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William Verdi is a student in Rachel Johnson’s second grade class at Breckenridge Elementary


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4 Things To Know Today

1. Today in History: In 1923, brothers Walt and Roy Disney founded Walt Disney Productions (now known as The Walt Disney Company) in Los Angeles.

2. Today’s Birthdays: Angela Lansbury (1925-), actress; Gunter Grass (1927-2015), author; Suzanne Somers (1946-), actress; Bob Weir (1947-), musician; Tim Robbins (1958-), actor; John Mayer (1977-), singer-songwriter; Bryce Harper (1992-), baseball player.

3. Vaping illness: The North Dakota Department of Health has confirmed three more vaping illnesses during the past week in northeastern North Dakota.

4. Should phone companies block robocalls? Minn. Rep. Zack Stephenson, D-Coon Rapids, has drafted legislation intended to require phone companies to block robocalls at no price to customers and offer legal help for Minnesotans scammed as a result of robocalls. Residents in the state have received more than 387 million robocalls so far this year, the Minnesota Department of Commerce reports. That’s about 58 calls per person.


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‘It’s destroyed … It’s not even livable.’
Berseth criticizes Diversion Authority’s ‘move on’ comments

With a 5-0 vote, the Richland County Board of Commissioners approved placing a minimum bid amount of $500 for a Dwight, North Dakota, property up for auction in November.

Richland County owns 114 Cady St., Dwight, a tax delinquent property. Dwight Mayor Leo Griffin and Councilman Andrew Rowland spoke at the commissioners’ Tuesday, Oct. 15 meeting, saying the city would like to purchase the property.

A condemned house currently stands at 114 Cady St. There is little to no chance of its previous owner buying back the property, Richland County Auditor Leslie Hage said.

“It’s destroyed,” Griffin added. “We’ve got a house that’s dilapidated and needs to be torn down. It’s not even livable.”

The commissioners placed the $500 minimum bid because they’re expecting whomever purchases 114 Cady St. will likely follow up by paying for the condemned house’s demolition. Richland County is unable to sell the property to the city of Dwight for $1 because there are no special assessments on it.

An auction of tax delinquent property including 114 Cady St., Dwight, is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 19. It will be held in the auditor’s office, Richland County Courthouse.

Following the meeting, Commissioner Nathan Berseth responded to the latest Fargo-Moorhead Diversion news.

On Friday, Oct. 11, the Diversion Authority announced Administrative Law Judge Ann O’Reilly, St. Paul, has narrowed the scope of challenges made by the Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority.

“The Plan A Project is not the subject of this hearing and its denial does not dictate the fate of the Plan B Project,” O’Reilly said. “Put simply, this proceeding will not be used to litigate issues related to the Plan A Project, nor to compare or contrast the two projects.”

Since 2012, the joint powers authority has been in litigation against the diversion project. Its cost estimate as of August ranged from $2.8 billion to more than $3.1 billion.

Diversion Authority Board Chair Mary Scherling said those opposed to flood protection are wasting time and money by debating an idea that no longer exists.

“It’s time to put aside old grudges and tired arguments and provide for the safety of our citizens and regional economy they deserve,” Scherling said.

Berseth, a JPA member, criticized the Diversion Authority’s comments.

“They’re ignoring the facts. They can continue to say ‘move on,’ but there’s a lawsuit that’s pending and lack of funds. Now they’re looking at a low interest loan. Last I heard, loans don’t save money. You’ve still got to pay them back.”

The bottom line, Berseth said, is that the Diversion Authority could be doing everything for nothing.

The commissioners’ next meeting is scheduled for 8 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 5 at the Richland County Courthouse, 418 Second Ave. N. in Wahpeton.


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Wilkin County Board acts on opioid crisis

Editor's Note: This story has been corrected, as therapy animals will not be allowed in county buildings effective Jan. 1, 2020, only K9s and service animals.

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The Wilkin County Board of Commissioners met Tuesday, Oct. 15, and decided to participate in joining statewide opioid litigation.

Wilkin County will be the twenty-fourth county in Minnesota to join in this opioid litigation. The next steps will be for the county to retain legal counsel and file a complaint. There will also need to be a plaintiff fact sheet submitted to the court to determine the validity of the claim.

