This is Up and Down, where we give a brief thumbs up and thumbs down on the issues from the past week.
Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. and Otter Tail Power Co. did the right thing recently when they requested smaller interim rate increases because of the recent income tax cuts approved by Congress. The Public Service Commission approved interim rates that will be in effect until final rates are decided. If corporate America is going to benefit from the cuts they should give back to their customers. MDU and Otter Tail should be commended for doing so.
The moisture outlook this year for farmers and ranchers appears to be challenging. Meteorologist Daryl Richison told farmers and ranchers at a recent conference that precipitation likely will be close to normal in 2018, but noted North Dakota is normally dry, and the state is low on soil moisture from 2017. Ritchison, interim director of the North Dakota Agriculture Weather Network, says North Dakota has some catching up to do after last year’s drought. "If we go to average (moisture), we still have to recoup what we lost from last year," he said. The National Weather Service's drought outlook through May 31 predicts that drought will persist in north central and northwest North Dakota. The outlook forecasts enough precipitation to ease drought conditions somewhat in areas of southwest North Dakota. Things could change, but at the moment it looks like farmers and ranchers will have a lot of work ahead.
Efforts to ease the homeless situation in the Bismarck-Mandan area are becoming clearer. Two nonprofits have agreed to help get a building for a long-term homeless shelter. The plans are in the early stages, but the Lewis & Clark Development Group and Lutheran Social Services have promised to help secure a building and lease it to a shelter operator. When the Ruth Meiers Hospitality House closed its emergency men's shelter the community was left scrambling to find a replacement. The goal was to find a property to buy, build or lease. The Missouri Slope Areawide United Way was recently able to secure space in the downtown Bismarck Sunrise Apartments. Now the two nonprofits hope to find a more permanent location. It’s good to see the nonprofits helping.
We should always be concerned about student safety and that involves more than just care around schools and playgrounds. Motorists need to be alert when school buses are in traffic. Recently a driver was cited in Bismarck for overtaking and passing a school bus. There have been at least two children in the last three months struck when buses have been stopped. Drivers need to take extra care when they see a bus because children don’t always use the best judgment.
It’s always uplifting to see students do something to benefit their community. During February the Center-Stanton Public School students raised $1,328 to benefit homeless animals at the Central Dakota Humane Society in Mandan. It was part of the school's reading month, which had the theme of Paws for Reading, with a focus on different types of animals and pet care. The students learned from the reading and helped animals at the same time. The students should be applauded for their efforts.