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County OKs $300,000 transfer

The Grand Forks County Commission approved a $300,000 budget transfer Tuesday to cover last year's cost overrun at the county jail. The new $16 million Grand Forks County Correctional Center facility has been operating at a loss since it opened i...

The Grand Forks County Commission approved a $300,000 budget transfer Tuesday to cover last year's cost overrun at the county jail.

The new $16 million Grand Forks County Correctional Center facility has been operating at a loss since it opened in late September.

The correctional center's staff nearly doubled from the 40 staff members a year ago at the old jail. A total of 19 new employees were hired in late 2006.

The county also had to deal with an Order for Compliance issued by the North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The order was issued after a jail inspection following the August suicide of an inmate at the old jail.

The money will be transferred from the county's general fund.

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Earlier this month, the commission estimated it could have a budget shortfall of $600,000 to $900,000 at the correctional center in 2007.

The shortfall is due largely to staffing increases necessary to bring the facility closer to levels recommended in federal guidelines.

Ramp could

be reconsidered

The Grand Forks County Commission agreed Tuesday to ask the Metropolitan Planning Organization to conduct another traffic study to see if an on-off ramp can be justified along Interstate 29 near Merrifield Road.

Representatives of the South Forks Bypass Coalition are seeking local sponsorship in an effort to push the project forward.

They said an interchange at Merrifield Road is listed on the North Dakota Department of Transportation's long-range plan, which means it would qualify for 100 percent federal and state funding sometime between 2017 and 2025.

It currently is not on the Grand Forks County Highway Department's transportation Capital Improvement Project timetable, which runs through 2012.

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Robert Drees, representing the South Forks Bypass group, said the state would not consider an on-off ramp unless it is on the county's transportation plan.

The commission directed County Planner Lane Magnuson to draft a letter asking the MPO to take a close look at Merrifield Road traffic projections when it updates its plans next year.

If those projections show merit for a Merrifield Road on-off ramp, the state Transportation Department might consider advancing the project to an earlier date. However, such a move might require some local financing.

Drees said landowners have indicated a willingness to donate the 15 acres necessary for an on-off ramp. That donation could be counted toward a 10-percent local match of $1.5 million."If at all possible, we'd like to work through the state," Magnuson said.

The project has been on the table for at least a decade. In 2001, AGSCO and the Ag Depot, located on the west side of I-29 at Merrifield Road, estimated traffic at the businesses at 100 semi-trailers a day. That was up from 20 to 30 daily in 1994, when the business opened.

Drees said the number of trucks has doubled since 2002, adding that current projections show the traffic doubling again by 2012.

Reach Bonham at (701) 780-1269, (800) 477-6572, ext. 269, or kbonham@gfherald.com .

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