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Grand Forks County Commission approves plan for Merrifield bridge, additional employees at correctional center

The Point Bridge between Grand Forks and East Grand Forks. Herald file photo

Grand Forks County approved a preliminary plan for a bridge over the Red River.

The Grand Forks County Commission approved the Metropolitan Planning Organization's updates to the 2045 Long Range Transportation Plan for a bridge connecting Grand Forks and Polk counties at Merrifield.

Earl Haugen, the executive director of the MPO, proposed a plan for two bridges: one at Merrifield and the other at 32nd Avenue South.

Haugen said the MPO has heard strong public support for the bridge at Merrifield, but not heard a strong voice one way or the other on a bridge at 32nd Avenue South.

The commission approved the bridge at Merrifield because they felt that was the only location in their jurisdiction. They felt a bridge at 32nd Avenue South was a city issue.

The MPO has gotten preliminary approval for the plan from Polk County, the MPO board and the Grand Forks City Council. The MPO plan for a new bridge will go back to the council for final approval Dec. 17.

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In other news

• The commissioners also approved the hiring of three new full-time employees at the Grand Forks County Correctional Center.

Jail Administrator Bret Burkholder is almost $400,000 under his 2018 budget and was seeking county approval to use those funds to hire three new people by the end of the year.

"Being under-budget is due to a staff shortage," Burkholder said. Adding these three people is necessary, Burkholder said, because the correctional center is at a record population.

• The commission convened with a new member Tuesday. Former Grand Forks County Sheriff Bob Rost is the commission's newest member. The commissioners voted Tom Engen to be chairman of the board and Commissioner Diane Knauf to be vice chair.