Monday, November 24, 2014

Monday Roundup: Towers Closing

03/03/2013

Casey Page/Billings Gazette There has been an 18 percent decline this year in the number of students at the Dawson Community College in Glendive, Montana, as students find oil field jobs pay better than those they can get with a college degree.

The cutback in federal spending now underway (sequestration) will hurt rural hospitals more than urban hospitals, Harum Helmy reports from Missouri Public Radio. 

John Morrow is with a company that tracks hospital finances and has studied what will happen to rural hospitals as the cutbacks take hold. “There are about twice as many hospitals that will flip from from operating at a profit to operating at a loss in the rural sector than there are in the urban or suburban sector," Morrow said. 

Rural communities have more people on public insurance than cities. On average, Medicare reimbursements make up to one-third of a rural hospital's revenue. And rural hospitals have smaller cash reserves.

Rural vs. Urban Gambling — The Massachusetts gambling commission has a fundamental decision to make in the next 12 months, The Boston Globe reports. Rural or urban? 

Greater Boston and Western Mass are both actively bidding for commercial casino licenses. There are a couple of sites in Springfield and one in Palmer ready to go. But which is best? The Globe reports:

Casino consultant Gary Green, a former executive for Donald Trump’s company, prefers the rural alternative.

“Everything you could possibly want is in a city, but then everything you want to avoid is there, too,” such as traffic and street crime, he said. Rural casinos tend to be more profitable, he said, increasing the amount of revenue the state collects in taxes to pay for public programs or to reduce other taxes.

“The real secret [to casino profitability] is to get people to stay in the seat longer, and when they win to have them pump the money back through,” he said. “In the rural environment, I’m more likely to say, ‘Well I drove all the way out here and I did really well on this machine so I think I’ll stay a little bit longer.’ ”

Rural vs. Urban in Idaho? — To get a referendum on the statewide ballot in Idaho, you need to collect signatures from six percent of the state's eligible voters. Since a third of the state's population lives in two counties (Ada and Canyon), the strategy has been to collect the petitions in the cities.

The Idaho Farm Bureau is seeking to change that procedure, so that you have to get six percent of voters in 18 of the state's 35 legislative districts. This is a move meant to make it harder for groups like the Humane Society of the U.S. to pass initiatives that put restraints on agriculture. 

Oil, Not College — Enrollment at the Dawson Community College in Glendive, Montana, has dropped 18 percent in the last year. Full time enrollment has gone from 279 last fall to 233 this spring.

The reason for the decline, reports Mary Pickett of the Billings Gazette, is the Bakken oil play.

The Bakken boom in Eastern Montana and Western North Dakota has changed everything in the region. People are flooding into towns like Glendive. Businesses are booming — but not the community college. Pickett writes

Local high school students who might have come to Dawson can get an $80,000-a-year job in the oil patch with few skills.

High oil field salaries also make it difficult to hire instructors. DCC’s diesel mechanic program is being temporarily suspended because the college can’t find someone to work for the salary offered.

Higher rentals and housing prices also make it hard for students to move to Glendive from elsewhere.

A small house in Glendive that used to rent for $400 to $500 a month now goes for $1,400, Squires said.

Housing is so tight that the interim college president lives in a dorm on campus.

Towers Closing — Air control towers at 239 small airports will close April 1 under the sequester of federal funds that began Friday. The Washington Post goes to Garden City, Kansas, to hear the reaction to the news that pilots might have to manage their own landings and weather reports. 

Turns out that early and late American Eagle flights already come in when the tower is closed. The mayor is worried. Others say, cut more.

One If By Rail, Two… — If the U.S. denies a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline to cross from Canada into the U.S., that would be just fine with the railroads, reports the Washington Post. 

Railroads are busy building new track and other facilities to move tar sands oil from northern Alberta to refineries in the U.S. and Canada. Rail shipments of oil sands crude are expected to quadruple this year — even as the Obama administration considers the Keystone permit.

The expansion of rail outlets is part of the argument over Keystone. A draft study from the State Department concludes that denying the permit for the pipeline will have no impact on the use of the oil sands. If not by pipeline, the study concludes, then the stuff will get out by rail.

“Because of the flexibility of rail delivery points, once loaded onto trains the crude oil could be delivered to refineries, terminals, and/or port facilities throughout North America, including the Gulf Coast area,” the State Department report said.

Environmentalists have argued that tapping the tar sands would increase global climate change and that denying the pipeline would keep these deposits from being developed.

Remembering Carl D. — One of the really important rural members of Congress in U.S. history was Rep. Carl D. Perkins of Kentucky, who represented the Appalachian coalfields from 1949 to 1984. 

Ron Daley remembers the congressman who helped get federal aid for education. 

A Country Doc — Parade Magazine has a very good profile of a country doctor, Dr. Howard McMahan of Ocilla, Georgia. The Sunday supplement writes:

As a doctor who knows all his patients by name—and often their parents and grandparents as well—McMahan occupies an increasingly rarefied niche. Over the past 15 years, the number of new general practitioners (physicians trained to handle a wide range of ailments) has been significantly declining, as med students drift away from the field in favor of more lucrative and less demanding specialties. By 2020, the Association of American Medical Colleges projects, the U.S. will be short 45,000 primary care doctors. The scarcity is felt keenest in rural areas, home to nearly 20 percent of the nation's population but just 9 percent of its M.D.'s.

No Change in Grazing Fees — Grazing fees will remain at the minimum allowable level of $1.35 per animal unit per month. This is the seventh year running that the fee has been set at this rate. 

There are 26,000 grazing permits on public lands in the West. Conservationists think the fee is unreasonably low, and, in fact, a 2005 federal report found that grazing fees generated less than a sixth of what it took to manage the grazing program. Ranchers see federal grazing rights as a necessary support for rural communities.

Community College vs. B.A. — "Significant numbers of community-college grads are getting better jobs, and earning more at the start of their careers than people with bachelor’s degrees, a trend that surprises even the researchers who have noticed it in wage data that has started to become more available in the last year," writes Jon Marcus. 

A new study finds that nearly 30 percent of Americans with associate degrees earn more than those with B.A.s.