Road appeal: County residents ask governor to interveneConcern that plans have already been made to recycle two southeast Stutsman County roads from pavement to gravel have prompted officials in the area to contact Gov. John Hoeven for intervention even as county officials schedule meetings to take public input on the decision.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
Concern that plans have already been made to recycle two southeast Stutsman County roads from pavement to gravel have prompted officials in the area to contact Gov. John Hoeven for intervention even as county officials schedule meetings to take public input on the decision.
In question are Old Highway 10 between Jamestown and Spiritwood and County Highway 62 south from Interstate 94 to Ypsilanti. These roads were not included in a list of roads classified as a high priority for maintaining as pavement by Mike Zimmerman, county road superintendent. He presented the list during a regular commission meeting in January saying it was a starting point for a discussion on which of the counties 238 miles of paved roads it could afford to maintain.
However, residents in that area are concerned the decision is already made.
“Please keep in mind,” they wrote in the letter to the governor. “Recycling is scheduled to begin with one of these two roads within just months.”
Area officials cite concerns the roads are vital to the economic development projects in the Spiritwood Industrial Park. Those concerns prompted a meeting Wednesday between Sen. Terry Wanzak, R-Jamestown, Rep. Chet Pollert, R-Carrington, Rep. Craig Headland, R-Montpelier, and Lt. Gov. Jack Dalrymple representing the governor’s office.
“We went over the letter at length and we are finishing up our response,” Dalrymple said. “Basically what we’ll be saying as the administration we place a high importance on keeping up roads in North Dakota but this is a road under the jurisdiction of Stutsman County.”
Dalrymple said state funding for road maintenance had increased dramatically but it was still up to county officials to set priorities.
“We encourage local people to voice their concerns to the County Commission,” he said.
However, township officials seem to be convinced the decision is already made.
“Zimmerman said these are the roads they’ll start with,” said Tony Roorda, township supervisor from Ypsilanti Township. “He said these are expensive roads to repair.”
Zimmerman maintains that no decision has been made concerning what roads will be recycled this year.
“That would take the action of the commission,” he said. “The recommendations will come out of the meetings.”
On Feb. 2, the County Commission formed a committee to take public input to determine a plan for any county road work. That committee will meet for the first time at 10 a.m. on Feb. 16 in the Whitney Room in the basement of the courthouse.
“This is the planning meeting,” said Noel Johnson, chief operating officer of Stutsman County. “I don’t know what we’ll decide at the first meeting. We have a lot of issues to solve but we need to make some decisions for the public’s benefit.”
While the commission has not taken any action on which roads will be recycled, they did buy the equipment to accomplish the work. The county has already taken delivery on the machine at a cost of $390,000.
“It makes no sense,” Roorda said. “They bought a machine and then they’re going to decide where to use it?”
Stutsman County currently has 233 miles of paved roads. Estimates by Zimmerman suggest the county can afford to maintain about 100 miles of pavement with the current tax structure. While four attempts to raise county road taxes have failed at the ballot box over the last 22 years, the commission is considering another measure for the June election.
“The only excuse they have is they have no money,” Roorda said. “It is probably legit, but not if they haven’t done a study to determine which roads should be done first. They would have a better chance to pass a tax hike if they had some sort of plan.”
The criteria used in creating a road plan will need to be among the first topics for discussion.
“This corner of the county has the highest value and taxes and the highest population yet we don’t have our roads taken care of,” Roorda said.
However, Zimmerman has been looking at other factors.
“It makes common sense,” he said. “We look at what it’s going to cost us to patch it and what the liability issues are to the county.”
Zimmerman also said looking at traffic counts and population density would be useful in deciding where to spend repair funds. When there aren’t enough funds for all repairs, the worst roads would need to be dealt with first out of safety and liability concerns.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at (701) 952-8452 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org