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Patterson Lake deal could cost Parks Dept. over $50,000

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The cost of deeding federally owned land to the parks district will cost, at a minimum, $50,000 and possibly much more. (Brandon L. Summers / The Dickinson Press)

Dickinson Parks & Recreation might have to burden the high costs of transferring federally-owned land at Patterson Lake to the city so that it can be sold to lakefront homeowners.

The process will cost $50,000 at a minimum and go much higher that amount.

It had been assumed that the park district would be reimbursed for all of its costs, but this may not be the case, James Kramer, Parks director, said.

"There's some wording in the bill that didn't get done exactly the way people intended it to be," Kramer said. "It doesn't give the park district the ability to be reimbursed for the land conveyance, but it does when we go and try to sell all the lots to the cabin-owners."

There are 41 cabin lots around Patterson Lake.

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The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will ready the 1,500 acres to be deeded to the park district.

"Any costs they have in preparing that, we have to pay," Kramer said. "Because we don't know what the number is, we're a little leery."

The North Dakota legislation allowing the transfer of land passed in March.

Dickinson's parks department is currently working on two agreements, Kramer said.

A memorandum of agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation will identify all of the work the Bureau has to do prior to conveying the land from federal government possession to the park district.

"They need to do an inventory of all the grounds, a natural resource study, a historical study, in case there's arrowheads or certain things," he said. "They need to do all of that."

A land conveyance agreement outlines what happens after the land is deeded and the rules the park district must follow.

"We do have restrictions on what we can do," Kramer said. "We can only use the land for similar purposes as what we are now. It needs to be public, to not be sold. We can't sell it. That agreement will lay out all of those things."

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The park board last month, though, decided against approving an MOA until the total costs for the transfer are clearer.

"They came out and said, we're not going to sign the MOA until we have a clear path to what those costs are and how we're going to cover them," Kramer said.

Also a concern, it is not known how many cabin-owners are going to buy lots.

"They will be offered those lots for sale, but of the 41, I don't know how many will buy them," Kramer said. "And I don't think they'll know until they see what that cost is, what is the value of the lot that they are being asked to purchase."

Once the agreements are done, the parks department will survey and appraise the lots, which can then be sold to the cabin-owners.

"There's a lot of people who are maybe getting frustrated with the length of the process," he said. "I think that in order to do it right and keep it in the best interests of everybody, it's just not a really quick process."

He added, "Ultimately, we're not going to take this land if it costs us money."

The surveying process will also take time, Kramer warned.

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"We've taken the stance that we're not going start to do those tasks until we physically see a path that we're going to own the land," he said.

Kramer said the process of implementing the federal legislation has been surprising.

"I assumed things would be very clear and detailed once it was passed," he said, "but in reality, it seems like every time we meet we walk away with more questions that we're not quite sure how it's going work."

Kramer hopes the two agreements will be in place by end of the year.

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