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By Caroline Downs
The Berthold City Council decided to pursue discussions with 5Stone Development related to the expansion of the city’s current lagoon system, with the idea that 5Stone would begin the first phase of their proposed housing project for up to 300 homes.
Council members did not take official action on the decision during their regular meeting Monday night, but the group’s consensus was to call a special meeting with 5Stone partner Alex Gregg as soon as possible.
The decision came after information was presented by Ward County Emergency Manager Amanda Schooling about $17.8 million in grant money from the state’s land office that has become available specifically for Ward County. Schooling said the money could be applied toward infrastructure needs such as roads, lagoon expansion, land acquisition, lift stations, etc. The grant requires a 50/50 match of the requested funds.
Schooling noted the application deadline is March 20th, with the expectation projects would begin in the upcoming construction season. Actual contractor bids for the project will be necessary for the applications. She intends to form a committee with representatives from each of the six communities in Ward County that submit applications for these funds. That committee will prioritize the projects.
Council members discussed costs for the lagoon expansion project, estimated at up to $2 million, and for a new lift station, estimated at $125,000.
The council was also considering options for land to purchase for the lagoon expansion, with one 62-acre parcel available to the city at a cost of $10,000 per acre if the entire tract was purchased. Other acreage adjoining the current lagoon could be available at costs up to $15,500 per acre.
Mayor Alan Lee told the council that 5Stone was seeking direction from the city regarding cooperation on the lagoon expansion project. He and the council members determined one condition of any agreement should be annexation of the 5Stone development into the city. “If we expand the lagoon, we want to make sure we use that area for annexed property,” said councilman Mark Birdsall.
“If we do expand the existing lagoon, we want to make sure we have enough capacity to take care of Berthold’s growth,” added Lee, referring to other homes that could be built in the community or commercial development such as motels. “We don’t want to lose the lagoon space to someone not annexed to the city.”
Lee said he would contact Gregg to meet in Berthold with the full council regarding annexation and the level of 5Stone’s financial commitment to the project. “I have no issues with the city working with them to apply for grants,” said Lee, “but I would say no to bond issues and putting everybody in town at risk for this project.”
The council directed member Robert Inman to continue discussion with landowners regarding the availability of property for the city’s lagoon expansion. The council approved a motion to offer Delano Mollerud a six-month option to purchase a 62-acre tract at the cost of $10,000 per acre for the purpose of expanding the lagoon.
Land acquisition for the lagoon project will be included on the agenda for the special council meeting.
The time and date of the special meeting will be posted at various locations in Berthold as soon as it is scheduled. The public is welcome to attend the session.