County talks FEMA

Significant discussion on emergency improvements and Federal Emergency Management Agency funding requests for county roads inundated with water was the centerpiece of Tuesday morning’s meeting of the Ward County Commissioners.

“Right now I cannot authorize a solid plan, yet, to take action on because their letter is so ambiguous,” said Ward County Highway Engineer Dana Larsen about a letter received from FEMA about requested funding for emergency highway repairs. “In one section it says ‘if you wait you could jeopardize your project so you need to proceed as you normally would.’ Then, later on in this letter it states that ‘any authorization … is up to the soul discretion of FEMA to determine what the repairs would be or if it would be allowed.’ So, I don’t know how you would proceed with some of these sites when they turn around and say you’re not supposed to proceed because it’s supposed to be an approved project before you proceed.”

Ward County Emergency Manager Amanda Schooling also spoke of confusion from the letter on how her office should proceed over what Larsen described as the “very frustrating” letter.

In the end, the two asked the commissioners if they could write separate letters with pointed and specific questions. It was Larsen’s contention that if they wrote separate letters with specific projects in mind, rather than generalized questions, it would be more likely they would receive a clear response. The commissioners approved of the idea.

Rice Lake revisited

Rice Lake Recreation District was back with more requests from the county.

An engineer working for the district received approval from the office of the engineer of the state of North Dakota for a 6-month extension of their permit to pump water from the lake to a lot northeast of the lake. Their permit would have expired on July 3.

They were also permitted to continue maintenance on the temporary, emergency dikes constructed northeast of the lake.

The problem, though, is that the land being pumped onto is owned by Ward County and leased to a farmer who, in turn, allowed the pumping for a payout for crop losses from the district.

The lease to the farmer is set to expire in October, and the water pumped onto the land ruins the land’s viability, thus possibly hurting future leasing to others.

That was the idea that kept Commissioner John Fjeldahl from voting yes with the other commissioners to give their permission to continue pumping. He was concerned with the future, and also that this “temporary solution” has not yet given way to a more permanent solution, like the proposed pipeline plan, in the two years since the pumping was first approved.

A bit of a comedy of errors surrounding Robert’s Rules of Order went underway when the first motion, made by Commissioner Shelly Weppler, fell through in a tied vote between she and Commissioner Jerome Gruenberg voting yes and Fjeldahl and Nybakken voting no. Commissioner Alan Walter was not present for the meeting.

Finally, another motion nearly identical to Weppler’s was made by Ward County State’s Attorney Roza Larson on behalf of Nybakken, a novelty event spurred by a seeming inability for any of the commissioners to get the motion’s legal wording clear, some laughter accompanied the motion.

Rice Lake is allowed to continue pumping through the term of the lease with the current leaser, following that date they will have to create a new lease either with the county or under a possible new lease.

Nybakken moved to the yes column with this new motion, where a possible lease agreement is specified, and Fjeldahl voted no again.

Other topics

– Commissioners approved the proposal to hire a full-time 911 coordinator, which will be employed within the Emergency Management office. Commissioner John Fjeldahl voted no.

– Commissioners approved Larsen’s request to advertise for bids on replacements for two damaged county bridges.

– A memorandum of understanding between Minot City Transit and Ward County on Emergency Evacuation was approved by commissioners to be signed by Chairman Jack Nybakken. The document is already signed by Minot Mayor Curt Zimbelman and Minot Public Works Director Dan Jonasson. The agreement is a formality between the two entities should a disaster force public transit to evacuate citizens and so that the county and city can be reimbursed for emergency funds should such transportation be needed.

– A bid submitted by CBM Managed Services, a Sioux Falls, S.D., company, won out over the only other bid, by Trinity Hospital in Minot, to feed the inmates of the Ward County Jail. Trinity, which currently provides the meals, submitted a bid to continue at $16.41 per inmate per day, or just under $10 more than CBM’s bid of $6.84 per day per inmate. Costs are figured at 100 inmates per day over the course of a year, resulting in CBM’s bid coming in at $349,305 savings from the Trinity proposal.