RockPile Gets Bought Out, Expands

One of Dickinson’s biggest oilfield employers has been bought out, but little is changing. It’s even expanding.

RockPile Energy Services, which operated primarily as a hydraulic fracturing operation during the Bakken oilfield’s boom years, was acquired earlier this month by Houston-based White Deer Energy. RockPile was previously a subsidiary of Triangle Petroleum Corp.

“It puts us in a debt-free situation, which in this time and day is exceptional compared to our peers, and most of them are in some really big debt,” said Howard Rough, RockPile’s vice president of sales and marketing.

RockPile stated in a release that when it was acquired by White Deer Energy, the move allowed it to acquire more capital to fund growth.

Continue reading “RockPile Gets Bought Out, Expands”

Democrat Out of Race for State Senate

A New England man who planned to oppose Republican state Sen. Kelly Armstrong in November’s election has withdrawn his name from the ballot.

Democrat John D.W. Fielding said Thursday that his job as an employee of the Transportation Service Administration prohibits him from pursuing political office.

Fielding was nominated by his party to challenge Armstrong in District 36 last spring. The party chose not to put up a challenger in his place after he dropped out, said Dean Meyer, chairman of the District 36 Democrats who is running for state House of Representatives.

“It was a pretty close deadline,” Meyer said. “We’d had a hard time finding the first line of candidates, so there really wasn’t much we could do with that short time.”

Fielding said he learned he couldn’t pursue public office in an email he received from the TSA about election rules for employees. Federal government employees are prohibited from holding partisan political office, a law that dates back to the Hatch Act of 1939.

“I kinda need my job,” Fielding said with a laugh.

Fielding said he was working as a geologist in the oilfield before the drop in oil prices caused the Bakken’s significant slowdown. He said he wants to stay in the area because his children want to graduate from New England High School.

… I knew it would have been an uphill battle, but I thought there was information that should be out there and voters should know instead of voting the party line like most people do.”

“Family has got to come first,” Fielding said.

Fielding admitted he faced an uphill battle against Armstrong, who isn’t just a state senator but also chairman of the North Dakota GOP. He said, however, that he has had the opportunity to bring attention to issues faced by voters and added that he believes Armstrong hasn’t represented his constituents well.

“I had issues with the way the state handles the oil industry in general, basically from a position of weakness rather than strength,” Fielding said. “… I knew it would have been an uphill battle, but I thought there was information that should be out there and voters should know instead of voting the party line like most people do.”

Meyer said Fielding dropping out of the race creates more of an uphill battle for he and fellow House candidate Linda Kittilson, who face incumbent Republican Rep. Mike Schatz and newcomer Luke Simons.

Simons beat out incumbent Rep. Alan Fehr in the District 36 GOP nominating process.

“It does make the race a little tougher for the other two of us to not have anyone else ahead of us on the Senate side of it,” Meyer said. Armstrong said Thursday that despite running unopposed, he’s still putting in the campaign legwork for not only himself but Schatz, Simons and other Republican nominees he represents as party chair. “Even though I’m running unopposed, I think I’ll be working just as hard,” he said.

DSU Enrollment up 5 Percent: Mitzel Says Heritage Foundation’s Work Essential to Growth

Dickinson State University’s fall semester enrollment increased 5 percent from last year.

It’s a small but significant increase as the College on the Hill rebuilds its reputation under a new administration following years of enrollment and foundation scandals.

DSU President Thomas Mitzel said Tuesday that fundraising efforts by the DSU Heritage Foundation – formed last year after the old DSU Alumni and Foundation was forced into receivership by the North Dakota Attorney General’s Office – was essential in helping recruit new students to the university.

“You never want to have to start a new foundation, but by doing so I think we were able to target some very nice scholarship packages for students,” Mitzel said.

Continue reading “DSU Enrollment up 5 Percent: Mitzel Says Heritage Foundation’s Work Essential to Growth”

Blue Hawk Square Variance Approved

Dickinson State University can start making plans to place students in the Blue Hawk Square off-campus housing complex after the city’s Board of Adjustment approved an off-site parking variance for it Monday morning.

The board granted the variance request made by Dacotah Bank, which took ownership of the building in June by claiming the deed from the DSU Foundation in lieu of foreclosure.

