Safety along Highway 2 East remains a major concern to Ramsey County

Louise Oleson

As the June 21 meeting of the Ramsey County Commission was called to order Commission President Myrna Heisler  asked for a moment of silence for state legislator Curtis Hofstad, who died Saturday of a heart attack.

Then they launched into the business before them.

Commissioner Bill Mertens asked why the Visitors and Delegations item had been removed from the agenda and Heisler responded to his question. She said that she had done considerable research on when it was added to the commission’s agenda and found that according to North Dakota law, it is not normally included as part of regular commission meetings.

After consulting with the States Attorney Lonnie Olson, she removed it from the agenda for the time being because it had become disruptive to the commission’s meetings.

“When someone else is elected president of this commission, they can decide what they want to do about it, but that is the way we are going to do it as long as I am in this position,” she said.

Then she called for approval of the agenda and during the vote Mertens voted “Aye” when she called for all those opposed to the agenda “as written.” The remaining commissioners voted “Aye” in favor of the agenda.

Though other business was addressed, the main topic discussed was the speed study results on Highway 2 East conducted by the North Dakota Department of Transportation.

Mertens suggested they send a letter to Grant Levi asking for him to reconsider the decision to not put left turn lanes in that stretch of the busy highway either side of Vining Oil east of Devils Lake.

At the June 7 meeting the commission had been informed that the NDDOT would not consider putting left turn lanes in, but would consider J-turns or other possibilities.

Mertens questioned that decision and said he thought they should go over Greg Semenko’s head to Levi explaining that the alternatives he had left them with would not be viable.

A great deal of discussion ensued. Commissioner Adam Leiphon was concerned that they follow the proper procedures before “going over Semenko’s head.”

Heisler asked why the state had installed left turn lanes in that stretch of road when they were using it to haul dirt and fill for road raises but when they were finished hauling, they removed those left turn lanes.

“The next horrible accident is going to happen along that stretch near Ackerman’s and Vining, why can’t we be proactive and get something done there? It might save lives,” she added.

Following all the discussion the commission voted to send the letter to Levi asking him to review and reconsider the decision.

Another item on the meeting’s agenda that was briefly discussed was an update of the results of a lawsuit Ramsey County had been named in. States attorney Lonnie Olson explained that originally the county had been named in the lawsuit that dealt with the sale of property to the Tangedals. Though the original suit had been settled out of court, an appeal was sent to the Supreme Court and those arguments were heard in mid May of 2016.

Olson said that Ramsey County had been dropped from the lawsuit but the Lake Region District Health and the Director of the Lake Region District Health were still named in the suit.

Since Lake Region District Health is a political subdivision of Ramsey County the commission still had an interest in the suit’s results.

Olson said that it would be possibly 30 to 60 days before a ruling was handed down on this issue.