County Commissioners wrestle with policies on project approvals, variances

Out in West Hope along County Road Six, an 18 foot by 48 inch culvert was repaired.

Posted on 11/9/13

By Lee Coleman

Witzel Construction did the work with a price tag of $1,451.50. Cavalier County was sent the bill for the repairs but a problem arose.

The Cavalier County Board of Commissioners did not approve the project or the costs before the work was done.

At Tuesday’s county commission meeting, the issue surfaced and the main question was who had authorized the work without following county protocol.

“Who requested the work?,” asked Commissioner Tom Borgen. “The county was not notified and this was not handled properly. The job was done without county approval.”

Chairperson Elsie Magnus suggested the bill not be paid until questions are answered.

“My thought is not to pay for it until we know who ordered the work.” she said.

Commissioner Rich Flanders expressed concern about the chain of events that led to the work being done.

“Contractors should know if he is putting something in on county roads,” Flanders said. “They should know the process.”

Highway supervisor Terry Johnston appeared caught off-guard by the developments, saying when the repairs were made, he assumed the county had given approval.

“In the future, projects on county roads have to be requested by you or one of us.” Magnus said to Johnston.

The commission agreed to not pay the bill until all the details are revealed.

A letter was received from the Cavalier County Water Resource Board notifying the commissioners of the resignation of 40-year veteran board member William Hardy.

Hardy declined to accept reappointment to the board. The resignation was accepted and the county will proceed with posting the opening.

If you plan to plant trees near a county roadway, remember there is a county right-of-way in place and there are regulations that govern an intrusion of the right-of-way.

Borgen received a complaint about two rows of new trees that were planted along the roadway on County Road 33.

The first row sat 50 feet from the middle of the road while the second row sat 60 feet from the middle of the road. The rows stretched 250 feet with the trees planted 10 feet apart.

Borgen said he was not aware of any variance request being approved by the county and asked the board for suggestions on what should be done.

The easement on county roads is 250 feet from the center of the road but that changes, Borgen said.

“The difference can vary from townships and the county because of zoning,” Borgen explained. “In essence, the trees are only 25 feet from the edge of the road.”

The debate shifted to enforcing the variance requirements on all county residents.

Addressing the board, County Weed Officer Leon Pederson said he sees violations all over the county.

“If we enforce this, we have to enforce everyone,” he said. “If this landowner is made to follow the rules, everybody in Cavalier County would have to follow the rules.”

The board agreed to send the landowner a letter making him aware of the violations.

Borgen volunteered to follow up with a phone call or visit and invite the landowner to come to a board meeting to discuss the issue.

The next county commission meeting will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 19 at 8:30 a.m.