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Grand Forks redraws city wards, precincts

City Council members voted on a new map of the city's wards, which determine which council seats correspond to which segments of the city.

An alternate to the "Ponderosa" ward map presented to Grand Forks City Council members on Monday, Nov. 22, 2021. Council members voted 5-1 to make this the new arrangement of the city's seven wards and 11 precincts. Contributed / City of Grand Forks
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Grand Forks officials signed off on a new map of the city that defines where each of its seven wards are, which in turn determines which sets of candidates for public office residents will be asked to choose for the next 10 years.

City Council members voted 5-1 on Monday to adopt a map that’s set to rebalance the populations in each of the city’s seven council wards and shift, sometimes dramatically, existing ward boundaries.

The new map expands Ward 1 southward along the western side of I-29, expands Ward 2 into the northern part of the city and east to the Red River, pushes Ward 3 south into a more central position, extends Ward 4 southward and pushes its western edge east, expands Ward 5 west to Columbia Road and moves its northern border south to 32nd Avenue South, consolidates Ward 6 to the city’s southeastern corner, and expands Ward 7 west by a handful of blocks. It’s set to go into effect in time for next summer’s city elections.

Link: Grand Forks’ Competing Ward and Precinct Map Options (Click the “Content” button under the “Details” tab in the top left of the page, then check or uncheck the boxes below it to view the different ward and precinct maps brainstormed by city staff)


The wards in the newly adopted map align more closely with North Dakota’s newly redrawn legislative districts , a change that reduces the number of precincts in the city from 20 to 11 but, according to city staff, does not affect the number of Grand Forks polling places. Fewer precincts means cheaper elections for Grand Forks County, which needs to print a different ballot for each precinct because each precinct has a different set of candidates, according to Adam Jonasson, the city I.T. director who headed the redrawing effort.

The map that council members approved is an alternate to the “Ponderosa” map that was presented to them earlier this month . Ponderosa is itself an alternative “Pine,” which is one of three options city staff presented to council members earlier this month.

Some council members, most vocally Council President Dana Sande , were reluctant to support the Pine option because, if adopted, it would have effectively moved at least one council member out of the ward they currently represent. The Ponderosa option kept Bret Weber inside Ward 3, to which he was first elected in 2012. The alternate Ponderosa map that council members approved Monday is the same as the initial Ponderosa plan except for a small tweak that keeps a UND-area neighborhood near Oxford Street inside Ward 1, rather than split between it and Ward 2.

Council member Ken Vein was the single vote against the new map. He told the Herald that he prefers having Grand Forks’ downtown area encompassed by a single ward, rather than the “fingers” of Wards 1, 2 and 3 that stretch into it under the adopted plan. The “Birch” option presented to council members at the outset of the map redraw would have put nearly all of downtown Grand Forks into Ward 3.

“Birch really takes the downtown area and, I think, makes for better neighborhood alignment,” Vein told council members shortly before their vote. Council member Weber was not present for the vote.


In related news, council members, acting as the non-binding Committee of the Whole:

  • Approved a $121,000 budget amendment for Grand Forks Public Health’s “women’s way” program, which aims to detect breast and cervical cancer early via a grant from the North Dakota Department of Health. The additional money accounts for that state grant.
  • Awarded a $1.74 million bid to Ti-Zack Concrete, Inc., a construction company based in Le Center, Minnesota, to reconstruct North Fourth Street from DeMers Avenue to First Avenue North. The reconstruction relies financially upon $1.6 million worth of federal funding. Ti-Zack’s bid was the cheapest of the three the city received, but was still about 9% more expensive than engineers estimated the project would cost. All told, the project is expected to cost $2.4 million, $775,000 of which would be paid by the city government itself.

Joe Bowen is an award-winning reporter at the Duluth News Tribune. He covers schools and education across the Northland.

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