County to consider disaster declarationThe Stutsman County Commission decided Tuesday to consider a disaster declaration next month due to the difficulties of removing snow on county roads. The action was taken during the commission’s regular meeting as part of the report from Mike Zimmerman, county road superintendent. “For the last 28 days we’ve been spending $10,340 per day on snow removal,” Zimmerman said. “We’ve had some of our crews working 29 days straight.”
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
The Stutsman County Commission decided Tuesday to consider a disaster declaration next month due to the difficulties of removing snow on county roads. The action was taken during the commission’s regular meeting as part of the report from Mike Zimmerman, county road superintendent.
“For the last 28 days we’ve been spending $10,340 per day on snow removal,” Zimmerman said. “We’ve had some of our crews working 29 days straight.”
The cost is an average and includes snow removal work that will also be billed to the townships, he said.
The recent combination of wind and warmer weather has made the task of snow removal more difficult for road crews.
“In some cases we’re working two hours to do a mile of road,” Zimmerman said. “Some of the townships have designated a single road in and out. That is all they are trying to keep open.”
A disaster declaration would make available the county’s emergency funds and set in motion a chain of events that might ultimately lead to a federal disaster declaration.
“Initially it allows them to tap the emergency reserves the county has,” said Jerry Bergquist, Stutsman County emergency manager. “The other thing is that it notifies the state that we are in this situation.”
Bergquist said five counties in North Dakota have already taken this step.
“The North Dakota Department of Emergency Services gathers this information for the governor,” he said. “If the governor declares an emergency it opens state emergency funds for the North Dakota Department of Transportation. But the state declaration goes to the federal level.”
As part of any federal disaster declaration that might come about, the county would have to determine which rural roads are vital.
“The county must update its emergency snow route map,” Bergquist said. “The Federal Emergency Management Agency will only help with costs of snow removal for emergency routes.”
That map will also be considered by the commission at the February meeting. If approved it could also serve useful for county road officials when determining road plowing priority.
Bergquist said FEMA would consider paying for the least number of plowed miles that would connect all rural residents. He also said FEMA can be a hard sell when it comes to declaring a snow disaster.
“It is FEMA’s belief that this is North Dakota and we should have the money for snow removal,” he said. “Under a normal winter we do, but this hasn’t been a normal winter.”
Stutsman County was last in a snow disaster area in 1997.
In other business the commission authorized Interstate Engineering to do preliminary planning for seal coating a 15-mile stretch of Highway 42 between Highway 62 and Buchanan. The project will be done this summer if funding through an economic stimulus package is available.
The commission also received copies of the Memorandum of Agreement forming a joint library board. The commission will take action, including naming board members, at its regular February meeting.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at (701) 952-8452 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org