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ABLE hopes to create jobs, opportunities to serve people with disabilities

During Tuesday’s Dickinson City Commission meeting, Executive Director Mary Anderson of ABLE Inc. spoke during the public hearing portion of the meeting and provided an update on the current mission plans the organization is working on. The commission also approved the approximately $2.65 million Friendship Park project and approved a task order for downtown parking improvements.

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Executive Director Mary Anderson of ABLE Inc. speaks to the Dickinson City Commission June 15, 2021, at City Hall. (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press)

ABLE Inc. in Dickinson has been a long advocate for creating employment and providing work support for people with cognitive disabilities and is looking to renovate the T-Rex Mall to try to accomplish that mission statement.

ABLE Inc. Executive Director Mary Anderson presented an update to the Dickinson City Commission Tuesday, June 15, at City Hall, regarding the work that’s been done to the T-Rex Mall since its purchase by the organization in December 2019.

Due to its high donation stream, Anderson said that ABLE is planning to create smaller establishments rather than just having one thrift store. ABLE’s plan is to open a children’s thrift store and a home furnishing store and revenues generated will help support overall operations and enhance the lives of those that they serve, according to a city document.

“... Why we’re doing it? It’s to create employment for people with disabilities. There is a belief system across the United States that it is not that difficult to employ people with disabilities and we find that’s not the case. Their impressions of how that’s to be done and our impressions of how it actually works is a mismatch,” Anderson noted. “We find we have to take much more control of employment and much more control over housing in order for people to have and to lead great lives.”

In North Dakota, 53.6% of people who are living with a cognitive disability are not in the labor force or employed, according to the 2018 Employment Status by Disability and Type. With public policy measures that are currently being proposed that will “further eliminate or shrink employment opportunities,” renovating the T-Rex Mall will allow ABLE to provide “a wealth of opportunity to create community integrated jobs, new businesses and entrepreneurship opportunities for persons with disabilities,” according to a city document.

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As funds become more available, ABLE is hoping to remodel and relocate its current thrift store and make other changes along the way.

“The west parking lot has been replaced providing tenants, delivery trucks and others with better access. Repairs have been made to the roof and addition of a new security system. This spring we started an exterior facelift when we will replace the entrance, enclose the roof soffits to

control the birds nesting, replace sidewalks and complete additional parking lot improvements. New doors will be installed at the main entrance with more turning space inside the entrance vestibule for persons with disabilities,” a city document stated.

In 2020, ABLE installed concrete at the back of the building. But more work is ready to be done, Anderson noted.

“This building’s complicated and it’s giving our GT Architects quite a nightmare because it’s wrapped up with four grant potentials. So two grants have actually been completed and approved,” Anderson said, adding, “... One of the grants we have is for a universal adult changing bathroom. We are the queen of accessibilities for bathrooms. We’ve been spending a lot of time on how to help people in our community be able to access bathrooms.”

The universal adult changing bathrooms will provide public access and for ABLE clients and will be funded by a City of Dickinson sponsored Community Development Block Grant. The organization is working to receive an America Grant award that’s pending through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Energy.

During the meeting, the commission approved the City of Dickinson’s pledge of $250,000 to the Friendship Park. In total, that project is estimated at $2.65 million and has various sponsorship levels. The committee for this project has raised $325,000 and the Park District has pledged $200,000, according to a city document. Dickinson Parks and Recreation has hired an engineer to kick start the project with an estimated completion date for June 2022.

The commission also approved a task order for downtown parking improvements, which would convert First Street West from Sims Street one block west to First Avenue West, and First Avenue West from First Street West one block to Second Street West. KLJ is the engineering consultant for this project and this task order is not to exceed $13,850, according to a city agenda document.

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“The intent is to have one driving lane with parking on both sides of the street. Owner is anticipating receiving quotes from contractors to complete the construction of the project rather than proceeding with a bid opening,” city documents stated.

On June 30, the Dickinson City Commission will hold its annual budget session and talk about some major projects moving forward including the Dickinson Sports Complex — which is anticipated to be on the agenda for the July 6 meeting.

Jackie Jahfetson is a former reporter for The Dickinson Press.
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