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5 things to know today: Pandemic relief, Inmate labor, Diversion dispute, West Fest, Bison football

042719.N.FNS.ENDSESSION2 John Hageman photo
North Dakota Republican Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, right, listens while Gov. Doug Burgum speaks during a bill-signing ceremony at the state Capitol on April 26, 2019. Forum News Service file photo

1. North Dakota commission OKs almost $320M in federal funds for pandemic relief

The North Dakota Emergency Commission voted on Monday, Aug. 3, to send out nearly $320 million in federal funds to state agencies, institutions of higher education and local governments for pandemic-related relief.

The Legislature's Budget Section will get an up-or-down vote on the distribution of funds at its meeting next week.

The meeting Monday marks the third time the commission has convened to carve up the $1.25 billion received by the state through a massive federal aid package known as the CARES Act. The state had previously approved the distribution of about $930 million, but up to $100 million of unspent funds could come back before the commission at its September meeting.

Read more from Forum News Service's Jeremy Turley

2. Jamestown inmates on track to make 100,000 masks by month's end


Jamestown inmate masks
About 50 James River Correctional Center inmates have been making masks since the end of March and are on track to make 100,000 masks by the end of August. Submitted photo

As a former operator of heavy equipment in the Oil Patch, James River Correctional Center inmate Lance Foreman never thought he would learn to sew.

In an effort to meet the demand for masks during the coronavirus pandemic, Foreman spends 12 hours nearly everyday sewing masks and other necessities for those in need.

"It's very enjoyable and very relaxing," he said. "If I can prove myself here, I should be able to prove myself any place."

Inmates like Foreman are employed through Rough Rider Industries, a division of the state's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation that employs inmates on good behavior for skill-building jobs such as furniture-making and metal work. The inmates are paid anywhere from 49 cents to $1.67 an hour, Rough Rider Director Rick Gardner said.

Read more from Forum News Service's Michelle Griffith

3. Landowners say agents 'not negotiating' on land prices for FM Diversion

Ray Kvalvog stands near the property the Cass County Joint Water Resource District wants to acquire the land for the diversion project's Red River control structure. David Samson / The Forum


Ray Kvalvog bought land by the Red River near Oxbow that he and a business partner planned to develop into a housing subdivision called South Bend.

They had preliminary plat work done in 2006, but the project has been on hold since the 2009 flood.

The Army Corps of Engineers, however, has other plans for the property — it’s the site of the planned Red River control structure, a key component of the $2.75 billion metro diversion project.

Kvalvog, who says he isn’t against the diversion, hasn’t been able to reach agreement over the value of the land — a grievance he brought Monday, Aug. 3, to the Cass County Commission, which heard from a handful of owners who have not reached agreement to grant rights-of-way to their land.

Read more from The Forum's Patrick Springer

4. West Fargo's annual West Fest to move forward, but parade is canceled

The drum corps of the two West Fargo high schools face off in a friendly competition before the West Fest parade Saturday, Sept. 21, on Sheyenne Street. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

West Fargo's annual city celebration, West Fest, will still happen but not with the annual marquee West Fest parade and street dance.

The West Fargo City Commission voted unanimously Monday, Aug. 3, to go ahead with West Fest but to cancel the annual parade, street dance and family fun event in September due to the coronavirus pandemic.


The West Fest Parade is regarded as one of the largest parades in North Dakota each year with about 150 entries and thousands of people lining the streets near Sheyenne Street, where more than 10,000 generally gather for the major route.

Communications Director Melissa Richard said Monday the commission voted at its last meeting to allow the nonprofit West Fargo Events to coordinate large events such as West Fest and Cruise Nights in the future.

Read more from The Forum's Wendy Reuer

5. Fargodome, NDSU close to finalizing plan on what Bison football games will look like this fall

North Dakota State's Michael Tutsie returns an interception against Montana State in last year's FCS semifinals before a packed Fargodome. The number of fans may look different this year. David Samson / The Forum

With football at North Dakota State moving forward — practice starts this Friday — the Fargodome is putting together a safety plan to address the COVID-19 pandemic and all the potential restrictions that could go with it.

A committee consisting of a combination of NDSU athletics and the city appear to be closing in on what a Bison game could look like this fall. Fargo Cass Public Health will also be part of the final revision.

“We have most of the framework done,” said Fargodome general manager Rob Sobolik.


The plan will encompass other events like a couple of scheduled trade shows and North Dakota high school state tournaments, if they are held.

The North Dakota Department of Health last Friday released the “Novel Coronavirus Recommendations for Sports,” which is a four-page document to address athletic events and the COVID-19 pandemic. With North Dakota in a “green phase” of the North Dakota Smart Restart plan, facilities can allow occupancy of up to 75% of their capacity, according to the document.

Read more from The Forum's Jeff Kolpack

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