Portion of ordinance returned for review, asseses value of construction management

Ward County Commissioners voted unanimously to return a portion of the new draft of the Ward County Zoning Ordinance to the planning and zoning commissioners at their regular meeting Tuesday.

“These fines are way too excessive,” said Commissioner Jerome Gruenberg of the fines leveled against contractors for not being granted approval by a county building inspector prior to construction.

The permits costs are broken down into two different “schedules,” A and B. Schedule C lists the fines, separating them based on number of violations with the third being a bit of a “third strike and you’re out” raze order, license revoke request, or a $500 fine and a stop work order.

Performing work without a permit is $1,000 per unit per day for the first violation and $2,000 per unit per day for the second. A failure to obtain an inspection carries similar fines, but is only $1,500 for the second violation.

“You’ve got to have tools and these are tools,” said county building inspector Mike Larson of the proposed fines. He said that without such rules on the books he is helpless when it comes to enforcing building code.

Larson is the only person in his department, making Gruenberg feel that it is unreasonable to have an inspector there at all parts of the project, and also unreasonable to think contractors have the time to give early prior notice of separate stages of work given the hectic building environment.

A back and forth continued between some commissioners and Larson, although Commissioner Shelly Weppler pointed out to Gruenberg that this was a second reading of the issue and shouldn’t have come as a shock.

Commissioner John Fjeldahl moved to send it back to the planning and zoning commission, which he also serves on, for further refinement and discussion. Commissioner Alan Walter seconded the motion.

Construction manager or not?

A man came to the last commission meeting trying to sell them on the idea of hiring a firm to serve as an “at-risk” construction management company to direct all the subcontractors directly to come in on time and on budget. The firm would be paid a fee based on a single-digit percentage of full building costs for their work.

This would be for the upcoming jail expansion, because an at-risk management company would best serve by being involved in the project from beginning to end, the man had claimed.

While requests for quotations, referred to without exception by the shorthand “RFQ,” will be sent out to see how much such a firm would costs them, enthusiasm for the idea didn’t seem all that high at the meeting Tuesday.

Nevertheless, a special committee has been formed consisting of commissioners, architects, engineers, and others to go over the idea.

Fire district zone change

There will be a public meeting held Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. in the commissioner’s chambers on the second floor of the Ward County Courthouse to discuss a formal request by landowners in Sawyer.

The request is to effectively end the Sawyer Fire District by having Sawyer annexed into the Max Fire District.

Other business

Commissioners approved three requests from Dana Larson, the county highway engineer. The first was to award a spot-overlay project to low-bidder Bechtold Paving at $20,873. About 1,200 feet of Ward County Road 23 is in need of the overlays. The second was to award an emergency repair project to low-bidder Dig it up Backhoe for $383,898.80. The project, which upon first bid came with estimates well above expectation, includes repair of Ward County Road 16. The third was to allow the department to install rumble strips at seven intersections throughout the county to be paid for with a N.D. Department of Transportation safety grant.

Commissioners split up into two groups to review building foreclosures throughout the county on Oct. 1. Chairman Jack Nybakken and commissioners Alan Walter and Shelly Weppler will review foreclosures from the City of Minot and commissioners John Fjeldahl and Jerome Gruenberg will review foreclosures in the rural areas.