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By Caroline Downs
The Berthold City Council approved a petition from Enbridge Pipelines to close a section of 296th Street during a special meeting held Thursday.
However, Enbridge, the council and Berthold Township officers will continue their discussions at future meetings about providing adequate access in the area, especially to the community’s Wild Rose Cemetery and to Berthold Farmers Elevator.
Katie Haarsager, community relations advisor for Enbridge, addressed the session Thursday evening with a short presentation to remind community members about the Berthold Station Expansion Project. She noted Phase I of the project, which involves additional truck unloading facilities, would be going into service by September 1st, with the Phase II rail loading facility completed in January 2013.
Enbridge requested the abandonment and closure of a segment of 296th Street from Ward County Road 10 north to the railroad tracks. The company cited safety concerns for public traffic with two major railroad crossings and additional truck traffic on the Enbridge property there.
“Safety is the first priority,” Haarsager said. She added one of Enbridge’s commitments through this project was to eliminate the long-term blockages at BNSF railroad crossings in Berthold, especially on the north-south routes along Main Street and ND Highway 28.
According to Haarsager, the company maintains that keeping the railroad crossings open in the city will reduce traffic impact on school buses, emergency vehicles and the general public. Enbridge is planning other improvements related to the project, including financing improved access to the cemetery on a new route and financial assistance to Berthold Township to improve 310th Street (Ward County Road 9).
Enbridge’s improvements to the community were estimated at $2.6 million. The city will benefit from another $335,000 in annual property taxes paid by Enbridge. The company also promised to support efforts by the city and township to have the North Dakota Department of Transportation install a stoplight at the junction of U.S. Highway 2 and ND 28.
Total cost of the expansion project is estimated at $160 million, with several temporary construction jobs and 30 full-time positions at Berthold Farmers Elevator related to the new rail loading facility making an impact on the local economy.
No one in the audience disputed the importance of the project, but Joel Hanson expressed frustration about having access to the elevator from the north side of U.S. Highway 2 at harvest time without the use of 296th Street. He was concerned about the condition and amount of truck traffic on 310th Street, which has been recommended as the alternate route for producers to use during harvest.
Berthold mayor Alan Lee joined Hanson in a request to Enbridge to delay any road work on 310th Street until the 2012 harvest is completed.
While Enbridge and the city council members had previously discussed a possible access road from the city directly west to the cemetery, Hanson suggested using an existing route along Ward County 10, then north on 310th Street, then east on U.S. 2 to the cemetery turnoff. “That way, it’s all right-hand turns,” he said.
“No one ever thought about that,” Lee said. “We’ll talk about that as a council. Our main concern about traffic going to a funeral is having to cross [multiple rail lines].”
Support for road closure
Emergency services personnel serving Berthold spoke in favor of the Enbridge proposal. “From our point of view, closing 296th Street and keeping the crossing open is advantageous to emergency services,” said Berthold Fire Department Chief Richard Blahut. “I understand the concerns that were raised, but I see it as a step in the betterment of the community.”
Peggy Person, representing the Berthold Ambulance Service, agreed. “That gives us better access to the south part of town,” she said. “It’s absolutely important to keep one or both crossings open at any given time.”
Berthold resident Bill Feickert noted the railroad crossing at ND 28 affected commerce and the flow of traffic to and from the school. “That may be the most abused and most blocked crossing on this line,” he said. “The railroad has never wanted to extend the siding, but now Enbridge and the railroad are going to share the cost for this. They will have this crossing so it’s open all the time.”
Berthold Farmers Elevator general manager Dan DeRouchey reassured producers in the audience that getting their product to the elevator would remain the elevator’s top priority.
“Farmers will have access from Ward County 9 and Highway 28,” he said. “There’s going to be room west of Main Street for 130 cars or more, and those cars will stay west of Main Street. That’s something the town has wanted for a long time.”
City council members approved Enbridge’s petition for the road closure on a 3-0 vote.
Council approves $3.2 million
in Enbridge building permits
The city council also approved two building permits requested by Enbridge. The first was for a 39,600 square-foot facility related to Phase I of the expansion project. The second building will be 948’x48’ with 14 loading positions for railcars.
Combined value of the buildings was estimated at $3.2 million.
Berthold Expansion Project manager Aaron Madsen noted the progress of three smaller, related projects. Posts and fence installation around the entire site began June 12th.
Work will start in July to pour a concrete channel cutting through the property to improve water drainage, and tree planting around the periphery of the project site is scheduled to begin in August.
City of Berthold
and school district talk housing
Lewis & Clark School District board president Mike Lautenschlager approached the city council to discuss a location for teacher housing. He asked the council to consider allowing a trailer house to be placed on school property.
“We’ve purchased the trailer already,” he said, adding that the trailer would be occupied by a new vo-ag instructor.
The district offers housing to teachers in Makoti and Plaza, but the need became more pressing as 10 teachers had to be hired for the 2012-2013 school year. “We still have to hire two more teachers,” said Lautenschlager, “but this trailer serves our immediate needs. Our position is to help these young teachers out.”
Council member Robert Inman noted the current ordinances prevented housing on school property. “You’d have to have sewer and water run there,” he said.
Inman suggested closing the city’s RV park and converting that area to a trailer park. He estimated there was space for four or five units.
Inman also noted the Park Board controls that park and uses the income to fund recreational programs in the community. “They already have electricity, but no gas,” he said. “The sewer and water is all in.”
Council member Mark Birdsall asked the city’s attorney Bryan Van Grinsven about making an exception for the district to put housing on school property.
“The school could apply for a special use permit,” Van Grinsven said, “and the council could put a time restriction in there.”
Lautenschlager agreed to discuss the issue with Park Board and to continue discussions with the city council.
The Berthold City Council held a re-organizational meeting June 26th to welcome two new council members. Because of conflicts with the July 4th holiday, the next regular meeting of the city council was scheduled for Tuesday, July 10th, at 7:30 pm.