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County Commission authorizes land purchase

The Stutsman County Commission authorized the Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp. to purchase 320 acres of land adjacent to the Spiritwood Energy Park Tuesday.

In a separate motion, the commission stated it does not support the annexation of the land by the city of Jamestown or Jamestown Public School District.

“We’ve got the opportunity to purchase 320 acres of land directly south of the Spiritwood Energy Park … this property we think is pretty valuable, as far as expansion opportunity,” said Connie Ova, CEO of the JSDC.

The land, currently zoned for agricultural use, cost $6,000 per acre, for a total cost of about $1.9 million. Of that, the city of Jamestown will pay $1.74 million — 90 percent of the cost — and Stutsman County will pay $193,500 — 10 percent of the cost.

The JSDC intends to use the land for future industrial development, but until that point, Ova said, it will be rented out as farmland.

The JSDC Board of Directors voted unanimously to recommend the purchase of the land at a meeting on Feb. 26, and the Jamestown City Council authorized the purchase Monday.

The issue came before the commission in February but was opposed due to the possibility of annexation. The commission’s Tuesday authorization means the purchase can go through.

The land has access to rural water lines and natural gas lines, as well as a concrete road set to be constructed this summer.

Several area landowners attended the meeting and said they were concerned about the possibility of annexation either into the city of Jamestown or into the Jamestown Public School District, as the area is currently part of the Barnes County North Public School District.

Lori Carlson, who lives south of Spiritwood, said she was concerned that the item had not initially been on the agenda for the commission meeting.

“I don’t think it’s fair to us as taxpayers to not be notified,” Carlson said, adding that it was not “transparency in government.”

County Auditor/Chief Operating Officer Casey Bradley said the item had been on the agenda before and said that agendas were sometimes modified just before the meeting because the commission prefers to allow people who ask to be on the agenda to be on the agenda.

Commissioner Dave Schwartz said he’d gotten a lot of calls about the issue.

Bradley said the land is not eligible to be annexed into the Jamestown Public School District, because in order for that to happen, a student would have to be living there and the land would also have to be contiguous with land already in the JPS district — which it is not.

“It’s not even close to eligible,” Bradley said.

People at the meeting wanted the purchase agreement to permanently disallow annexation to the city or to the JPS district.

“A different commission makeup in the future could take that off too so I don’t know if it’s sure,” said Commissioner Dale Marks. “I was thinking about making that motion but I don’t think it would hold in the future, especially if you have a different landowner or a different commission …”

“I’d love to give you a lifetime guarantee, but you can’t get that anywhere …” Schwartz said.

The commission voted 4-1 to approve the purchase with Commissioner Craig Neys dissenting.

Had the JSDC not purchased the land, it could have gone up for auction, in which case the new owner would have been able to make decisions about the land without going to taxpayers — though the restrictions on possible annexation would remain.

In other news Tuesday, the commission:

* learned the county had received two court facility improvement grants through the North Dakota Supreme Court. One project will cost $27,364 and replace four heat pumps in the district court offices, and the $20,523 grant will pay for 75 percent of the $27,364 project. The other project to do some remodeling in the district court will cost $12,402, with the grant paying for $9,301.

* authorized the County Highway Department to replace an employee who quit in the fall.

* received an annual report from Sheriff Chad Kaiser, who said transports have skyrocketed, and that motorist assists, burglaries and traffic stops were all up, along with warrants. He said assaults and gross sexual imposition cases had also risen.

Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at (701) 952-8453 or by email at