Curtis Olafson, consultant and former North Dakota state senator, has been responsible for interacting with and answering questions for the Wilkin County Board of Commissioners concerning the opioid litigation. Olafson presented to the board last month.

“It has been very common as we’ve interacted with counties in North Dakota, Minnesota and in other states that county commissioners believe they don’t have to take any action and they will just let their state attorney general handle the issues and based on my six years of experience in the North Dakota state legislature, I would caution county commissioners not to believe that money is going to flow down to them freely,” Olafson said. “The best way to position themselves in the most favorable place possible is to take action on their own and not rely on money to flow down to them from the state.”

“From a prudential perspective and from a fiscal perspective, the county is best suited on being in on this litigation at this time,” Wilkin County Attorney Carl Thunem said.

“If any county, whether its Wilkin County or any other county in the country, if they want to put themselves in the most advantageous position for the most favorable settlement possible to recoup the damages that they have incurred in their county, the very best way to position themselves for the maximum settlement is to join and file their own litigation,” Olafson said.

Claims from city, county or state cannot be decided with a one size fits all settlement. Consequently, an algorithm has been designed in which each entity will provide their statistics for this algorithm to determine the total settlement.

Such statistics include population, crime rates, opioid deaths, drug addictions, and other measurements. Thus, settlements of each particular entity are determined by their independent statistics.

Johnathan Novak, attorney at Fears Nachawati, said the lawsuit is a multi-district litigation (MDL) in which every entity that he and his team represent, whether that be a city, county, or state, for example, Wilkin County, will file their claim individually. All of these claims will be brought together in an MDL overseen by a judge in Ohio.

“The judge has created a negotiation class that would allow for every county and city participating in the MDL to work together to basically have approval of what settlement looks like,” Novak said.

“What we have brought, for every client that we represent, whether they are already active in the litigation or if they haven’t yet gotten into the litigation, what we are saying is, by participating in the settlement and by working with attorneys who are part of the litigation, the county actually opens itself up to a larger pool of available funds should the settlement happen,” Novak said.

The litigation will be held by a consortium of three large law firms: Motley Rice, Ferrer Poirot Wansbrough, and Fears Nachawati. These firms have attorneys and other support staff well-versed in the opioid litigation and mass tort litigation. The defendants in this suit are categorized into three groups.

The first group are manufacturers of opioids. Generally speaking, they are the ones who marketed the drugs and the allegations are that these manufacturers marketed the drugs with false claims of safety and low-addiction of use.

The second group are the distributors. They purchase the drug from the manufacturer and sell it to pharmacies. Under the Controlled Substance Act (CSA), manufacturers cannot sell directly to a pharmacy. Consequently, distributors act as a middle man and have an obligation to maintain a watchful eye of suspicious orders and to report to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and state officials.

The third group of defendants are pharmacies. Pharmacies have an obligation under the law not to fill a prescription unless they can confirm it is a valid prescription for a valid medical purpose.

In other news, the board has approved a policy change for allowing animals in Wilkin County Buildings. As of January 1, 2020, K-9’s and service animals will be the only animals allowed in county buildings.


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Sugarbeet on a spork?
Committee recommends allocation for sculpture garden

With a 3-0 vote, the Wahpeton Finance, Personnel and Economic Development Committee is recommending the allocation of $5,000 for the Chahinkapa Park Sculpture Garden.

Three mini-sculptures depicting trees will be placed on existing pedestals, Wahpeton Parks and Recreation Director Wayne Beyer said Monday, Oct. 14. The project is tied in with “Village of Falling Leaves,” Wahpeton’s Native American name.

“We’d like to commission a welding artist from Battle Lake (Minnesota) who can create mini-sculptures of trees and have those at the northern entrance of the park,” Beyer said.

Each of the three mini-sculptures will cost approximately $500. Funding for the full garden project will come from Wahpeton’s 1 percent restaurant tax.

“We are also pursuing larger sculptures, including a much larger tree-themed sculpture, a ‘Heart of Wahpeton’ and a prairie rose by local artists,” Beyer said. “We may likely use funds from this request, if approved, with another request in 2020 for a larger, more costly sculpture.”

