The Ward County Commission entered into a contract with a company to manage the environmental assessment, cleanup and demolition of homes acquired by the county as a result of the 2011 Souris River flood at its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday morning.
"We did receive interest from a few companies, however there actually was only one company that submitted their proposal, and we did do a formal interview with them," said Dana Larsen, county highway engineer.
The company is CDM Smith, headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., and Larsen said they have done many similar projects in the past, including around 9,000 homes in the New Orleans area after Hurricane Katrina.
"We felt that they would definitely be qualified to handle this project, and we're recommending that we hire the company," Larsen said.
The commission voted unanimously to accept the contract.
The Ward County Sheriff's Department also received permission to hire two new patrol deputies a little bit early.
Capt. Bob Barnard of the sheriff's department said they were originally given permission to make the hires Jan. 1 of next year. Barnard said they would like to fill at least one of those positions as early as Dec. 1 of this year.
"We have recently filled two positions that have been vacant for some time. We have a third applicant who is already a law enforcement officer and wants to work here, and we'd like the ability to hire him as soon as possible," Barnard said. "Then if you grant us permission to hire early, we will start the hiring process for the second individual to be hired for 2013."
Barnard said there was money available in the budget for the early hires because of vacancies from 2012.
Commissioner Carroll Erickson made a motion to allow the hiring to take place early, noting how difficult the sheriff's department's job has become with the economic boom bringing an influx of people to the county.
"I know the law enforcement community is having a hard time filling these positions, so when somebody does come along it's pretty important that you pick them up," added commissioner Jerome Gruenberg. "By the way, just a question. You're not hiring this one away from Burlington, are you?"
"No," Barnard replied to laughter around the room.
In addition to his duties as a county commissioner, Gruenberg is also the mayor of Burlington.
The motion to hire two new patrol deputies early passed unanimously.
The commission then turned its attention to setting a date for a special building committee meeting to take the next steps toward a large, multi-part project that includes construction of a new office building, renovation of Ward County Courthouse, expansion of Ward County Jail, and $10 million in infrastructure repairs.
The meeting was scheduled for Nov. 28 at 9 a.m., so as many people as possible could attend. The citizens building committee that helped throughout the process of coming up with the plans and getting the word out to voters will be invited, as will the two incoming members of the county commission - former Minot public works director Alan Walter and the winner of an election recount between candidates Shelly Weppler and Jim Lee. Before the recount began, Weppler had a slim lead of 81 votes.
The commission wanted to hold the meeting before December, when outgoing commissioners Carroll Erickson and Bruce I. Christianson would be replaced by Walter and the winner of the Weppler/Lee recount.
After the building committee meeting at 9 a.m., another meeting was scheduled at 10 a.m. to discuss architectural fees with Don Davison of JLG Architects.
This marked the final regular meeting for commissioners Erickson and Christianson before they step down, and commissioner Jack Nybakken took time at the end of the meeting to thank them for their service after Larsen had done so earlier in the meeting.
"I think on behalf of the commission, and to kind of follow up on what Dana said, I'd like to publicly thank Carroll and Bruce for their significant contributions that have been very valuable to the commission," Nybakken said. "We certainly appreciate their dedication."
The departing commissioners also received plaques commemorating their time with the commission - Erickson for eight years of service and Christianson for four. After the meeting was adjourned, the commission and department heads enjoyed a rare after-meeting treat of cookies and coffee.
In other business:
The commission was informed Kathy Holte would be handling assessing duties for Surrey Township in 2013 only, after which those duties would be handled by Ward County.
Gary Neshem of Berthold was reappointed another three-year term to the Ward County Water Resource Board, while Loren Johnson of Kenmare was appointed to a three-year term and will take the place of John Pietsch, who declined another term on the board.