Veterans Pavilion Planning Moving Quickly

The Stark County Veterans Pavilion project is closing in on detailed financial planning, Dickinson Parks and Recreation Director James Kramer said Monday at a Park Board meeting.

The $600,000 addition to Memorial Park is quickly moving forward, as that money has either been pledged to the project by the city, the park board, the county and the Stark County Veterans Memorial Association.

And the sooner, the better, they say.

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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.”

Column: Things Are Turning Around at Dickinson State

Things appear to be turning a corner at Dickinson State University.

After five years of enrollment and foundation scandals, questionable accreditation, shrinking enrollment and an overall lack of trust in the university, it seems that better days aren’t just on the horizon, they’re here. While we won’t know official enrollment numbers for a while, they appear — at least on the surface — to be either steady or up. Students are happy to be back at the university, and the community is happy to have them back.

The oil boom is in the past and Dickinson is beginning to look more and more like the college town of year’s past.

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First International Bank Takes Ownership of Hawks Point

Kelly Peterson assured residents of Hawks Point on Tuesday that “the cloud is off” the assisted living facility on Dickinson State University’s campus as First International Bank and Trust officially took ownership of the property.

Peterson, the bank’s president of the western North Dakota region, told around 50 residents and staff that its foreclosure on the property closed at midnight Tuesday, ending a 60-day redemption period without payment from past ownership group Dickinson Investments LLC.

“There’s no more foreclosure. There’s no more worries about judgements or liens. There’s no more worry about getting kicked out,” he said. “The bank is taking care of it and going to continue to take care of it.”

Peterson assured residents that rents will not increase and that most of Hawks Point’s management in staying in place — save for one person, Jim Ozbun, who’s stepping down as Hawks Point’s interim executive director.

The bank will take over executive management of the facility as it begins searching for a full-time executive director. Day-to-day operations will stay in the hands of current managers and directors.

“I hope to be able to step down as of the first of September and go back into retirement,” said Ozbun, who lives in one of Hawks Point’s cottages.

Ozbun, who was the interim president at DSU before taking over at Hawks Point, has been a key player at DSU as it continues to recover from its foundation being forced into receivership by North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem in October 2014.

Though Dickinson Investments owned and operated Hawks Point, all its loans were guaranteed by the DSU Foundation. In September 2015, Stenehjem called for the foundation to be dissolved, calling it insolvent.

First International holds nearly $5 million in debt on Hawks Point and secured its second mortgage position in late June during a sheriff’s sale of the facility. The bank submitted a winning bid of $4.5 million and was credited up to the amount it held in debt.

Dacotah Bank, the initial lender to the property, is the holder of the first mortgage position and is owed around $11 million. First International CEO Steve Stenehjem told The Press in June that the bank wants to sell Hawks Point “free and clear” of any liens, and said it didn’t have a timetable set for the acquisition of Dacotah Bank’s mortgage.

Peterson said Tuesday that First International has received no offers to buy Hawks Point but it’s going to listen to anyone who comes forward, as the bank has no long-term intentions of owning the facility.

“We have been contacted by a couple of groups, but at this point, I think they’re just being nosy and trying to figure out what’s going on,” Peterson said.

Peterson said the bank also wants DSU to continue its affiliation with Hawks Point by holding classes at the facility and having its students continue to work there.

Jenn Quigley, the environmental services director at Hawks Point, said the atmosphere at the assisted living facility was positive Tuesday and that there was a “sigh of relief” among residents “that this chapter of Hawks Point is over.”

“I’m personally pretty excited about it,” she said. “We’ve had some bigger meetings like this, where we’ve been able to address things.”

DSU and Roughrider Commission Working to Keep Fourth Fireworks Display Campus

Despite many Roughrider Days events moving to the new Stark County Fairgrounds south of Dickinson next summer, Fatty Heinz wanted to make sure the Fourth of July fireworks display remained in town.

So did Dickinson State University President Tom Mitzel.

For the past few weeks, DSU and the Roughrider Commission have been working at finding a way to keep the display on the university’s campus.

The fireworks have long been set off at the rodeo grounds. But that’s no longer possible with the rodeo moving to the new fairgrounds and the former arena transitioning to the site of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library.

“We wanted to keep it centrally located, in the town,” said Heinz, the Roughrider Commission’s fireworks committee chair. “It’s more easier for people.”

Heinz said the Roughrider Commission is required by law to be about 420 feet away from the nearest building when shooting their fireworks.

He said it’s likely the fireworks committee will set up on the DSU football practice field next Fourth of July, as it’s the most open place on campus and would keep the display relatively close to where people are used to watch it at.

“I’m pumped up about Dr. Mitzel helping us keep the fireworks in town,” Heinz said in a press release. “I cannot express how good this is for the city of Dickinson. We’re very thankful to have had such a great working relationship with DSU and we hope that continues.”

Mitzel added that DSU is “more than excited to continue our partnership” with the Roughrider Commission.

Heinz, who is also the chair of the Roughrider Commission’s carnival committee, said a location for the carnival is still being discussed and could have a location soon. The carnival has also most recently been held near the old rodeo arena.

Heinz said he’s like for the carnival to remain on DSU’s campus as well, since he understands most carnival-goers would rather stay in town then drive to the fairgrounds. However, he said the Roughrider Days concert will move to the new arena and grandstands at the fairgrounds.