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Stark Co. to try again with 911 fee increase vote

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Stark Co. to try again with 911 fee increase vote
Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

After seeing it fail on the primary ballot in June, Stark County will try again this November to get voters to approve a measure to increase the maximum 911 fee per phone line by 50 cents, to $1.50.

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Commissioners unanimously voted Tuesday to put the measure on the ballot for a second go, after it failed in every precinct in the primary election on June 10.

The fee, which funds the county’s 911 dispatch center staff, equipment and network, currently has a maximum of $1. It’s meant to be funded by the users of 911 — Stark County residents. But that’s determined by those who have a billing address within Stark County, an outdated method that many out-of-towners are using local emergency services but, due to their transient worker lifestyle, don’t have a Stark County address. In short, they don’t pay the fee.

The 50 percent increase is an effort to make up for that disparity. If successful, the increase would take effect March 1, 2015.

“We got all these extra calls being made and locals are paying for it,” Stark County Commissioner Duane Wolf said Tuesday.

The fee is assessed to landlines, cellular phone lines and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) lines, like from Vonage.

County emergency manager Bill Fahlsing said he’s focusing on public awareness between now and Nov. 4, and will do radio spots, speeches and other campaigning.

If the fee increase doesn’t pass, the extra funding will likely come from increased property taxes, Commissioner Ken Zander said.

Park Board starts rezoning process for fairgrounds

The Stark County Park Board has initiated the process of rezoning approximately 87 acres of land south of town for a future fairgrounds.

The park board purchased the land about 2.5 miles south of Dickinson for $1.7 million in March and the project has faced delays since. Overall, the fairgrounds is more than 25 years in the making.

AE2S’ Steve Rude, who’s being contracted out to do the rezoning paperwork, told commissioners that originally the plan was to do a planned unit development, but with the uses envisioned for the grounds, a public zoning would be appropriate.

County planner Steve Josephson said with public hearings and other steps in the process, the rezoning may not be official until early 2015.

Commissioner Jay Elkin, who also sits on the park board, expressed frustration and doubt of the project making progress.

Park Board Chair Arnie Binek responded that he’s going to attend the next fair association meeting and that hopefully from there, the project will pick up momentum.

Plans move forward on new county services building

Commissioners also got an update from KLJ’s Jon Wilczek on the preliminary plans for a new building to house the Sunrise Youth Bureau, the Veterans Service Office, the Extension office and Social Services all under one new roof.

Currently, the offices are scattered throughout Dickinson.

Commissioners originally looked at renovating an existing building, like the old Sanford Health clinic, but ultimately decided building new would be best. The commission contracted KLJ on Tuesday to continue work on the project by looking at three available sites and preparing cost estimates, sketches and a report.

Lymn is a reporter for The Dickinson Press. Contact her at 701-456-1211.

Katherine Lymn
(701) 456-1211