Officials from nine counties discuss concernsA room in the Dickinson Elks Lodge was filled with discussion and smiles as officials from nine southwest counties broke out of the usual meeting style and broke bread to talk about pressing issues and hear presentations about possible improvements during a meeting Monday night.
By: Klark Byrd, The Dickinson Press
A room in the Dickinson Elks Lodge was filled with discussion and smiles as officials from nine southwest counties broke out of the usual meeting style and broke bread to talk about pressing issues and hear presentations about possible improvements during a meeting Monday night.
The Southwest Association of Counties gathered representatives from Adams, Billings, Bowman, Dunn, Golden Valley, Hettinger, McKenzie, Slope and Stark counties for fellowship and information on county zoning and Title VI compliance. The group meets about four times per year to discuss various issues and is open to the public.
The meeting featured presentations, but talks of water levels, roads and oil activity buzzed around the mingling officials before the meeting.
Bowman County Auditor Sandi Tivis has been going to the events for over five years and she said the casual camaraderie helps solve problems.
“The counties in the area are facing many of the same issues,” she said. “This allows people to stay informed and connect with others in similar circumstances.”
Dunn County Commissioner Daryl Dukart said he looked forward to the presentations because of their relevance to recent oil activity.
North Dakota Department of Transportation Engineer Bryon Fuchs presented about Title VI compliance.
The Civil Rights Act Title VI policy doesn’t allow discrimination based on race, color, sex, or origin within programs receiving federal financial assistance.
All 53 counties and the major 13 cities must be in compliance with Title VI to receive any federal funding, Fuchs said. This requires making public information available in other languages when requested or the use of an interpreter. Also, it covers Title VII dealing with equal opportunity employment.
Fuchs said there has not been much need for these programs before because the limited diversity in North Dakota, but that is likely to change in the area.
“All these counties are in oil country,” he said during the meeting. “There are a lot of workers coming in and there will be an increase in diversity.”
Fuchs said it hasn’t been a problem, but counties need to be proactive in case an agency would audit.
“We aren’t saying there is discrimination taking place, we just need the documentation to prove it is not,” Fuchs said.
If a county is found in non-compliance, that county will have 90 days to adhere to suggestions by auditors to meet requirements. If the county does not comply, federal funding will cease.
The group also heard from Roosevelt-Custer Regional Council Representative Rod Landblom about zoning.
“Zoning is used to direct the development of the communities,” Landblom said. “There have been more updated zoning codes in a lot of the counties because of oil.”
Many of the counties do not have a full-time position for zoning administrator, and that is alright as long as the official is trained and knowledgeable of the regulations, Landblom said.
“We need to make more of a professional approach,” he said, adding that in many counties the responsibility is carried by someone who already holds a demanding position and cannot commit time needed for proper zoning.
Landblom cautioned that too many changes to the original plan might cause problems.
“There’s so many changes going on in recent times, it will come back to haunt us somewhere down the line,” he said.
The next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 29.