Richland to ND: ‘Where’s our money?!’

A $200 million allocation to the North Dakota General Fund was forecast to be nearly completed as of December 2021 according to information shared when the commissioners met. A $400 million allocation to the strategic investments and improvements fund had not begun as of December. A $59.8 million allocation to municipal/county and township infrastructure funds had also not begun.

A new year, new forecasts for the rate of revenue allocations from North Dakota’s “Prairie Dog” infrastructure bill — and yet, the same old frustrations about delays in getting a share.

The Richland County Board of Commissioners, receiving an update on the status of three “buckets” Tuesday, Jan. 4, didn’t hide their frustration. Before they left for Christmas break, leaders said they had been denied at least $10 million in revenue that would go toward infrastructure.

A $200 million allocation to the North Dakota General Fund was forecast to be nearly completed as of December 2021 according to information shared when the commissioners met. A $400 million allocation to the strategic investments and improvements fund had not begun as of December. A $59.8 million allocation to municipal/county and township infrastructure funds had also not begun.

“So we’re $600 million away,” Commissioner Nathan Berseth said. “Actually, even further than that.”

“We’re not going to see it,” Commissioner Rollie Ehlert said. “They’ve told us.”

According to the information shared, the timing of distributions to municipal and other funds depends on when the County and Township Infrastructure Fund bucket is filled during the 2021-2023 biennium.

“Distributions will occur the month after the fund reaches its biennial cap of $115 million, or the end of the biennium if it doesn’t fill completely,” the information stated.

Original forecasts showed distribution of the funds would happen during the second quarter of the 2021 calendar year, the information stated. It was also reported that oil and gas tax revenue as of December 2021 was significantly lower than originally forecasted amounts.

Despite this and based on current oil prices, funding from the Prairie Dog revenue is expected to be received in the 2021-2023 biennium.

Later in the meeting, the commissioners voted 4-1 for Tom Kubela to join the county water resource board. The dissenting vote came from Commissioner Sid Berg, who voted for Warren C. Anderson. Other candidates included Jim Dotenzrod and Craig Myhre.

“I’ve been been an active farmer in the area my whole life. I’m at the time in my life where I can donate a little time. I think the water board would be something quite interesting. It sounds quite challenging and I think I can bring a common sense approach,” Kubela said.

Being on the water resource board is challenging, Berseth agreed. It involves standing up for Richland County, including landowners.

“It’s like picking your favorite child,” Commissioner Perry Miller said about the four candidates.

Also in the meeting, the commissioners unanimously voted to sell a lot at 110 Third St. N., Fairmount, North Dakota, for $1 to the city of Fairmount. The city is expected to demolish a dilapidated home on the property, which Commissioner Tim Campbell and Ehlert recently visited.

County Auditor Fossum explained that because there are special assessments on the land, the city of Fairmount is able to purchase it for $1 and without having to have a sale in the open market. In an open market sale, Fairmount could still bid for and potentially buy the property the same as any other interested owner-developer.

The next commission meeting will be held at 8 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 1 at the Richland County Courthouse.

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