County declares snow emergencyThe Stutsman County Commission unanimously declared a snow emergency at its meeting Tuesday. In its declaration, the county refers to excessive snowfall amounts occurring particularly in December and January. The county recorded 10.5 inches of snow in November, 25 inches in December and 31 inches in January. Road Superintendent Mickey Nienow told commissioners the road crew has been out plowing snow almost daily since December. He added he’s called in seasonal help as well.
The Stutsman County Commission unanimously declared a snow emergency at its meeting Tuesday.
In its declaration, the county refers to excessive snowfall amounts occurring particularly in December and January. The county recorded 10.5 inches of snow in November, 25 inches in December and 31 inches in January. Road Superintendent Mickey Nienow told commissioners the road crew has been out plowing snow almost daily since December. He added he’s called in seasonal help as well.
“We’re out trying to maintain the roads,” Nienow said. “We’re using a lot of overtime.”
Commission Chairman Mark Klose said the comments he’s been getting are “you’re doing a good job.”
However, the cost to do the job is rising. Jerry Bergquist, Stutsman County emergency manager, said the Legislature is looking at help with funding. Senate Bill 2340 would allocate $15 million to help with snow removal costs for counties, cities and townships. The legislative hearing on the bill is at 9 a.m. today.
“It shouldn’t be a hard sell, but whoever can go should,” he said.
Another factor mentioned in the declaration was the heavy snows were accompanied by high winds blocking roads repeatedly. It said the cost of snow removal is far in excess of county resources.
In 2009, the state required a snow emergency declaration to access its legislated reimbursement funds. Bergquist said this way the county will be ready if the bill passes. He said eight counties have already done so.
“I think it would be appropriate to declare a snow emergency now. I would be practical,” he said. “If the bill passes, it will be mandatory for us to have an emergency declaration in place.”
Normally, a declaration is made to access funding from the county’s emergency fund. Noel Johnson, chief operating officer, said there’s very little money in the fund.
“The emergency fund is a joke,” Johnson said. “We’re transferring money from other funds into the emergency fund.”
Bergquist said the city is likely to follow suit with a snow emergency declaration of its own.
Despite the snow emergency declaration, Bergquist said, it’s much too soon to tell whether there’s a possibility of spring flooding. Although the snowfall levels have been excessive, he said, the moisture content hasn’t been high. The Army Corps of Engineers will be testing snow and moisture content in the upper basins of the James River and Pipestem Creek in a few weeks.
Regarding road reconstruction funds, Commissioner Denny Ova said anyone who can, should be at the hearing on Senate Bill 2325 at 8 a.m. Thursday at the Capitol. The bill would allocate more than $73 million in funds for a county and township road reconstruction program.
In a public input hearing held before the commission meeting, a crowd packed the room to discuss a proposal by Gavilon to close a railroad crossing.
Gavilon is proposing to close the crossing between sections 28 and 29 in Midway Township. It would then regrade, pave and widen the gravel road north of the crossing and upgrade the paved County Road 40 from the U.S. Highway 281 bypass. Gavilon is planning to add a liquid fertilizer facility and 10-12 jobs to its elevator and dry fertilizer facility.
Gavilon neighbors argued against increased truck traffic, dust and truck speed. Others argued that closing the crossing would mean there would be only one way in and out.
Troy Schrader of Gavilon said closing the crossing is considered a safety issue for the company. Now, it has to block the crossing for as much as 45 minutes while loading train cars. He said although the expansion would increase truck traffic, widening the road would make dealing with it easier. Also paving the gravel road would reduce dust.
“We’re looking for the best solution we can,” Schrader said. “The truck traffic is horrendous south of Gavilon. We want to get the truck traffic under control.”
Johnson asked if the crossing remained open would Gavilon still pave the road north of it. Schrader said he didn’t know, adding “we’d have to look at the numbers.”
Klose said Gavilon is planning to pay for the upgrade and paving.
“It’s an opportunity for us if someone wants to reconstruct, pave and widen a county road,” he said. “But we know not everyone is going to be happy.”
The County Commission made no decision on the crossing closure Tuesday. Klose thanked the county residents for attending and providing input.
Sun reporter Toni Pirkl can be reached at (701) 952-8453 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org