4/1/2009 – News


Volume 126, Number 9           Wednesday, April 1st, 2009


Township officers having tough go with poor roads, lack of funds
BY RICHARD PETERSON
Despite blustery and cold weather a good crowd of township officers was present at the Minnewaukan School March 26 for the annual meeting of the organization. The incumbent officers were re-elected during the business meeting conducted by President Erling Karlsbraaten of Esmond and Maddock.
Township officials heard reports from several county officials. Wanda Teigen gave the report for the Benson County Highway Dept. She stated county and township unpaved roads are bad because of excessive moisture. She stressed that roads which have washouts and gulleys should be closed and the emergency manager notified immediately, so he can inform fire departments, ambulance services, etc.
Any work done by townships related to flooding should be fully documented and turned in to her because there is a possibility of reimbursement.
She said townships must do an inventory of signs in their townships because a federal mandate requires all road signs must be replaced with high reflectivity signs within five years. She thought the 911 signs were already highly reflective, but all other signs are covered by the mandate. If the signs are not all shot up, a highly reflective face can be put on them at a lower cost than purchasing the entire sign. Townships which need new signs can contact her at the Benson County Highway Dept.
She also gave the report for the Benson County Weed Board, since no weed board members were present. She said townships which purchase chemicals for weed control can turn in the cost of those chemicals to her and the county will provide cost share money.
There was nobody present from the Benson County Water Board. Rep. Arlo Schmidt (D-Maddock) reported the governor’s program for state assistance for counties and townships in removing snow passed the State Legislature. That program provides $1.5 million, but Benson County did not qualify. Sen. Ryan Taylor’s (D-Towner) bill adds an additional $1.5 million to that program and it is still in the Appropriations Committees.
Schmidt said the transportation pilot project which would change the way the Benson County Transportation system is operated passed the legislature. "It was amended enough so it isn’t nearly as bad as it could have been," Schmidt said. "I think we’re going to retain our local control."
Benson County Sheriff Steve Rohrer told township officials he has three deputies. Chief Deputy Marvin Holweger is stationed in Minnewaukan, Cole Watson is stationed in Maddock and Shawn Banet is stationed in Leeds. Rohrer lives on a farm nine miles west of Minnewaukan.
Rohrer said he has spent significant time cracking a burglary and drug ring in his first year in office. He told township officials they should check abandoned farmsteads to see if copper pipe, etc. is missing. He also reported a sex offender is living in Minnewaukan.
Benson County Emergency Manager Chuck Paulson told the gathering they should document everything they do in relation to the removal of snow this winter and the flood expected this spring. He said he has spent considerable time working with the Spirit Lake Nation on the roads serving as dikes, trying to figure out what to do if a dike is breached. He’s been visiting with fire departments and has been considering reaction to possible petroleum pipeline breaks along US 2.
Jason Lee of Maddock, chairman of the Benson County Commission, reported on activities the commissioners have been involved in recently. He said it may be necessary for township officials to pay premiums for bonds in the future.
A meeting which was to be held with the governor concerning the tribe’s 4 percent materials tax, which had originally been scheduled for the same day as the meeting of the township officials, was postponed to the first full week in April because the governor was in Fargo, where the Red River threatened to take over the city. If the tribe refuses to budge on the materials tax, the state says it will not allow any road construction projects on the reservation. "The county’s caught in the middle in this situation," Lee said.
