County residents upset over proposal to gravel roadsCounty roads to be turned to gravel were given priority at the Stutsman County Commission meeting Tuesday. The roads were prioritized based on what it costs the county to patch and maintain them, said Mike Zimmerman, county road superintendent.
By: Katie Ryan, The Jamestown Sun
County roads to be turned to gravel were given priority at the Stutsman County Commission meeting Tuesday.
The roads were prioritized based on what it costs the county to patch and maintain them, said Mike Zimmerman, county road superintendent.
Proposed roads to be turned to gravel in 2010 are the eight miles of County Road 62 directly south of Interstate 94 (about 4 miles north and northeast of Ypsilanti), four miles of County Road 38 between County Roads 62 and 63 (just south of Ypsilanti) and two miles of County Road 40 between County Road 62 and the Stutsman County border (near Spiritwood).
The propositions were met with criticism from about a dozencounty residents who attended the meeting.
Buchanan resident Don Readel said a lot of people would be angry when the county started grinding roads.
Residents don’t want their paved roads turned to gravel. County residents questioned if the county had considered the difference in cost of maintenance for gravel roads compared to paved ones.
“Forget about grinding roads. Can you get that in your head, Mike (Zimmerman)?” Readel asked.
The county doesn’t have the money to keep all the roads paved, said Noel Johnson, chief operating officer. The county has about 230 miles of paved roads and can only afford maintenance on about 90 of them. Some of those roads need repairs, and they need them soon, some of the county residents said.
“It’s like Third World country, what we’re driving on,” said Ypsilanti resident Judy Graves.
Zimmerman said some of the roads are unsafe. That could be a liability to the county, he said.
Costs to the county for all the roads repairs would exceed $25 million, said Dale Marks, county commissioner.
“We don’t have the resources to keep up,” said Mark Klose, commission chair.
The county has asked the public for more money. The issue was put to votes in 1988, 1992, 2004 and 2008 — each option failed.
“It isn’t that we haven’t tried here,” Klose said.
Graves proposed a county road committee to help determine which roads should be recycled to gravel. Those decisions should be based on more than the cost of upkeep to the county, the county residents said. Usage of County Road 62, for example, will likely increase once the Great River Energy Spiritwood Station is completed, said Tony Roorda, Ypsilanti resident.
Recycling the roads means the county won’t have to follow federal guidelines, Zimmerman said. Reducing those regulations means the repairs are less expensive.
Graves also proposed homeowners share the cost with the county — perhaps homeowners along the road could pay the difference between the cost to gravel the road and the cost to pave the road.
Johnson said he would work with the homeowners and help crunch numbers to see which options were most feasible.
In other business, the commission unanimously approved the final hearing of its 2010 budget. Major increases to the $19.2 million budget include $2 million in road repairs, an increase in funding to the county’s emergency fund and a 35 percent increase in health insurance for county employees.
Also, the county heard from Shirly Krapp, Spiritwood Lake city auditor, in regard to adding a fish screen to the culverts under the county roads at Spiritwood Lake city.
The North Dakota Game and Fish Department would pay for and maintain the screens, she said. The screens would prevent fish from entering Spiritwood Lake from the south.
Doug Kaiser said he was worried the screens would cause water to run over the road.
Gene Van Eeckhout, Southeast District fisheries supervisor for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, said the department would install the screens in spring and take them out before water freezes. If the culverts become blocked, the department would remove the screens.
Klose said the commission may be receptive to the screens, but asked Krapp for a written statement to consider for one of its upcoming meetings.
Also, the Stutsman County Park Board unanimously approved moving forward on building a 28- by 50-foot footing and garage slab for the concession building at Pelican Point Landing. Floodwaters damaged the former concession building.
The county should move forward with the project as soon as possible so it is ready for next year’s camping season, Johnson said.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Stutsman County Commission is Oct. 20.
Sun reporter Katie Ryan can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by e-mail at email@example.com