 2½-year-old Schnoodle who has become more like a kid than a pet. But maybe what I love about him the most is that he just keeps getting weirder and weirder.

Case in point is this summer’s saga of Noodle vs. The Bunny.

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New England awarded $5M in funding for water infrastructure

NEW ENGLAND — The city of New England has received $5 million in funding to help get its water infrastructure project in the ground.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Friday that it is giving a $2.7 million loan and awarding a $2.2 million grant to the city of about 750 to help improve and replace its water infrastructure. The water pipes and sewer system New England uses now were installed in 1947.

“It’s a tremendous undertaking for the city of New England,” said Mayor Marty Opdahl.

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Beach considers rezoning for grain co-op rail spur

BEACH — A proposed rail spur that could determine the future of Beach’s only grain elevator has spurred debate.

The Beach Grain Cooperative, struggling to stay relevant against larger competition, has asked the city to rezone about 156 acres on the east side of Beach from agricultural to commercial so it can build a $7 million railroad track expansion to help load 110-unit train cars.

“There’s a lot of interest,” said Al Begger, chair of Beach’s zoning board. “A lot of farmers are concerned. There are some of the people who live in houses that are going to be close to this.”

Residents who own property near where the proposed spurt say they understand Beach Grain’s need, but don’t want to see it put in their backyard — literally.

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Dickinson needs more events like concert

Gwen Sebastian and her band perform Tuesday evening at the Alive@5 street concert in Dickinson.

I stood on the roof of the old Elks Building in downtown Dickinson on Thursday night and said to someone, “Why don’t we do this more often?”

And I didn’t mean standing on top of one of downtown’s tallest buildings, though the view was pretty great. Of course, I’m talking about the Alive@5 free street concerts by Gwen Sebastian and Outlaw Sippin’, and everything else that went along with it, from the local law enforcement’s National Night Out to the beer gardens outside of The Rock, bouncy castles for the kids and some pretty delicious food vendors on First Avenue West.

Nights like that need to happen more often in Dickinson, and this city is getting to a point where it cannot only make that happen, it has a population that wants to see it happen.

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August rains could be good for late crops

Early August rainfall could be a blessing for crops that were planted later than usual, area farmers and agronomists said this week.

The first week of August in southwest North Dakota — typically hot and dry — was defined by heavy rains, daily showers, early-morning fog and below-normal temperatures.

It’s not exactly the type of weather farmers like to see — at least in a normal year. But this has not been a normal growing year.

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