Lee said if the Wood-Rutten Road Project dies because of the tribe’s materials tax, the $800,000 stimulus money will be reduced to $262,000 and will go into the county’s federal aid road fund with the ND Department of Transportation. Any of that money taken out for projects will have to be matched 20 percent with county funds. There was no county match on the stimulus money.
He told the group the commissioners had declared an emergency to exist on March 25 and will probably issue a disaster declaration at the April 6 meeting of the commissioners.
He added that Benson County owns one-fifth of the Lake Region Law Enforcement Center in Devils Lake along with four other counties. The law enforcement center is "doing very well financially," Lee said.
The county had $135,000 in its emergency fund at the beginning of the year and Lee thinks it will likely be depleted by summer because of all the expenses related to removing snow this winter. Private contractors were paid $35,000 and it will cost about $30,000 to repair the rollers and undercarriage of a Caterpillar dozer which was damaged when it was operated in cold weather.
Lee told the gathering that Troy DeMarais of Devils Lake has been hired as Benson County Highway (Continued on Page 5) (Continued from Front Page) Superintendent and he will take over on May 4. "He’s very qualified for this position," Lee said. Commissioner Lowell Haagenson of Leeds said the governor’s original budget called for $120 million to be distributed to counties and townships, but federal stimulus money has been substituted instead.
The stimulus money can only be used for new projects and the counties and townships need the money for operation and maintenance. Haagenson said the $120 million would have provided $136,000 per year for two years for the county. The townships would have received funds on top of that. Schmidt said he and some of his colleagues were attempting to reinstate the $120 million in state funds, "but it’s an uphill fight," he added.
Vice President Ralph Olson of Maddock told the gathering that every bill which would have been good for townships was defeated in the State Legislature along party lines. "I’m afraid we’re going to lose our 1 cent gas tax," Olson said.
The late Rep. Bruce Larson (D-Sheyenne) shepherded a bill through the State Legislature which provided that townships will receive 1 cent of the gas tax collected by the state.
Schmidt said he thought the gas tax would survive and "we’re going to work for 2 cents" of the tax collected by the state.
A lengthy discussion was held about township roads. Trees along a road in Broe Township are so close to the road they preclude the road grader from winging the snow. Commissioner Mike Steffan of St. Michael suggested the only solution was negotiation. Broe Township supervisor Kenneth Axtman said the township had agreed to pay half the cost of removing the trees, but the landowner refused to allow the trees to be buried on the landowner’s property and the branches had to be picked up by whoever cuts down the trees. "What are we supposed to do with the trees if we can’t bury them there?" Axtman asked. There was no consensus as to what could be done about this.
Olson asked if township supervisors were going to stop school buses from traveling on township roads. "With all the moisture we’ve got the buses are going to tear up those roads," Olson said. There was no consensus on this issue either.
Benson County Director of Tax Equalization Ellen Huffman explained that farmstead land will have a value placed on it in the future, as well as the structures on the farmstead. Previously the land has simply been classed as agricultural land, so it will have a higher valuation. She said most farmsteads of 2 acres would be valued at about $2,900. Additional acres would be $800 per acre up to five acres.
Articles of incorporation for the organization were adopted at this meeting. The articles are the same as the articles which date back to the 1950s, but it was not known if the articles were ever adopted by the organization because they were not signed. A spaghetti supper was served by Donna Smith of Maddock.

