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5 things to know today: ND disaster declaration, Dunbar Hall, Lead exposure, Heat in Hibbing, Pen pals

Ducks fly from a water-covered cornfield Monday, Oct. 21, 2019, south of Mandan, N.D. Tom Stromme / Bismarck Tribune

1. Trump declares disaster in North Dakota

President Donald Trump granted North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum's request for a disaster declaration Tuesday, Jan. 21, following an October snowstorm that caused major flooding throughout the state.

The declaration frees up public funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help North Dakota municipalities and counties repair infrastructure and roads damaged by the fall storm and ensuing floods.

The state estimated $9.7 million in infrastructural damage when Burgum initially requested the presidential declaration in December. Tuesday's declaration covers 16 counties, including Barnes, Eddy, Foster, Grand Forks, Griggs, Kidder, LaMoure, Logan, Mountrail, Nelson, Sargent, Sheridan, Stutsman, Traill, Walsh and Wells.

More from Forum News Service's Jeremy Turley

2. $51M project to replace NDSU's Dunbar hall inches closer


North Dakota State University plans to demolish the Geosciences building as part of the project to replace Dunbar Hall. David Samson / The Forum

North Dakota State University is one step closer to replacing a decades-old science building that authorities say poses a safety hazard to its occupants.

In a unanimous vote, State Board of Higher Education members on the Budget and Finance Committee recommended approving fundraising efforts to replace Dunbar Hall at 1301 Albrecht Boulevard with a $51.2 million science building. If approved by the full board, NDSU would break ground on the project in April or May.

The building could be finished by the summer of 2023.

“It’s a relief, and it is also exciting,” NDSU Facilities Management Director Michael Ellingson said when asked about plans coming together. “It’s one of those projects that has been on the docket for a while.”

NDSU plans to demolish the Geosciences building that sits just north of Dunbar before starting construction on the project. The new 106,000-square-foot science building would be built on the footprint of the Geosciences building and the adjacent parking lot.

Read more from The Forum's April Baumgarten

3. Lead exposure map shows area of concerns in Minnesota


Photo: Tim Mossholder/Unsplash

The Minnesota Department of Health has released an updated lead exposure census tract map showing neighborhoods throughout the state at higher risk of lead exposure.

According to the health department, 91,175 children over the age of 6 received blood lead tests between 2014 and 2018, the latest year for data made available in the update. During this period, 702 children had confirmed elevated blood lead levels equal to or greater than 5 micrograms/dL, and 89 children had an elevated blood lead level equal to or greater than 15 micrograms/dL, which is considered extraordinarily high. There is no safe level of lead in the blood.

An interactive map allows viewers to identify census tracts throughout the state that have higher levels of children exposed to lead. The map color codes regions according to four levels of exposure, below a state average (0.9% of children tested), at the state average, 1-2 times higher than the state average, and more than three times higher.

More from Forum News Service's Paul John Scott

4. Lawmakers take heat in Hibbing over proposed gun bills

Hundreds packed into the Crown Ballroom in Hibbing, Minn., on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020, for a state Senate hearing on a variety of gun bills. Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service

Hundreds of gun owners and a couple of dozen gun control advocates packed the Crown Ballroom on Tuesday, Jan. 21, for a hearing on a slate of contentious firearm and public safety proposals.


It was the first time members of the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee took up the bills. Attendees offered a smattering of insults along with their opinions during the five-hour hearing.

At hand was a range of bills, two of which would beef up background checks for some gun sales and transfers and allow law enforcement to remove firearms if someone poses a danger to himself or others. Two others would allow authorized firearm owners to carry in public without a permit and make justified the use of deadly force, exercised in efforts to defend one's self or others against real or perceived threats.

The debate gave hints as to what might lie ahead for the proposals in the divided Legislature. GOP Senate leaders highlighted their concerns about gun control measures to cheers of support from the audience and delivered testimony on other bills aiming to expand gun rights.

More from Forum News Service's Dana Ferguson

5. WWII soldier finds peace by becoming pen pals with fallen comrade's family

PenpalsTop-Chuck Rustvold
More than 70 years later, Chuck Rustvold still vividly remembers his short time with a fellow soldier who died during World War II. Chris Flynn / The Forum

When you walk into the warm, quaint home Chuck Rustvold shares with his son Jeff, it's obvious this is a man who has lived every second of his 96 years.

Each room is filled with memorabilia — family photos, military medals and even an appreciation plaque or two from his years spent as a popular barber in Fargo.


While he has a little trouble getting around these days and his hearing isn’t what it once was, his mind is still sharp as a tack, especially when he remembers a young soldier he knew for just a couple of days more than 75 years ago — a dead man who has haunted his dreams for decades long after the end of World War II.

More from The Forum's Tracy Briggs

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