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Counties may get millions to make improvements

Dickinson and other area leaders are planning what projects to spend thousands of dollars on. All they need now is confirmation that funds from an economic recovery package are heading their way.

And even though it hasn't met full congressional approval, the economic recovery package, to many, is a forgone conclusion.

Many of the projects the municipalities are planning would otherwise be on the back-burner.

"Obviously, anytime we can improve the infrastructure in our community we're going to be better off," Dickinson City Administrator Shawn Kessel said. "We just hope that we can take full advantage of the money offered."

Cities and counties throughout southwestern North Dakota received a letter from the North Dakota Department of Transportation in late December outlining how much money they could expect to receive dependent on how much the DOT receives.

The DOT expects to get between $60 million and $200 million for North Dakota projects.

Dickinson could receive anywhere from $570,000 to $1.69 million according to DOT estimates.

"It's difficult for us to react because there's nothing in concrete yet," Kessel said, adding that if city projects are engineered and the funds don't come through, it isn't necessarily a bad thing because they would eventually need to be engineered anyway.

City Commissioners will talk about $1.4 million in projects during their meeting Monday, Kessel said.

The projects being considered for engineering are two slurry seal projects. The first is located on a Highway 22 frontage road which runs from Eighth Street Southwest to the Heart River Bridge and another on Fourth Avenue East from Villard Street to Museum Drive. In addition, two mill and overlay projects will be reviewed at 21st Street from 10th Avenue West to 10th Avenue East and on 12th Street West from 13th Street West to 300 West Highway 22.

Dickinson City Engineer Shawn Soehren said non-road related projects are in mind, but so far the DOT has been the only agency in contact with them.

"There's a lot of hopes of different avenues that people are going to be able to go after," Soehren said. "But the only one that has been in correspondence with us and tried to get a response is the DOT."

Local counties are also preparing for the recovery package. Al Heiser, Stark County road supervisor, said he hopes it will help fund an overlay project three miles west of Dickinson on Highway 10 to South Heart that the county would otherwise have to wait months for.

Representatives from Adams and Bowman counties said they are also looking into projects.

According to DOT estimates, the county breakdowns are as follows:

* Adams between $55,000-$183,000

* Billings between $40,000- $134,000

* Bowman between $54,000- $180,000

* Dunn between $92,000-$306,000

* Golden Valley between $40,000-$133,000

* Hettinger between $60,000-$199,000

* Slope between $43,000-$144,000

* Stark between $115,000-$382,000

Heiser said this package has a much better chance of stimulating the economy than other bills passed by Congress because it's going to create jobs and bring in local revenue.

"One thing I'm excited about with the stimulus package is ... with the highway bill you'll see that money turning on Main Street pretty fast," he said. "I think we'll see that faster than giving a billion dollars to a failing insurance company or a failing bank."

While it is unknown when the recovery package will go to a final vote before the Senate, the DOT would like engineered plans by early April.