Center Republican

It was a clear, cold day in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 2009. The crowd estimated at nearly 2 million began building two days before. An aura of excitement spread through the steadily congesting streets. Change was coming. History was in the making, and Randy Bittner, an 18-year-old teen from rural North Dakota was there.

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At their first meeting of the new year on Jan. 19, Center-Stanton High School board members confronted a number of tough issues. This winter's nasty weather is related to many of the problems they faced. The first issue concerned a group of music students that traveled to Bismarck Jan. 12 for State music auditions with permission from parents. School had been cancelled that day, but a parent and the music director, Lacey Hanson, decided to take five students to the event. Another parent drove separately and one student who lives in Bismarck also went to the auditions. The weather had steadily improved throughout the day.

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A Jan. 11 explosion at the BNI coal mine near Center caused injury to an employee, sending him to a Bismarck hospital where he remains hospitalized. The injured man is Trent Sack, 35, Center, an oiler on the 757 dragline "Big Jake."

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Brad Meckle was just going to get some grain for his son's 4-H project at his family's farmstead seven miles north of Center on Jan. 14. Then he decided to walk to the Quonset. When he opened the door, he was amazed to see his 7410 John Deere tractor on fire. Meckle tried to get at the fire extinguisher in the tractor, but the smoke and heat was too intense. He used the next best thing he could find to put it out, snow. Meckle called the Oliver County Fire Department in Center as soon as he could.

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The first Oliver County Commission meeting of 2009 came in with enough business to match the winter's record snowfall. Commissioners decided to close two miles of section line to public access at their monthly meeting Jan. 8. The line runs west of the Van Oosting Dam in the northeastern part of the county. It can no longer be driven on as a continuous trail.

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Oliver Soil Conservation District Chairman LeAnn Harner presented Craig and Rebecca Lahren the Oliver Soil Conservation Achievement Award for 2008 at the district's Annual Awards Banquet in December. The North Dakota Association of Soil Conservation also honored the Lahrens with a picture of their farm in November. It will be displayed at the North Dakota State Fair along with other county winners.

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Mel Zent, representing Dakota West Inspection Services in Dickinson, appeared before the Center City Council Monday night to ask what they want to do next concerning condemning vacant houses. The Center Housing Authority hired him last spring to inspect structures that were in disrepair. "We put a lot of work into this project up to now. Our ducks are all in a row," Zent said. He checked 13 properties using the International Property Maintenance Code of 2006 which the council adopted last month as his guide. One of the buildings has been torn down, two have been worked on, and one is under new ownership.

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With more than 30 inches of snowfall so far this winter, the Center City Council is wondering what to do with all that snow. At their monthly meeting Jan. 5, council members discussed the obstinate problem of snow removal. Streets are becoming clogged because city workers are not able to push the snow to the curbs so some vehicle owners are parking farther out into the street.

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"I love it when a plan comes together." George Peppard, playing his role of Hannibal Smith, often recited that line in the 1980s TV show "The A-Team" just as an elaborate plan to catch a bad guy unfolded. The revision of the Oliver County Comprehensive Plan has now "come together." At a meeting Dec. 18, the Oliver County Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved the new plan, ending a process they began Oct. 30 and continued through December.

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It's the last thing anyone wants to do, call an ambulance. But if you have to, you want it there fast and you want it to get to the hospital fast, and safely. This is assured with the acquisition of a new ambulance by the Oliver County Ambulance Squad arriving earlier than originally scheduled. Coming from Wheeled Coach, a company in Florida, the new 2009 Chevy 4500 arrived in Center Nov. 29. It is a Type III, meaning it has a box shape rather than a van configuration.

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