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County, townships work on new road maintenance system

The Grand Forks County Commission is proposing a new agreement with townships that would set a maximum limit on the annual payment it requires townships to pay for road maintenance, including snow removal.

The Grand Forks County Commission is proposing a new agreement with townships that would set a maximum limit on the annual payment it requires townships to pay for road maintenance, including snow removal.

While the number has not been determined, a committee Tuesday said a 5 percent or 10 percent annual maximum increase could be workable. Such an agreement likely would have a clause that allow for emergency increases to cover unusual spikes in fuel or other prices.

The County Commission will present a draft proposal to the Grand Forks County Township Association annual meeting in February. It also will ask that the township association appoint representatives to help work out the details.

Several townships protested earlier this year when the county increased its annual payment from the townships by 25 percent. They said the increase came after township budgets already had been set for the year.

The township road maintenance agreements run from April 1 to March 31. If they lacked financial reserves, townships wouldn't be able to collect taxes to cover the higher fees until the following year.

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Township road maintenance agreements will not increase in 2010, according to Highway Superintendent Richard Onstad.

The county's total road maintenance collections from the 41 townships have increased by 37.5 percent since 2005, from $249,724 to $343,379 this year. No increases were made in 2006 or in 2008.

Townships are charged according the total miles of road that are maintained. This year, the annual payments ranged from $5,015 in several townships to $14,264 from Grand Forks Township. Allendale and Brenna, two suburban Grand Forks townships, each paid $9,415 this year.

Commissioner John Schmisek suggested the committee also investigate whether legislation might be needed -- such as annual calendar years -- to make it easier for counties and townships to work together.

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