The variance will allow residents of the four-story, 108-occupant apartment complex on the corner of West Villard Street and 10th Avenue West to park their vehicles on DSU’s campus instead of in a parking lot across Villard that had been leased by the foundation since it opened. Obtaining the parking variance was a crucial step in Dacotah Bank obtaining a certificate of occupancy for Blue Hawk Square.

Board member Trevor Ernst requested the variance be granted for two years on a temporary basis after an hour of debate and comments from concerned neighborhood residents and property owners. The motion passed 3-2.

Continue reading “Blue Hawk Square Variance Approved”

One Year With the Big Little Guy

I spent a lot of time working from home last week because, unfortunately, our daycare provider was recovering from a lingering illness. That meant balancing all my newspaper business and this rambunctious little boy named Grant, who turned 1-year-old on Saturday.

Last week showed me how incredible it is that I’ve watched my son age and grow, both physically and intellectually, from birth to his first birthday. It seems like yesterday that we brought that snuggly little 9-pound, 2-ounce baby home from the hospital.

Grant has since transformed into a walking, babbling, wheels-always-turning waddler, and nothing in our home is safe. Especially our dog, Noodle, who’s still coming around to the idea of Grant.

When Grant embraced walking about a month ago, we knew nothing would ever be the same. The baby days were over. The toddler days had begun. Noodle, to his credit, has found that his only real safe space in the house is perched atop furniture or locked in his kennel.

As I worked from my home office in the corner of our basement, I tried desperately to balance watching Grant with assigning stories, checking pages and writing the occasional brief.

What started out as a somewhat clean area — his play zone is supposed to be in the opposite corner of the room — quickly turned into a minefield of toys, stuffed animals and books. There was no use picking them up or sorting them, either. Grant’s mission seems to be to play with every toy in his collection for a short time and then move on to the next.

When he found the 18-gallon plastic tote full of children’s books, his first thought was to remove each, glance at them for a couple seconds and then toss them aside for the next. Much of that pile is still sitting there on the floor as I write this.

His favorite books, appropriately, are from the “Bizzy Bear” series, which only makes sense since he has become an incredibly busy boy. We’re incredibly grateful that he has embraced books and already refuses to accept bedtime without mom and dad reading one of his “Bizzy Bear” books to him.

While Grant has changed, so has our little family. We wake up earlier, we work less, we take more time to eat together and we make sure that family — especially Grant — comes first.

It’s been a crazy but amazing first year as parents for Sarah and I, and like every other parent, we’re still learning on the job each day. But it’s worth it, just to see Grant’s big blue eyes light up and hear him laugh every single day.

Addressing Veterans’ Silent Struggles

Veterans Appreciation Day in Dickinson went beyond the usual patriotic show of respect Saturday as two of its speakers addressed a difficult topic that has proven to be a growing problem nationwide.

Dickinson Mayor Scott Decker and Sandra Horsman, director of the VA Black Hills Health Care System in Sturgis, S.D., each used their platform during the inaugural services at Memorial Park to talk about the growing rate of veteran suicides and mental health issues.

“I assume you’ve seen the statistics of veteran suicides that report 20 heroes are lost a day,” Horsman said. “Even one is too many.”

Decker, a retired U.S. Army veteran who was elected as city commission president in June, said one of his goals is to have a mental health clinic built in Dickinson.

He said better mental health care is needed not only for everyday citizens, but can play a pivotal role in the lives of many military veterans, even if most people don’t realize it.

“We’re working to not only help in the physical treatment, but the mental aspect, which is so important for so many veterans out there so they can get the treatment that is necessary,” Decker said.

On a day when 180 more veterans’ names were added to the Stark County Veterans Memorial, Decker said he’s proud that people have a visual reminder of the sacrifices so many have made.

However, he said there’s often a cost associated with that sacrifice.

“Sometimes we heal the body but we don’t heal the mind,” he said. “And I think that’s important. We are working diligently to get a mental health unit here. We’re trying to work with some state and federal agencies to bring that here so we can truly help the veterans who are not only on that wall, but the future veterans that are coming back from this conflict that has now been going on for a long time.”

Horsman said the Black Hills VA system serves a four-state area that stretches from southwest North Dakota all the way to Scottsbluff, Neb., eastern Wyoming and central South Dakota.