Officers of the Benson County Township Officers Association were re-elected at the group’s annual meeting March 26. The cold and blustery weather didn’t scare the township officers who came to Minnewaukan from all over the county. Left to right are President Erling Karlsbraaten of Esmond and Maddock, Secretary-Treasurer Bonnie Erickson of Graham’s Island and Vice President Ralph Olson of Maddock. The township officers heard reports from several county officials.



AWM donation
Kaaren Duren, left, of the Active Women of Maddock presents a second $1,000 cash donation in addition to the nearly $1,000 in proceeds from a lunch sale at an auction, making it nearly $3,000 in AWM donations to the Maddock School Bleacher Fund. Accepting the check for the bleacher fund is Flo Kallenbach.



Head Start gets funds
Mary Jones, left, of the Active Women of Maddock presents a $50 check to RaeAnn Lynne to be used by the Maddock Head Start Parents Program for their outings. The money came from interest earned by the Active Women of Maddock in 2008.



Leeds students study art
National Youth Art Month was recognized at the Leeds Elementary School in March. Students were presented special art pencils and bookmarks of artwork of the great masters, along with individual sketchbooks. The art program develops self-esteem and self-expression in students as well as appreciation for the work of other artists. Fifth graders Madison Featherstone and Dalton Onerheim add paint to their Mardi Gras masks.

This year students in grades K through 6 have studied the work of artists Picasso, Georgia O’Keefe, Monet, Matisse and Salvador Dali, among others. Besides studying these artists students have experimented with different art mediums, such as charcoal, tempera and watercolor as well as with different art techniques such as shading, perspective, crayon resist and collage. Rochelle Hansen works on her clay/shoe sculpture.

Sixth graders, left to right, Julissa McGarvey, Andrea Jorgenson, Paige Johnson, Sarah Galbraith and Carlito Leppard decide on the color for their coil baskets. Elementary art instructors are Susan Braun (K-4) and Kristi Kavili (5-6).

Some Leeds students will have their work entered in the ND State Student Art Show which opens at the Taube Museum April 14 and runs through May 1. Student art will be shown at the Elementary Spring Music/Art Show May 15. Second graders Camee Wangler and Callie Lawrence add the finishing touches to their color wheel.



President pledges help
Members of Congress from Minnesota and North Dakota met March 25 with President Obama, right, concerning flood issues. Left to right are Congressman Earl Pomeroy, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, Sen. Kent Conrad and Sen. Byron Dorgan. The president pledged to help in any way possible. The president declared a flood emergency retroactive to March 13, which will make federal aid available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis.



Icy roads mishap
An accident March 24 on US 281 six miles south of Minnewaukan at the Oberon curve about 8:50 a.m. resulted in about $25,000 damage to a 2005 Freightliner semi. Because of extremely icy roads, Steven F. Shanks, 51, of Greenfield, Minn. went into the west ditch and the semi rolled onto the driver’s side. Shanks was transported to Mercy Hospital in Devils Lake by the Spirit Lake Ambulance Service. The highway patrol investigated the accident. This photo was sent by Shell Eyl on a BlackBerry Smartphone with Internet service provided by Alltel.



Car awaits spring
This cold and forlorn car parked on B Ave North in Minnewaukan on March 25 looks like it can hardly wait for spring to arrive. Weather here has been more like winter than spring the latter part of March with temperatures more than 20 degrees below average.



Donkey Basketball
Lacey King of Leeds prepares to try for a basket at the Maddock School Bleacher Fund’s Donkey Basketball game held at Maddock Saturday. A large crowd was in attendance.

Bridget Lunde of Maddock sizes up the opportunity of making a basket. The manager of the donkeys is shown giving encouragement.

Shell Eyl got a big kick out of riding the donkey.



People’s Choice
The People’s Choice Award winner at the Maddock Memorial Home Trophy Show held on Friday, March 27 was Ethan Karlsbraaten’s first pheasant. A variety of whitetail deer, smallmouth bass, walleye, bear, buffalo, a badger and a mallard duck were all displayed. Ethan won a fishing sign and a deer horn frame.



Leeds group visits State Capitol
Leeds High School students visited the State Capitol in Bismarck recently. On the Capitol steps, are, left to right, standing, Supt. Joel Braaten, Jason Vallier, Cody Hoffert, Kyle Britsch, Cameron Leibfried, Daniel Luhman, Denage Braaten, Dustin Paulson, Trevor Torgerson, Steve Hausmann, Josh Owens and instructor Larry Moser.
Sitting are Hannah Anderson, Elliot Gunderson, Ashley Manley, Marcel Boberschmidt, Brenna Stone, Morgan Leapaldt, Abbie Brossart, Sadie Vallier and Lacey King. (Photo by Lisa Anderson who also accompanied the group as a chaperone.)



Traveling visitor
Sheri Tuchscherer of York spotted this moose from her kitchen window and her husband, Tim drove them out for a closer look. The young moose was traveling north and was about a mile north of Tim and Sheri’s farm.



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