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BNSF to mow high grass by tracks after Belfield officials send letter

The train tracks near Main Street in Belfield were lined by weeds and shrubbery Saturday. After a complaint from the city of Belfield, which worried that the overgrown greenery could be a fire hazard as well as being unsightly, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad agreed to have someone in Belfield to cut the shrubbery by the end of the month.

Following a complaint by Belfield city officials, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad will cut overgrown grass and weeds along its track. Concerns had been raised that the foliage was prime fuel for fires sparked by passing trains.

Belfield City Auditor Cindy Ewoniuk mailed a certified letter to BNSF's property tax department in Fort Worth, Texas, on Aug. 9, after residents near the tracks complained.

"It's a large area and the mayor has cut some of them," she said. "(The weeds and tall grass) are not attractive. It's a nuisance and I say it could be a fire hazard, and we have to notify the railroad company every year to cut the weeds."

BNSF public affairs representative Amy McBeth said Friday that there is a chance that since the letter was sent to Texas, the request might not have reached the correct people in North Dakota who could schedule trimming of the grass and weeds along the track in Belfield.

"If a community requests grass to be cut, they usually contact us and we try to get mowers there," she said. "We usually work to cut weeds across an area using the same equipment and the road master in this case has been working across our Dickinson subdivision on the weeds."

McBeth contacted the road master Friday. She said he has contacted the city to let them know he would be there by the end of the month.

Ewoniuk said recent fires along the tracks in South Heart have her concerned that the tall, dry grass and weeds lining the tracks in Belfield could be a fire hazard.

Medora city auditor Carrie Law said she has not heard any complaints of overgrown shrubbery around the city's tracks, but Michael Tank, the city's public works director, was not available to confirm that.

If BNSF does not comply with the Belfield's reminder, the city will cut the grass and weeds and charge BNSF $150 per lot, or each 3,500 square-foot of property. The cost of cutting and removing the grass and weeds will be assessed to BNSF's property tax as special assessments, according to the letter.