She said because many veterans struggle to reach their clinic, they’ve been providing telehealth services of psychiatrists and psychologists.

“What we’re finding is a lot of the younger veterans are very comfortable with that medium,” she said. “For some, it adds an additional kind of layer of protection for them as they get comfortable talking about some very difficult times in their lives.”

September is designated as Suicide Prevention Month.

Decker said he has actively worked to help stem depression and suicide among veterans since his service days simply by picking up the phone and calling veterans he either served with or knows.

He implored all veterans to do the same.

“I just ask them how they are and then I listen,” Decker said. “Because sometimes people are dealing with demons that nobody else knows about. So it’s important to let them know somebody cares. Some days they may just be sitting by themselves and it’s that phone call that changes them.”

Horsman said veterans who are struggling with depression, substance abuse problems, post-traumatic stress disorder, or any other mental health issue should call Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-TALK.

“This is a struggle that no veteran should have to shoulder alone,” she said. “We need to remind them that help is just a phone call away.”

Reaching out to veterans came come in many ways, too.

Wayne Hutchens, chaplain of the American Legion Matthew Brew Post 3 Riders, said he and his wife — a U.S. Marine Corps veteran — make it a point to thank all veterans they meet for their service. He said they will ask someone if they are a veteran, respectfully ask if they can shake their hand and then thank them.

“To every veteran here who has not heard these words,” Hutchens said, his voice breaking, “from my heart and my respect, welcome home and thank you for serving.”

My Generation’s 9/11 Memories Are the Next Generation’s History

Every one of us has our own 9/11 story. Even those of us who grew up on a farm 1,700 miles away from downtown Manhattan.

I’m 32 years old and haven’t met a person my age who can’t tell you exactly where they were when the World Trade Center was hit.

I was in bed. When my dad woke me up to tell me what happened that morning, the tragic event was in its fledgling moments and most of the world assumed it was some terrible accident.

Minutes later, we all realized it was something so much worse.

I was only a few weeks into my senior year of high school when the towers fell. It was a strange time.

During our seven periods of school that day, we had one actual class. (Apparently, math couldn’t take a backseat to the biggest event of our lifetimes.) We watched TV in every other class and discussed what was happening. The teachers didn’t want to teach. The students didn’t want to learn. We all were content to watch as history unfolded before our eyes.

The guys in our class — as 17- and 18-year-olds — wondered what was next. War? The draft? Did World War III just start? After all, the last time America was attacked like that, World War II started and many of our grandfathers ended up being drafted into military service.

Thankfully, there was no draft. But there was certainly war, and some of the young men and women in our school that morning would go on to serve nobly during the Global War on Terrorism by their own choice. Some are still serving, including one of my best friends.

Every one of them who came back returned unharmed. Sadly, that wasn’t the case for every American family — including some in our area.

This weekend marks the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on our country.

To coincide with the anniversary, Dickinson is hosting its first Veterans Appreciation Day at 11 a.m. today at Memorial Park, the site of the new Stark County Veterans Memorial.

Another 180 names have been placed on the memorial’s 11 granite tablets since it was erected last year. Post-9/11 veterans, active military and their families will the special guests today, and there’ll be a tribute to first responders as well.

Though I’m relatively young, it’s crazy to think that 9/11 happened so long ago that this year’s high school freshman class wasn’t alive for it. That means basically no high school student today can recall 9/11. To them, this is actual history.

That makes my generation’s role in relaying that history so significant. It doesn’t matter if you watched the events unfold live on TV halfway across the country, were in New York City that morning, or went on to fight in the wars. We owe it to the younger generations to tell them about this world-changing event from a personal perspective, and how significantly it changed our society.

They should know about the never-before-seen show of national patriotism and unity in the days, weeks and months following 9/11, and how that unity slowly broke down as the country seemed to split down the middle ideologically with the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

The world has changed so significantly since that day. In some ways better and in many ways worse. However, despite our nation’s persistent troubles — many of which trace back to that fateful Tuesday in September — it’s our duty to honor those who lost their lives that day, or fighting in the battles after it, by telling the story from our personal perspectives.

And, as we all said in the days, weeks and months after 9/11 — we should “Never forget.”