After more than three years of debate in Congress, a signature by President Donald Trump and negotiations between Stutsman County and the Bureau of Reclamation, the transfer of the land around the Jamestown Reservoir could become official with a signing ceremony next week.

But due to the coronavirus pandemic, it will be anything but a normal signing ceremony, according to Jessica Alonge, interim auditor and chief operating officer for Stutsman County.

Alonge told the county commission Tuesday that Sen. John Hoeven's office was interested in holding a virtual signing ceremony next week. Because of the pandemic, the ceremony would be held by Zoom or some other interactive electronic means that would allow participants to effectively social distance with some participating from different cities.

Alonge said Hoeven's office was hoping a member of the Stutsman County Park Board, a cabin owner at the Jamestown Reservoir and the senator could speak as part of an interactive electronic meeting. A regional manager for the Bureau of Reclamation would then sign the official document.

Hoeven initially introduced the bill authorizing the transfer in 2017. It passed the Senate and House in 2018 and was signed into law by Trump in December 2018.

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Since then, the county and Bureau of Reclamation have negotiated the process of making the transfer and selling the cabin lots to the cabin owners at the reservoir. Included in the process are a survey of the property and independent appraisals of the cabin lots to establish sales prices.

Under the terms of the agreement, the Bureau of Reclamation will continue to operate and maintain the Jamestown Dam structure but the county will have responsibility and authority to use the land surrounding the reservoir for public use. Land occupied by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department offices is transferred to Game and Fish.

Details and the schedule of the meeting have yet to be determined, Alonge said.

Mark Klose, chairman of the Stutsman County Commission, also thanked Dave Schwartz for his 10 years of service on the commission. Schwartz did not seek reelection to the commission in the November general election. His seat was won by Joan Morris, who takes office at the next meeting.

"I've worked with a lot of good people and made a lot of good friends," Schwartz said at the close of his last meeting Tuesday. "Unfortunately, I've made a lot of enemies too."

Schwartz was initially appointed to the commission after the death of Doug Kaiser in 2010. He was elected to the office in 2012 and 2016.