Roads, Makoti project topics at meeting

A topic that never seems to go away is the status of roadways in Ward County. The Ward County Board of Commissioners again discussed the issue of flooded and damaged roadways during Tuesday’s regularly scheduled meeting.

Dana Larsen, highway engineer, provided commissioners with an update on road closures and road projects within the county. According to Larsen, numerous roadways remain affected by high water with many of the locations still experiencing rising water. How to pay for roadway repairs and when they will be fixed remains an ongoing issue.

Commissioner Alan Walter said he was very skeptical that the Federal Emergency Management Agency would provide funding for repairs. Walter had attended a recent meeting that included a representative of FEMA who strongly indicated that emergency dollars would likely not be forthcoming for Ward County roadways.

“What I heard was no, no, no and no,” said Commissioner Jerome Gruenberg.

After discussion, the commissioners voted to send a letter to FEMA for a clarification of emergency funding eligibility rules that were discussed at the meeting.

The commission passed a request for a special use permit for the construction of a truck plaza in Makoti. According to the application by Phil Culler of Cheyenne, Wyo., the Makoti Truck Plaza will consist of an 80-room hotel, restaurant, retail area, lounge, two apartment buildings totaling 48 units, two buildings for covered truck parking and a 60-bay self-storage warehouse.

The request was also for the commission to omit an expiration date for the permit, which would grant its use into perpetuity. Commissioner John Fjeldahl objected to the request, saying the project would be better addressed by a zoning change than by a special use permit.

Another on-going issue discussed by the commission Tuesday was expansion of the Ward County Jail. Voters approved jail expansion as part of a building projects bond issue last year but, to date, the project has yet be finalized. At issue is how and where to proceed with expansion.

Commissioners have determined that an addition to the existing jail should be constructed to the north. However, that land is a parking lot owned and used by The Minot Daily News. Although commissioners have had discussions with the newspaper regarding the possible sale or exchange of the land, no formal agreement has been presented or approved.

In action Tuesday the commission approved sending three separate proposals to the Minot Daily, the primary of which would involve a combination purchase and trade for the Minot Daily’s parking lot. The trade would involve land north of the newspaper, a parcel that is currently occupied by the Ward County Library.

A request from the DeSour Valley Economic Development Corp. was heard by the commission Tuesday. The request was for the county to consider entering into discussions for the possible moving of the county library to Burlington. DeSour is in the process of planning the development of acreage that formerly housed a FEMA trailer park.

Terry Zeltinger, Burlington, spoke on behalf of DeSour, saying, “There’s 250 housing units in the first phase of construction. There’s a lot going on out there. The Ward County Library would be a real nice addition. This is not a proposal, just an inquiry. I’m just asking you to consider it.”

Commissioner Shelly Weppler countered that other communities should have the opportunity to vie for the library.

“Whatever we do, the library is going to go away,” said Gruenberg. “In my opinion it would be a lot cheaper to put the library in a standalone building.”