Third Street crosswalk improvements on the way

Jill Schramm/MDN A pedestrian dashes across the Third Street Southeast crosswalk in front of the county buildings Tuesday. A new, safer crosswalk system has been proposed.

A new crosswalk on Third Street Southeast could be installed later this year.

The Ward County Commission received an update from Highway Engineer Dana Larsen Tuesday regarding improvements to the existing crosswalk in front of the administration building and Courthouse.

The City of Minot, which is taking the lead on the project, has access to a federal highway safety grant through the North Dakota Department of Transportation that will pay 90 percent of the estimated $70,000 cost for the upgrade. Pedestrians have lobbied for more safety after close calls at an inadequately marked crosswalk featuring a constantly flashing beacon.

The new crosswalk flashing lights will be activated by pedestrian push-buttons. The existing mast arms that extend over the street at the crosswalk will remain in place for the new lights, while the light standard on the west side will be moved south across the intersection to come in line with the crosswalk. The crosswalk stripes also will be repainted to “ladder style” to make pedestrians more visible.

Sidewalks and ramps will be improved at both the east and west side of the crosswalk. The handicapped parking spots in the county’s lot on the west side of the crosswalk also will be moved back a row, where the flatter slope meets accessibility requirements.

The project is to be bid June 14. The local cost, estimated at $7,000 will be shared by the county and city.

In other business, the county commission approved a tiered salary structure in the Ward County State’s Attorney’s Office in an attempt to attract candidates for vacant positions for assistant attorneys.

State’s Attorney Roza Larson said as of May 1, her office will be down five attorneys from the current staff of nine, which includes herself. The office, currently down three attorneys, will be down four at the end of this month.

Larson said the office has not been receiving any applications. Statewide, the number of job openings is up 300 percent, and that competitiveness is increasing the difficulty in finding applicants, she said.

“I have a need to recognize years of experience,” she said in advocating for a tiered salary system. With the exception of a deputy position, all hires are at starting salary level, regardless of experience.

The commission approved advertising for positions at three tiers. Larson said even with the increased pay offerings, she doesn’t expect to fill all five vacancies so is proceeding with previous commission approval to enter contracts with private attorneys to assist with certain trial cases. She said she has four potential contracts pending.

The commission also named Kris Webber, assistant emergency management director, and Travis Schmit, assistant county engineer, to jointly serve as interim directors of the Emergency Management Department. Amanda Schooling, who had held the position, resigned, effective March 15, to take a job with Enbridge.