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Rough riding: Dickinson's mobile home park roads hit hard by rains

Water sits in a pothole on a dirt road in the mobile home park directly east of 3rd Avenue Floral in Dickinson on Wednesday. Private roads, like the one pictured, and city streets alike have taken a pounding lately, partly due to the wet southwest North Dakota spring.

More vehicles traveling Dickinson city streets seemingly every day is causing more wear and tear.

Add a historically wet month of May and a strained staff of city employees to the mix, and you have a recipe for a rough road ahead in the Queen City.

"We're out there trying to fix the roads," said Dickinson Public Works Director Gary Zuroff. "The rain has delayed us quite a bit on some of our projects."

If the old adage is true that the only two seasons in North Dakota are winter and road construction, then the road construction solstice is upon us and that isn't going to help matters.

A summer-long revamping of Villard Street -- one of Dickinson's main arteries -- got underway in mid-May, and more street and infrastructure projects that could disrupt traffic are planned.

Two areas of Dickinson that have been particularly bad on drivers this spring are in mobile home parks at Heartland Village on the city's south side and a smaller park just off Third Avenue West behind 3rd Avenue Floral & Greenhouse and the Amen Food Pantry.

Muddy, wet and unkempt dirt roads in both areas have made it difficult for residents, vendors and, according to city officials, garbage truck operators to get in and out of each mobile home park.

"Heartland Village is a warzone," said Dickinson resident Ron Keller. "I cannot believe that people pay lot rent and have to drive over stuff like that. I can't believe they haven't had an uprising down there."

A quick drive around the Heartland neighborhood Wednesday didn't reveal any army tanks or missile launchers, but it did show some rough terrain with an abundance of deep potholes, especially along Southview Avenue.

"We're continuously working on our roads to keep them in good condition," said Heartland Village general manager Valarie Fugett. "We obviously need to wait for the weather to clear to do a lot of that. One of the areas that we have problems with is Southview and we're having that paved in late June. That should take care of that issue."

Fugett said there has been difficulty in the past in regard to vendors being able to come and go. In March 2012, The Dickinson Press ran a story highlighting an episode where a city garbage truck became stuck after it sank into a broken piece of the roadway in Heartland Village.

Dickinson Fire Chief Bob Sivak said city officials have been in contact with Heartland's management concerning the issue of poor road conditions.

"As I understand it, they have come forward with plans to fix a couple sections of road and they will be coming forward with a comprehensive plan for further repairs," Sivak said. "In phone conversations with the owners, that's what we were told, so the situation that we had seems to have been addressed. The issue was that the potholes were so bad in some areas where they had done some patching, you couldn't drive over the surface because it was too badly rutted."

Sivak said if recent blading hadn't been done to certain areas within Heartland Village, it was possible that emergency personnel could have had issues responding to certain homes.

"Part of the problem is all the rain we've had," Sivak said. "It's certainly messing up other projects around town as well."

Fugett said the recent blading work has improved road conditions in the mobile home park and added that a full-time street maintenance employee has been hired by Heartland's management to further address the transportation problems.

"We're kind of continuously grading the surface here," Fugett said. "We have someone coming out this week. Grading is done as needed, sometimes once per week and sometimes more. It's been particularly difficult these past few weeks with all the rain we've had. It's been difficult to keep the roads to a good standard."

Keller said he'd like to see the city do more to combat road quality and pothole issues. But, at the same time, certain roads are not under its jurisdiction.

Zuroff said mobile home park roads within the city are private and not the responsibility of his 10-person public works department street maintenance division.

"It's a combination of the heavy traffic, rain and a lack of city employees," Keller said. "I don't think the city has enough manpower. One of these times, we're going to have a car disappear in one of these holes."

Bryan Horwath
A Wisconsin native, Horwath has been covering news in the Oil Patch of North Dakota since 2012. Horwath currently serves as the senior agriculture and political reporter for The Dickinson Press and, despite the team's tendency to always let him down, remains a diehard Minnesota Vikings fan.
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