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Published January 05, 2010, 04:39 PM

Walsh County to bill farmers for cleanup of muddy roads from harvest

Walsh County will send bills totaling more than $23,000 this month to landowners who failed to clean mud from county roads along their farms during the fall harvest.

By: Kevin Bonham, Grand Forks Herald

GRAFTON, N.D. — Walsh County will send bills totaling more than $23,000 this month to landowners who failed to clean mud from county roads along their farms during the fall harvest.

The bills, which will be directed to landowners or their renters, range from $40 to more than $1,600.

It’s the first time the county has charged farmers for failing to clean mud from the roads, and Walsh may be the first county in the state to pass the costs of material, labor and equipment to clean the roads directly to farmers.

According to the new policy, which requires mud to be cleared from county roads, farmers have two months from the time they receive the bills to make sure the charges are paid, or the bills will be assessed to landowners’ property tax bill.

The policy states “if the owner, renter or contractor fails to comply with the policy, the Walsh County Highway Department will remove the mud or other debris from the roadway and the work shall be billed to the landowner, renter or contractor.”

The intent is to charge people who are farming the land, those who are dragging mud onto the roads, rather than landowners who are renting out their farms.

“While I understand many of you may have made an attempt to clear or repair the roadway, this statement reflects that the attempt was not adequate in order to ensure the safety of all county residents and to restore the roadway to pre-harvest conditions,” County Highway Superintendent Sharon Lipsh wrote in a letter that will accompany the bills.

The charges are $3.75 per yard for gravel, plus 22 cents per mile to haul materials. The county also charged $80 per hour for blade work and $25 per hour for work done with a skid-steer vehicle. Those prices are the same the county charges for road work.

“To me, this is awful fair,” Commissioner Ernie Barta said.

Lipsh said she is not aware of any other county that has adopted such a policy. She said it’s also an issue for townships.

Grand Forks County has not considered such a policy, county Highway Superintendent Richard Onstad said.

“The county hasn’t pushed the issue,” he said. “I know some of the townships have approached some of the sugar beet farmers to replace some of the gravel that was lost. As to how many, I don’t know.”

The issue is particularly acute for townships that have dealt with flood-damaged roads as well this past year, Lipsh said. Many have had to borrow money to pay contractors for repairing roads because much of the federal mitigation reimbursements for flood damage had not arrived by the end of the year.

Reach Bonham at (701) 780-1110; (800) 477-6572, ext. 110; or send e-mail to kbonham@gfherald.com.

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