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City Council approves preliminary redistricting plan and will hold a workshop between now and next meeting

The preliminary, dubbed Option Ponderosa, is an offshoot of previous plan Option Pine. The only alteration between the two plans is an enlargement of Ward 3 by extending its perimeter to include the area between Division Ave. and Minnesota Ave. The main effect of this is that it keeps Ward 3 council member Bret Weber in his current ward.

Grand Forks City Hall
Grand Forks City Hall

The Grand Forks City Council on Monday approved a preliminary redistricting plan in light of data released by the United States Census Bureau.

A final vote on the plan is expected as soon as Nov. 22, but a decision is needed by the end of the year. The council reserved the right to make alterations before that date, and it also will schedule a public workshop to discuss it further.

The preliminary plan, dubbed Option Ponderosa, is an offshoot of previous a plan, called Option Pine. The only alteration between the two plans is an enlargement of Ward 3 by extending its perimeter to include the area between Division Avenue and Minnesota Avenue. The main effect of this is that it keeps Ward 3 City Council member Bret Weber in his current ward.

The redistricting comes as the population of the average ward increased from about 7,500 in 2010 to 8,500 between 2010 and 2020. Large population growth in the south end and the draining of people on the north end caused the tide to turn.

Debbie Nelson, county auditor, was unsure what time frame the county would need to finish the necessary work to wrap up its end of the process.

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“This happens once every 10 years, so 10 years ago we were doing this, so how long did it take?” Nelson said. “I’m not sure, exactly. We can work as fast and as hard as we possibly can, so if you could give us a little bit more time to get that done, that would be great. If you can’t, you can’t. I just hope we can work together, and we don’t have to spend Christmas Eve here working and Christmas Day.”

Mayor Brandon Bochenski noted the census was delayed in 2020 due to the pandemic, which in turn delayed the redistricting.

“The dominoes kind of fall starting with the state, so we’re left in a tough spot, and so is the county,” Bochenski said. “It’s really neither of our faults, if it’s anybody’s.”

Todd Feland, Grand Forks city administrator, said the city and county have to work together to finalize the process by the end of the year.

“It’s a remapping process, from what we’ve been told,” Feland said. “Right now, the path we’re on, we’d have final approval on Nov. 22, which would give her a month-plus to get all the particulars she needs to get done.”

In other news Monday:

  • The Grand Forks Committee of the Whole approved the 2022 Community Development Block Grant Budget, which has been increased by $419,458 over 2021’s budget due to the sale of Corporate Center 2, which accounted for $895,000 of the total budget. The majority of the funds, $1,150,000, have been allocated toward competitive brick-and-mortar grants, with $230,000 allocated toward competitive public service grants, $125,000 toward HomeCents program operations, $125,000 allocated toward administration and $20,000 for contingency purposes.

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