Top 10 stories of 2013
Dog attack leads to arrest of Warsaw man
A vicious dog attack Sunday, July 7 led to a tense standoff with law enforcement the followed day at the rural Warsaw home of 59-year-old Peter John Grzeskowiak.
Nineteen year-old John Munoz was walking along Walsh County Road 15 about a mile and a half east of Warsaw when he was attacked by a pack of eight or nine dogs. Munoz identified one of the dogs as a pit bull terrier and another as a Rottweiler.
Munoz was dragged into the ditch by the pack of dogs and suffered several bites and scratches. Somehow he managed to free himself from the dogs and walked to a farm a half mile down the road and called for help. Munoz was taken to Altru Hospital in Grand Forks where he was hospitalized due to his injuries.
The next day Walsh County Sheriff’s deputies obtained a search warrant and returned to the Grzeskowiak farm to search for the dogs involved in the attack.
A total of 12 dogs were euthanized by a veterinarian. Grzeskowiak stabbed another in the throat with a large kitchen knife and became uncooperative with law enforcement. He locked a large Rottweiler in the house and began yelling at the officers. At that point he was arrested and removed from the scene, charged with obstruction of a government function. Deputies returned the next day and shot the one remaining dog that Grzeskowiak had locked in a room.
In addition to the obstruction charge, Grzeskowiak was also charged with two counts of mistreating animals, both Class A misdemeanors.
sentenced to pen
Former Grafton stockbroker Ross O. Haugen was sentenced to two years in the North Dakota State Penitentiary March 13, bringing and end to litigation that began nearly three years earlier when Haugen was arrested and charged with 52 Class B felonies including theft and fraud.
All but seven of those counts had been dropped or settled since 2010. In January, Haugen pled guilty to seven Class B felony counts of selling securities in North Dakota without a license.
At a pre-trial conference in January, Haugen changed his pleas from not guilty to guilty. At that time, Walsh County State’s Attorney Barbara Whelan said that if Haugen came up with the more than $2 million in restitution owed to seven Walsh County residents, she would recommend that Haugen serve no jail time and remain on supervised probation with the stipulation that he not be allowed to be involved in any financial or securities transaction.
Haugen did not meet the deadline for restitution and was sentenced to serve two years in the state penetentiary followed by nine years of supervised probation.
Miller disappearance and search
A saga that had played out for more than four months came to a conclusion on Sept. 7, when the body of Gregory Guy Miller was discovered in the Forest River about three river miles from where he first disappeared.
On April 29, Miller was traveling east on a gravel road approximately two miles southwest of Minto. He attempted to drive through water that was flowing over the road when his pickup was swept away in the floodwaters.
In the four months that followed, several searches were conducted by the Minto and Oslo fire departments, the Walsh County Sheriff’s Department, Border Patrol and North Dakota Highway Patrol. In addition several volunteers including friends and family joined in the search on several occasions.
On June 25, approximately 130 volunteers searched several miles of river without finding a trace.
The discovery of Miller’s body came just three days after a memorial service was held for him at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Minto.
A Mass of Christian Burial service was held for Miller on Sept. 11.
Folks in Walsh and Pembina counties saw their share of flooding this past spring. Residents of Grafton saw two crests that made the top five list for the all-time highest crests on the Park River in Grafton.
Heavy late winter and early spring snowfall and the resulting snowpack combined with a quick spike in temperatures led to a fast melt and rapid runoff into area streams and rivers.
The Forest River in Minto hit a crest of 8.2 feet on April 30 and the Park River in Grafton reached a crest of 16.1 feet on May 1- four tenths of a foot below the flood of record.
In both Minto and Grafton protective sandbags and temporary dikes went up just in time to avoid any major damage.
Flood water made a return just over two weeks later after heavy rains soaked the region May 17-21. Grafton alone recorded 3.5 inches of rainfall and an average of 5.5 inches fell over the Park River basin which covers portions of Walsh, Pembina and Cavalier counties. School was called off and residents evacuated the town of Crystal as Cart Creek went over its banks. Renwick Dam, west of Cavalier came close to failing prompting more evacuations. Governor Jack Dalrymple came to the region May 21 to see the flood damage in Cavalier, Crystal and Grafton. The Park River in Grafton crested for a second time at 16.2 feet on May 23.
Grafton voters pave
way for school
On Thursday, Oct. 3, residents of Grafton turned out in droves and approved a bond referendum to help fund the project for a new middle school and renovation of Grafton’s current high school, Century Elementary and North Valley Career and Technology Center.
The referendum allowed the Grafton School District to sell bonds in the amount of $14 million more than three-fourths of the total $19 million project.
Polls were open in Grafton from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and 800 residents showed up to cast their votes. Another 68 votes were cast by absentee ballot. The final tally was 688 in favor and 177 against.
A second question to allow the school district to increase its debt limit by 5 percent on the assessed value of the taxable property of the school district beyond the 5 percent limit of indebtedness affixed by the constitution passed by a margin of 635 to 229.
As of Oct. 1, several home and business owners in Grafton found out that their flood insurance rates are going up drastically.
The premium hikes are due to the passage of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012. For those who live in the 100-year floodplain, and that includes most of Grafton, rates are going up drastically. For those who purchased a home or business before July 1, 2012, premium rates are going up 25 percent per year for the next four years. For those who purchased a home after July 1, 2012, rates are going up by more than 400 percent.
