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City of New England discusses zoning, EMS in monthly meeting

During a meeting Monday night in New England, two antique fire trucks were publicly auctioned and councilmembers discussed the possibility of banning certain dog breeds.

Fire truck auction
Councilmen Mike Grote, left, and Lyle Kovar open sealed bids for one of the fire trucks during the New England City Council monthly meeting Monday, Feb. 7, 2022.
Jason O'Day / The Dickinson Press

NEW ENGLAND, N.D. — The City of New England held its monthly meeting Monday evening where a variety of topics were discussed, including zoning, dogs, bridges and the ambulance service.

Voting, zoning and counting

With the 2022 primaries only four months away, New England may see some restructuring of its city government as the June 14 election will see six of its seven council positions, including the mayor, on the ballot. The only seat not up for re-election until 2024 is that held by Lyle Kovar. The other members of the council include Mayor Marty Opdahl, Tom Gorek, Chris Fitterer, Breann Krebs and Mike Grote. There is also a vacant seat that will be on the ballot, which was previously held by the late Drew Madler.

In order to compete in the election as a candidate, an individual must gather at least 14 signatures of approval from fellow residents and submit the necessary paperwork by April 11. The city election will be held in Regent, where citizens will cast their votes in person — or, submit their ballots via dropbox at the New England City Hall.

New England is considering outsourcing the duties of building inspection to an engineering firm called Forsgren Associates Inc. According to Opdahl, this would cut costs and boost efficiency.

“They retain 80% of the cost of the permit and 20% goes back to the city. We wouldn’t need to have a zoning committee anymore because they (Forsgren) would do all this… We know from experience that we’ve had some less than desirable workmanship on some of these houses that have gone up in recent years. This will eliminate some of that,” Opdahl said. “We would save about $3,600 a year in what we pay in wages plus their measuring fees.”

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If someone calls in asking to find a pin, Opdahl said they’ll still have a city employee who can help with that.

With new census data out, Fitterer said someone recently told him that New England isn’t actually the biggest city in Hettinger County because inmates at the Dakota Women's Correctional and Rehabilitation Center — North Dakota’s only female prison — are counted as part of the population. Opdahl confirmed that they are included in the count, estimating a prison population of 100 to 120.

“If you’re going to get any kind of free impact money that’s based on your population, it’s going to help,” Opdahl said.

Dogs and thieves

Hettinger County Sheriff Sarah Warner reported to the council that the city of New England had 34 calls for service during the month of January. Residents should be cautious to identity theft scams over the phone and on the internet, she said. Some common scams include calling people to solicit credit card numbers while impersonating IRS agents, Amazon customer service representatives or relatives who need money.

During a discussion of New England’s dog ordinance, Fitterer asked for the input of his colleagues on the possibility of a ban on certain aggressive breeds.

Opdahl and Krebs argued that while some breeds may be more volatile, the most important factor is how an owner treats it.

“It essentially falls on the owner’s shoulders about whether or not they’re managing their dog appropriately. I mean some dogs could be more aggressive. But if you’re managing it, that shouldn’t matter,” Krebs said.

The council voted unanimously to approve the dog ordinance contingent upon a review by City Attorney Jordan Selinger. The ordinance requires that all dogs have a collar with a current rabies vaccination tag, and that owners properly dispose of their animal's fecal waste when the dog is on property not belonging to them. Female dogs in heat must be supervised or confined in a secure enclosure.

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It also prohibits dogs that create a nuisance such as running wild in the city, chasing or attacking pedestrians. Excessive barking or howling is not allowed. Violations of these rules can result in fines or impoundment of the dog. With judicial permission, the city has the right to euthanize an animal that poses a danger to the community.

New England dog ordinance by inforumdocs on Scribd

Fire trucks, bridges and ambulance drivers

An auction was held for two antique firetrucks. The first round of bids had to be submitted in envelopes, which were opened during the public meeting. Those who did so were allowed to compete in the second round. The 1952 Ford was sold for $2,350 to Dan Theilen, owner of Dan’s Body Shop in Dickinson.

“You won’t recognize it the next time you see it,” Theilen said.

Eric Binstock placed the highest bid on the 1972 International fire truck at $300. The council rejected that offer and told Binstock they would contact him Tuesday with a counter offer.

Hettinger County Commissioner Todd Lutz addressed the New England Council regarding spring plans to reopen a bridge over the Cannonball River on the south end of town near the intersection of Second and Main streets. He said the county has many rural bridges in disarray.

“We’ll probably get flak from farmers out in the country who need to get their machinery across all these other bridges that need to be fixed,” Lutz said. “I know we have one bridge that someone’s driving 14 miles around because it’s closed.”

The New England Ambulance service is now adequately staffed to have a full time paramedic on staff at all times, Ambulance Director Henry Zahn said. Yet, they are in need of more volunteer drivers.

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“Like I said, we’ve always got a medic,” he said. “We just need to have somebody to get him there. So we’re always looking for help.”

Zahn also expressed concerns about the lack of visible address numbers on so many homes and businesses.

“You wouldn’t believe how many houses in town don’t have house numbers,” Zahn said, pointing out that even city hall doesn’t have its address numbers outside. “We’ve got five people in the squad that are not from this town. So I’ve had to drive around the block twice looking for a house. Time with us means a lot.”

Fitterer said the city should lead by example and put address numbers on its buildings too. The city already has ordinances mandating house numbers and will take steps to make sure they are enforced, Opdahl said.

New England holds city council meetings on the first Monday of each month. The next meeting will be at 7 p.m. on March 7.

Jason O’Day is a University of Iowa graduate, with Bachelor’s Degrees in Journalism and Political Science. Before moving to Dickinson in September of 2021, he was a general news reporter at the Creston News Advertiser in southwest Iowa. He was born and raised in Davenport, Iowa. With a passion for the outdoors and his Catholic faith, he’s loving life on the Western Edge. His reporting focuses on Stark County government and surrounding rural communities.
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