A busy day for the county

The Ward County Commissioners met for four and a half hours Tuesday, between 8 a.m. interviews for the vacant Tax Equalization director’s position, a Personnel Committee meeting after 1:30 p.m. in order to hold a 9 a.m. Board of Equalization meeting and the regularly scheduled county commission meeting.

During that long period, many issues were presented. First and foremost was the discussion of house assessments, where the general consensus was to raise assessment values 15 percent for residential, 8 percent for commercial, and 6 percent for agricultural zoning.

Some community members expressed their concerns for the assessment values, saying that damages to both their homes and areas where their homes were, such as flooded roadways, had devalued their properties in their estimation.

A public hearing was held for a couple to receive a permit to move property they bought during the county auction of flood-damaged structures to acreage they have owned in Trestle Valley. Ward County Sheriff Steve Kukowski had some concerns about the couple relocating there because the acreage is behind the law enforcement shooting range. He said that people have reported bullets “whizzing by their heads” in the area and the location may be a liability and that he doesn’t want anybody to get hurt.

The petitioners said that they lost their home in the flood and were told how “fortunate” they were to already own land to move to following the flood since lots in the area have become more expensive.

“We just want to move into our home,” the woman said.

The permit was approved because it was allowed by the zoning of the area, which has been the same since 1975, the petitioners said. The commissioners did, however, recognize that having one home there shouldn’t be too bothersome, though a subdivision there would be problematic and may force moving the range to a different location. It was a tight vote, though, with Commissioners John Fjeldahl, Shelly Weppler and Chairman Jack Nybakken all voting “yes” and Commissioners Jerome Gruenberg and Alan Walter voting “no.”

The commissioners also approved Travis Schmit, Ward County Highway Department assistant engineer, to advertise bids for the demolition of remaining county-owned flood-damaged structures. Highway Engineer Dana Larsen said that demolition would have to be done even on lots where structures were sold and moved to get rid of the remaining foundations and infrastructure.

After being first introduced and recommended for approval in May’s meeting of the Ward County Planning and Zoning Commission, the commissioners approved a variance for a Rice Lake homeowner to locate his buildings on his lot a little closer to the road than is required. The mobile home already on the lot, according to commissioners, is already in standing water so the commissioners were a little put off by the idea, but approved it anyway if the man wants his property there.

Fjeldahl voted “no” on the variance request. Walter voted “yes,” but “with protest” because, he said, “I don’t like it.”

“We let the last guy put his house in front of the rifle range,” Gruenberg said of the vote on the Rice Lake variance.

Other business

– Commissioners approved county Emergency Manager Amanda Schooling’s request to suspend the former emergency flood declaration, which was due to expire, and also to instate a new emergency declaration because of all the rainfall. It rained 1.64 inches by 6 p.m. Tuesday, which beat the former record for the day of 1.62 inches set in 1953, according to data provided by the National Weather Service. There has been 2.31 inches of rain this month after only four days.

– Commissioners approved several requests from Larsen. The Highway Department is authorized: to sell old equipment that has been replaced, which will be available from Public Surplus (www.publicsurplus.com), a government auction site, and will be advertised on the department’s website, and in The Minot Daily News and other publications; to move forward with a government information system, or G.I.S., map viewer which will be hosted on an Amazon cloud server and will allow for flood mapping and parcel viewing; to advertise for a road superintendent position which has been vacant for about a year; to award road repairs on six sites on Ward County Road 5 to Dig it Up Construction, of Minot, and Hanson’s Excavating, of Des Lacs; and to award Dig it Up Construction with the job of replacing the water line to the department building to better suit the needs than the 1 inch-wide line, with possible kinks, already running the 400 feet from the city line to the building.

– Civic Plus, a firm based in Manhattan, Kan., was awarded the contract to build and maintain a new county website. County Information Technology manager Jason Blowers said that he and others who reviewed bids found that Civic Plus, which specializes in government websites, was the best option of the three finalists. Under their contract, he said, the county would retain complete ownership of the site and its infrastructure, and would get 100 pre-designed pages, training and complete maintenance out of the deal. He used Aberdeen, S.D., as a comparison city that uses the company because of its comparable size to Minot and its area to judge costs. Although pricier than the other two finalists, he said Civic Plus meets all the needs and, based on his study, he feels the county can save money from the total price by opting out of on-site training and other fringe options.