A prairie rose is appealing, Beyer said, both because it would add color to the garden and honor North Dakota’s state flower. As for the larger sculpture, Beyer hopes for an eye-catcher, something to fit in with Wahpeton’s other works of art.

“We’d like to have that kind of cherry on a spoon sculpture like in Minneapolis’ s sculpture park, but something that would be really unique down there,” he said.

The sculpture garden is receiving additional lighting and may also have security cameras installed. It’s being done to enhance and protect what supporters call a growing cultural area.

“Public art is one of the things that brings people to town. I think it’s really important as we look forward and try to do unique things. A lot of people can say they have parks and recreation areas, but you have to do some special things to pull people off the highway and from people around here,” Beyer said.

Community activist Roger Jensen, a longtime organizer and supporter of the garden and the arts, showed Daily News around the property. It includes space on the eastern side for a larger sculpture.

“Wayne says we’re not in the same category as the bean in Chicago or the spoon and cherry in Minneapolis, but we can have something that people can see and say, ‘Oh, that’s in Wahpeton,’ something that’s distinctly us. That’s still open for interpretation,” Jensen said.

Jensen would like to see Wahpeton’s artistic growth continue, from Main Street on up.

“‘A to Z, Art to the Zoo,’” he said. “People taking the walking path would see the sculptures along the way. It’s shaping up pretty nice.”

In September 2018, the Wahpeton City Council unanimously approved allocating up to $5,000 for the sculpture garden to acquire art.

Finance Director Darcie Huwe informed the committee that the 1 percent restaurant tax fund includes an allocation of $5,000 for public art. As of Sept. 30, only $33.31 of this year’s allocation has been spent.

“This fund is performing well. It’s benchmarking its budget well. A $5,000 commitment would be no problem,” Huwe said.

The committee meeting was the first since 2nd Ward Councilwoman Renelle Bertsch’s resignation. Bertsch’s involvement in local culture includes work with the Red Door Art Gallery.

Gallery Director Noah Dobmeier is scheduled to present at the North Dakota Main Street Summit, held Tuesday, Oct. 29-Thursday, Oct. 31 in Bismarck. Dobmeier will discuss the gallery’s impact on downtown Wahpeton.

“City council should be proud of that, because you did help support that project,” Beyer said.

The next council meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Monday, Oct. 21 at City Hall, 1900 Fourth St. N. in Wahpeton.


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Fire Prevention Week
Breckenridge Fire Department hosts field trips

Breckenridge Fire Department hosted Breckenridge elementary students on Tuesday, Oct. 15 to discuss fire safety, firefighting equipment, and answer any questions.

Elementary students walked into Breckenridge’s north side fire hall in awe of the firefighters, fire trucks and Smokey the Dog.

Andy Blaufuss, a member of the volunteer fire department, showed the students the importance of the firefighter’s face mask, helmet, fire-proof gloves, jacket, pants and boots. Blaufuss showed the students his tags on the back of his helmet which helps other firefighters know where others are.

Tyler Slettedahl, another member of the fire department, explained to the students the importance of their airpacks. Blaufuss and Slettedahl explained the importance of the beepers on the airpacks.

If the beeper doesn’t sense movement from 15 to 20 seconds, a noise will go off and a light will blink so that firefighters can find a lost firefighter. Additionally, the department has a thermal-imaging camera to show when objects are warm or cold.

Many of the students responded with “oooh” and “that’s so cool!”

When it came time to teach the students how to Stop, Drop, and Roll, Slettedahl and Blaufuss invited Smokey the Dog to assist in the demonstration.

After the students were shown the firefighter’s equipment and Smokey’s demonstration, Slettedahl gave a tour around the fire hall. They were able to see the rescue boat, several fire trucks, tools the firefighters use during emergencies, hoses and water-pumpers.

The fire department is observing Fire Prevention Week by hosting field trips to the younger students in Breckenridge at the fire hall. They had nine classes visit Monday, Oct 14, six classes on Tuesday, Oct. 15 and will continue to have more students visit Wednesday, Oct. 16.

The fire department held a drawing during fire prevention week where people on their Facebook page were able to enter by posting a Fireman GIF to win a fire safety kit. Sarah Geray was the winner.