Because the rate hikes could potentially be devistating to Grafton’s housing market and economy, the city is moving ahead with plans for construction of a diversion to take the city out of the 100-year floodplain.
Senator John Hoeven came to Grafton on Dec. 5 for a roundtable discussion with business and community leaders to discuss solutions to the problems.
Hoeven told the crowd that FEMA was supposed to conduct an affordability study before raising rates. He told the crowd that he introduced legislation that would mandate the study and thereby create a delay of about four years before rates would rise.
Other options discussed included obtaining a waiver provision passed that would allow homeowners to “opt out” of paying federal flood insurance and making Grafton’s dike system permanent instead of temporary. That would require the city to get the Army Corps of Engineers to certify Grafton’s Dike system.
Water weary residents of Grafton and Walsh County were dealt another blow when torrential rains struck for the second time in a little more than a week.
On Thursday, May 30, Grafton and the surrounding area received approximately 1.5 inches of rain. The next day, the area was hit again by heavy thunderstorms and another 3.5 inches fell in a three-hour span, prompting a flood warning to be issued for the county. The thunderstorm cell also spawned a tornado that was sighted two miles east of Grafton.
Because the ground was already saturated, the additional rains caused severe street flooding and a high percentage of residents in Grafton reported flooded basements as well as sewer backups.
The Park River at Grafton crested at 13.25 feet on June 2. It was the third crest in a month. High water levels forced officials to keep the temporary dike closing off west Fifth street in Grafton up until the second week of June.
Late planting affects
Late snows in April and rain events in May and early June translated to late planting dates for farmers throughout Walsh County.
On May 13, less than 10 percent of spring wheat, corn and sugar beets had been planted in Walsh County. That was way behind the statewide averages of 53 percent for wheat, 18 percent for corn and 42 percent for sugar beets.
In 2012 spring planting began as early as April 10, and most planting had been completed by mid-May, putting farmers a good month behind the previous year.
Planting woes continued throughout the spring and some farmers were still planting crops beyond the third week of June.
Late planting translated into late harvest dates as well, running a good 3-4 weeks behind 2012.
Crop quality varied throughout the county. A six-week-long hot, dry spell destroyed or reduced yields in several crops including soybeans, dry edible beans and spring wheat. Areas that managed to get timely rains saw average to good yields. The hardest hit areas were generally in western parts of Walsh County.
As of mid-November corn was still being combined throughout the county and approximately 20 percent was left standing because of high moisture content. High moisture crops also caused a shortage in propane during the late fall season. On Dec. 18, Gov. Jack Dalrymple declared a natural disaster for all crops in the state, making it easier for producers to get aid.
Approximately 25 percent of acres in Walsh County wasn’t planted with a cash crop in 2013.
Park River chicken issue put on ballot
More than a few feathers were ruffled at the regular December meeting of the Park River City Council.
At issue was whether or not to uphold or change an ordinance that bans livestock from the city limits, that list includes chickens.
On Nov. 13, Park River resident Teresa Gire was visited by Walsh County Sheriff’s deputies who informed her that the four hens she’s been keeping in her backyard were in violation of the law.
A special meeting of the city council was held Nov. 20 regarding the issue and by a 3-2 vote, the council decided to uphold the ordinance.
The matter was revisited at the regular December meeting of the council and Gire was told she could keep her birds until a decision was made.
Approximately 50 residents attended the meeting Dec. 11, and all were invited to speak their mind on the matter.
After lengthy discussion councilman Bob Lundquist made a motion to bring the matter to the vote of Park River residents during the citywide elections in June. The board also decided to have the Park River City Planning and Zoning Commission draft an ordinance that would allow the raising of chickens in some form so that there will be two ordinances to choose from on the June ballot. Gire and other residents that are currently raising chickens will be able to do so until the matter is decided by the vote of the people.
Nearly five months after their attempt, residents of the City of Minto were notified that they were successful in their attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the largest pot of chili con carne.
On June 19, an army of volunteers supervised by head chili chef Chris Misialek, cooked up a record 2,420 pounds of chili, shattering the previous record of 1,438 pounds prepared in a single vessel set by the Keystone Aquatic Club in Harrisburg, Penn., in June 2003.
As part of the record, the batch of chili was required to be cooked in one pot. The pot used for Minto’s record attempt was constructed from a milk storage tank and modified to hold more than 300 gallons. J.R. Riski, his son Jack, Albert Haugen, owner of JR’s Welding in Minto and Allen Gerszewski were the chief engineers of the chili pot.
At 3:30 a.m., the chili pot was weighed in at the Minto Elevator and shortly after that volunteers began adding ingredients to the pot.
The recipe included more than 250 pounds of onions and green peppers, 700 pounds of ground beef, 500 pounds of kidney beans and 70 pounds of spices.
Approximately 3,000 people from more than 30 states showed up in Minto on June 19 to consume the chili during a citywide celebration.
Several forms of documentation including a video tape of the whole process, affidavits from official witnesses and photographs from the Walsh County Record were sent to Guinness officials in London, England by co-organizer Rick Mahar.
Official word that Minto had set the record arrived via e-mail on Nov. 4 and the official announcement was shared at a benefit chili cookoff at the Minto Community Center on Nov. 7.