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Gateway to Science front view

This rendering illustrates the front of the proposed new Gateway to Science building.

This is Up and Down, where we give a brief thumbs up and thumbs down on the issues from the past week.

Up

North Dakotans got used to seeing the state’s population decline over the years. Then the oil boom prompted population growth and the average age of North Dakotans got younger. The slowdown in the energy sector from 2015 to 2017 put a halt to population growth. Now, the state is enjoying another growth spurt. The U.S. Census Bureau reports the state’s population hit an all-time high of 760,077 residents as of July 1, an increase of 4,901 from last year's revised estimate. North Dakota has been one of the fastest-growing states, nearly 13 percent growth since 2010, but we are the 47th most populous state. While we are a low-population state the growth is encouraging.

Down

There comes a time when a building just gets too old. That appears to be the case with the Barnes County Jail, which is 110 years old. The North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation conducted an unannounced inspection recently and downgraded the facility to Grade III. That means inmates cannot stay longer than four days. Before, with Grade I status, inmates could stay up to a year. State officials found 19 instances of noncompliance with state standards during the inspection. Sheriff Randy McClaflin said state officials want the county to build a new jail. It appears that time has come.

Up

While there have been some hopeful developments in the trade war with China, it continues to be hard on farmers and ranchers. So it was good news last week when it was announced that a second round of aid payments to help make up for price losses will be released. Earlier this fall, the United States Department of Agriculture opened applications for payments to farmers who raised certain crops for half of their production. This second round of payments will cover the remainder of production. The payments could make a big difference for a lot of producers.

Down

If you think you had less money in 2017 you are probably right. The state said last week that reported income by North Dakotans dropped nearly 13 percent in 2017 because of a slump in agriculture and energy prices. Total adjusted gross income for the state slid from $31.2 billion in 2016 to $27.8 billion last year, according to Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger. The energy sector, which went into a slump, has been rebounding and companies are again looking for workers. Hopefully, North Dakota’s income will rise again.

Up

Gateway to Science is getting closer to groundbreaking on a new science center. The Tom and Frances Leach Foundation recently donated $500,000 for the center. The foundation, a private, nonprofit, charitable organization, promotes the public welfare with private resources. Gateway to Science does excellent work and a new science center will be a nice addition to the community.

Down

A lot of work went into getting Savanna’s Act passed in the Senate and now it’s being stalled in the House by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Savanna's Act is intended to improve tribal access to federal crime databases, create protocols for responding to missing Native Americans and establish an annual report to Congress. It is named for Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, who was abducted and murdered in Fargo last year. Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., says he’s working to move the bill forward. The Senate unanimously approved it and the House needs to vote on it before the session ends. It would be a shame if supporters had to start over.

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