The Grand Forks County Commission took a step forward in creating its own Human Service Zone, a realignment in the delivery of social services which has been transferred from county control to state administration.
At their regular meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 5, county commissioners approved the creation of a Human Services board to oversee the county's zone of delivery, which has yet to be approved by the state, with the goal of reducing overhead for North Dakota social services programs. Under new rules approved by the state Legislature, Grand Forks County can potentially qualify to become its own Human Service Zone. Counties with less than 60,000 population are expected to organize with other, less populated areas, to form their zones of delivery.
The board for Grand Forks County will include County Commissioner Cynthia Pic, state Sen. JoNell Bakke, state Rep. Wayne Trottier, Kent Keys, who is Red River Valley Community Action's executive director, Janell Regimbal, who is vice president of Children’s Services at Lutheran Social Services, and James Remer, deputy chief of the Grand Forks Police Department.
Grand Forks County will forward its zone proposal, with board, to the state Department of Human Services for final consideration. Proposals are due before the state by Dec. 1.
The County Commission also voted to allow the Grand Forks County Sheriff’s Department to pay just over $15,000 to upgrade the fuel control system that county vehicles use to refuel. The computer that controls the fuel system, tracks mileage and dispenses fuel is not compatible with the Windows 10 operating system. The request was made by Nick West, county engineer, who said that his department keeps one Windows XP computer to operate the system. Vehicles from the Sheriff’s Department use 48% of the fuel dispensed.
In other action, the Commission voted to allow Red River BioRefinery LLC, a company that processes sugar beet tailings and potato waste from the J.R. Simplot company into biofuel -- essentially ethanol -- to apply to the state Industrial Commission, through the Grand Forks County Commission, for $80 million in tax exempt financing. The financing comes in the form of bonds, not currency, and acts as a form of insurance for the company to complete its construction projects. Red River BioRefinery was granted the same application last year, using only $60 million of the bonds, with the remainder returned to the state. There is no liability to Grand Forks County, as it provides only the mechanism by which the bonds are distributed from the state.
According to Brandon Baumbach of the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corporation, the state has about $1.5 billion in volume cap available for projects such as this. The company expects to make its first sale of biofuel in February or March next year in the California market.