Emergency highway improvements about to begin

It didn’t take the two county farmers who spoke of their property access woes at a special meeting Tuesday morning for Ward County Commissioners to recognize that emergency moves must be made on watery county roads.

Ward County highway engineer Dana Larsen and assistant county engineer Travis Schmit spoke of the conditions of the roads and highways, which are a bit water logged. The improvements fall under different categories of outside funding.

“So there’s two different colors of money,” said Larsen, who Chairman Jack Nybakken refered to “as the main act here.”

“We have federal highway, which is our farm-to-market, CMC, federal aid roads. That’s one system,” Larsen continued. “And we’ve got our off-system roads, which falls under FEMA, which would be some county roads and township roads.”

“The first one I want to talk to you about today are Emergency Relief projects, which are under federal highway,” he said.

He handed the commissioners a county map of current E.R. projects and those planned, with a sheet explaining them and the estimated costs associated with them.

Some problems are “culvert issues,” including a washout on Ward County Road 16. Another culvert issue was described by one of the farmers at the meeting who said that on a road near his pasture the road is working as a sort of dam, with water on one side running over and covering the road because it’s not flowing through the present culvert to the other side, which would be on his pasture land. The farmer said he’d prefer to have the road accessible than the bit of pasture the water would sit on.

Other roads need to be studied for a grade raise to raise above the sitting water, but Larsen said that a project like that might not be eligible for emergency funding as it may be considered a permanent improvement.

“At the intersection of (Ward County Roads) 9 and 14, that intersection right there is under probably a foot of water. Trucks are able to go through it, a car is questionable,” Larsen said of one of the sites. “We’re probably getting pretty close to having to close that road. That is a site that we want to get an emergency project quoted out and get going on so that road can remain open. Permanent cost is probably $750,000 to fix.”

He described other county roads with water on them, but with shallower basins so the road could be elevated somewhat less, saving money.

“These are just quick estimates on costs,” Larsen said of his estimates for fixes, later saying, half-joking, “you actually spend more money on parperwork than you do on actual repairs.”

The first step is to get a state engineer on board to write up damage assessments, which he estimates as “a little over $2.5 million in work,” the costs associated with emergency and permanent repairs, and draw up plans that can’t be done internally within the highway department. He said that letters of interest have already been sent out and responses have been come in. The commissioners approved his request to get an engineer on board so that they can begin the repairs, and for Larsen or Nybakken to sign an engineering contract.

The next request was to prepare an R.F.Q., or a request for quotation which is to advertise for project bids, on those same emergency relief sites for permanent repairs to those sites. The R.F.Q.s will be advertised in the official county paper, The Minot Daily News, as well as being sent out via email to known firms.

Commissioner Jerome Gruenberg said that the request is recommended by the county highway committee. The request was approved.