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8/23/2006 – News

Volume 123, Number 29             Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006

County agrees to keep old US 281 open; new highway Minnewaukan north opens
After much discussion the Benson County commissioners decided August

15 to take ownership of all of US 281 that will be abandoned by the ND Department of Transportation (DOT). Earlier commissioners had said they would not take possession of those portions of the highway which run through the water of Devils Lake.

Gene "Shorty" Hager, Benson County highway superintendent said the county could take possession of the highway and keep it open as long as possible. "It doesn’t make sense to close the road as long as it’s still able to be used," Hager said.

"But we can’t keep it open in the winter," he went on. "We don’t have the resources to keep the road free of snow."

Hager asked Scott Zainhofsky, the new DOT district engineer, if the concrete barriers along the highway could be left in place until freeze-up. Zainhofsky said no, the barriers are needed at other sites.

Hager said the county wants the DOT to provide the following before the county takes over the highway:

* Fix potholes on the highway north of Minnewaukan with cold mix,

* Provide nine swinging gates to close the highway in the winter and when it is unsafe to travel the road,

* Provide signs that would be necessary,

* Provide barricade material that could be placed over the swinging gates, and

* Bring the bridge on US 281 near the Helgeseth farm up to a level of 1453.

Commissioners had earlier asked that an overlay and chip seal be placed on old US 281 from Minnewaukan south to the boat dock, but that was not mentioned at this meeting.

Zainhofsky said he would take the requests to his superiors but he added that he felt the chances of bringing the bridge up to 1453 was unlikely. Hager said the county would have to live with that decision because the road is necessary. "We absolutely can’t close that road, because there are many people living in that area who have no other means of getting in or out," he said. Both Hager and Zainhofsky thought the bridge was close to 1453, maybe 1452 or so. "We can’t justify spending big money to raise a bridge a foot or a half a foot," Zainhofsky said.

Zainhofsky said the concrete barriers on old US 281 would be removed beginning August 22 and that portion of the highway would be closed for about two weeks while they are removed.

New US 281 from Minnewaukan north would be open by August 23 and new US 281 south of Minnewaukan will be completed by late September.

Ed Ripplinger of Leeds, chairman of the board of county commissioners, said the county would not be able to maintain the road from Minnewaukan north to the Brinsmade Road. It will be a minimum maintenance road. "If the lake washes out the road, that’s it. We’re done and the road will be closed by the county," he said.

Commissioner Barry Cox of Warwick said it will be Hager’s job to close the road if it becomes too dangerous to drive on.

That portion of US 281 south of Minnewaukan will remain open until the lake causes it to close. Hager said that portion of the highway could be kept open year-around.

It was felt that once the new highway opens, the traffic on old US 281 will decrease significantly. Commercial truck traffic will probably be prohibited and the only people traveling on the road are likely to be locals and fishermen.

Present at the meeting in addition to Ripplinger and Cox were Jason Lee and Curtis Hvinden of Maddock and Dwain Brown of Sheyenne. County Auditor Bonnie Erickson was also present.

Ralph Wyngarden of Grand Rapids, Mich, a senior Zoning specialist with Faulk & Foster, representing Alltel (formerly CellularOne) asked commissioners for a zoning variance for a telephone tower about a mile south of Maddock. The property is classified as agricultural and it was thought it should be reclassified as commercial. State’s Attorney James Wang was in court and could not give commissioners his advice on the issue. Members of the zoning board present were Barry Cox, Ed Ripplinger, Erling Karlsbraaten of Esmond and Ralph Olson of Maddock. They voted unanimously if favor of granting the variance.

Commissioners then voted unanimously confirming the variance, with the stipulation that Wang review the issue and provide the correct wording.

The tower will be 210 feet high with an antenna and lightning rod, so total height will be 225 feet. The tower should provide better cell phone service in the Maddock area. Wyngarden said the tower’s cost will be in the neighborhood of half a million dollars.

Commissioners decided to take an offer from the city of Cando to pay part of Steve Rohrer’s police officer training. Rohrer is a Cando city policeman who will be taking training in September and he’s also running for Benson County sheriff. If Rohrer is elected, the county agrees to reimburse the city of Cando about $1,100, something less than half the cost of training. If Jeff Bercier is elected sheriff, the county will pay nothing to the city of Cando. This agreement will be subject to Wang giving it his blessing.

Norma Jean Neumiller of Maddock met with the commissioners asking their approval of a policies and procedures manual. She said it was the same as the manual approved a few years ago. It will likely be good until January 1, when it will have to be rewritten, she said.

Commissioners gave their approval.

Jackie Downs of Devils Lake was reappointed coroner to serve the eastern portion of the county.

Christie Jaeger and Dwain Brown were reappointed to the Benson County Social Service Board.

Barry Cox was appointed the county’s delegate to the ND Association of Counties convention.

Commissioners voted to pay the city of Maddock $75 for removal of a buried fuel tank on county property in Maddock which was discovered when a new electrical line was buried.

Booming sales of sweet corn
In his first weekend of sales, Michael Anderson of Leeds sold 165 dozen ears of sweet corn. Raising sweet corn for retail sale is his FFA project at the Leeds School. What is unique about his corn is that it is grown on a test plot of the Upper Basin Water Utilization Test Project. Michael’s father, Duane is the operator of Site #7 near Niles, which uses water for irrigation before it can enter Devils Lake. NDSU researchers are doing a three-year study on the effects of the water’s salt content on various crops. It doesn’t seem to be hurting the sweet corn.

$10,000 winners
The team of James Rusten, left, of Portland and Troy Sand, right, of Devils Lake won the sixth annual Spirit Lake Marina Walleye Classic Open held Aug. 12 and 13 on Devils Lake. They are pictured with Daniel Lohnes, center, marina director. They had a two-day total weight of 42.56 lbs. and collected a $10,000 check. Fifty-nine teams participated.