This is Up and Down, where we give a brief thumbs up or thumbs down on the issues from the past week.
The Department of Interior has approved a plan to conduct specialized training at Camp Grafton in North Dakota for Bureau of Indian Affairs law officers, Sen. John Hoeven announced last week. The training will be at the North Dakota National Guard facility at Devils Lake and is funded with $2.5 million. The idea was discussed during a March 2019 field hearing at United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck where state and federal officials urged the BIA to provide more resources for tribal law enforcement and a local training facility to better recruit officers. The central training facility for BIA law enforcement is in New Mexico, and the Great Plains region accounts for nearly two-thirds of the BIA law enforcement vacancies, Hoeven said. Mark Fox, chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, said he hopes the North Dakota training facility will help address shortages of law enforcement officers on reservations. But low pay is another roadblock to recruitment, Fox said. The training is expected to begin in the fall.
The downturn in the oil patch is hindering western North Dakota communities’ efforts to participate in the 2020 census. The 2010 census didn’t capture the huge growth the Bakken saw in the past decade and local officials hoped to get high participation in 2020. But the oil crash and the layoffs that followed occurred at a bad time for census participation. In addition, many community events were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, reducing opportunities for promoting the census to the public.
The University of Mary unveiled its new School of Engineering building last week, part of the university’s “Vision 2030” campaign to upgrade facilities. The building is a former cafeteria that was remodeled into nearly 20,000 square feet of classroom and lab space. School officials hope the $20 million project will help create a pool of graduates to fill job openings at local and regional construction and engineering companies.
A state audit found that guidance and monitoring could be improved for North Dakota school districts’ transportation data. Annual miles and rides reported by school districts are used to calculate state aid payments. The Department of Public Instruction made $54 million of transportation grant payments to school districts in 2017-19. The audit could not determine if the transportation data are complete and accurate. Assistant attorney generals determined the department does not have the authority to obtain supporting documents from school districts. It may take legislative action to improve oversight of the funds.
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