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Ward County to host Vision Zero outreach coordinator

Ward County to host regional outreach coordinator

Ward County will host a safety coordinator with North Dakota’s Vision Zero Outreach Program as part of the state’s effort to reduce highway fatalities in the region.

The Ward County Commission voted Tuesday to host a coordinator in the Ward County Highway Department. Other than office space, expenses will be covered by a state grant.

Ryan Gellner, with the North Dakota Association of Counties, outlined the program to the commission. The state Department of Transportation has been contracting with the association to administer the Vision Zero Outreach Program.

Vision Zero has been in place for several years, and Gellner said annual fatalities have dropped and stayed below 100.

“Last year we lost 97 people on our roadways. It’s still 97 too many, so how do we get better? How do we make it seem real to every person in North Dakota that they have a responsibility behind the wheel?” he said. “We have to get more local. We have to get in touch with every person. What I am doing statewide, frankly, isn’t good enough. We need to get more local, and this is the way that we identified as the easiest, most cost effective way to get into every community in the state.”

The program is adding coordinators to bring the program to multi-county regions. Regional coordinators currently are sought in Grand Forks and Morton counties, and the position in Ward County now will be advertised. The coordinators will provide education and outreach, working with communities, schools, public health and engineers to develop plans that reduce traffic crashes and fatalities.

Gellner said the goal is to find a person with the right public relations and marketing background to fill the Ward County position by the end of the year.

The Ward County Highway Department will make office space available in its new facility in east Minot. Department staff are in the process of making the move to the new facility. County Engineer Dana Larsen said phone service will be disconnected for a day or so to transfer service but phone numbers will not change.

The commission also accepted a bid of $18,925 from Dig It Up Backhoe Service to remove a bridge over the Souris River that had fallen into the river under the weight of farm equipment this fall. The commission will request McHenry County participate in cost sharing. The bridge connects Velva Township in McHenry County with Sawyer Township in Ward County.

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