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Conrad, community leaders review projects, needs

By Staff | Aug 27, 2010

U.S. Sen. Kent Conrad-D made a brief stop in Rugby last week, but plenty of ground was covered on a variety of topics during his visit with city and county leaders on Aug. 26.

Specifically, Conrad wanted feedback on how federal stimulus programs were being utilized to strengthen the region’s infrastructure and services, and whether those programs were good investments.

Among those dollars was $7.5 million from the Recovery Act which went into highway repairs along N.D. Highway 3 north of Rugby as well as along a section of U.S. Highway 2 east between Rugby and Leeds.

Improving highways in the region is vital because of increased truck traffic. U.S. Highway 2 likely will see additional traffic demands in the future tied with increased oil drilling activity in western N.D.

The local school district tapped into a zero interest bond program for new construction and renovation for public schools. Conrad was encouraged to see Rugby is participating in that program, securing $6 million in bonds for the improvements.

Discussion also turned to the needs of law enforcement, specifically with the the influx of people moving into the western and central regions of the state as a result of increased oil production. Unfortunately, that increased population has also led to an increase in criminal activity, taxing local law enforcement services, Conrad said.

Rugby Police Chief Luis Coca and Pierce County Sheriff Matt Lunde discussed with Conrad concerns the local departments are facing.

Conrad also visited with Elaine Little, administrator of the Heart of America Correctional and Treatment Center. He was pleased to learn the facility’s inmate counts are up thanks in large part to a long-range boarding partnership with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. And the facility is now able to set aside funds in reserve.

Conrad also reported the pre-engineering study to raise the railroad bridge at Churchs Ferry threatened by rising Devils Lake waters and construct new embankments is nearly completed. The state of N.D. and Burlington Northern-Santa Fe, which owns the rail line, each have contributed just over $1.5 million to the study costs. The state’s share is coming from federal highway funds.

Once that study is complete, federal officials as well as BNSF and Amtrak representatives can determine costs to make the track improvements which are necessary to ensure continued Amtrak service along the rail line which serves Rugby. An earlier proposal was to move Amtrak service to BNSF’s KO Subdivision line (the Surrey cutoff) in the future, thus bypassing Rugby, Grand Forks and Devils Lake.

Rugby Mayor Dave Cichos briefed Conrad on some of the current projects the community is involved in.

Conrad’s trip to Rugby was one of many throughout the state during his break from work at the U.S. Capitol.

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