Williams County will contribute an additional $400,000 toward the cost of building a seed-cleaning facility and a greenhouse at the Williston Research Extension Center.

Williams County Commissioners decided unanimously to award more money to the projects during their regular session on Tuesday, July 7.

Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Joint EARC/WREC Advisory Committee, is spearheading efforts to raise money for the facilities. He told commissioners that that bids for the building came in at $1.2 million, about $400,000 more than expected.

Wheeler told the Williston Herald after the meeting that he is not quite sure why the buildings were so much more expensive than expected, but acknowledged part of it is probably the “Bakken premium” that many projects face, and another part of it is likely due to doing business with the state. There are bonding requirements on projects that use state funds that private individuals do not have to meet.

Fund-raising for the project, meanwhile, has been stymied amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Wheeler said the group did continue seeking donations by telephone, but the presentations are not as effective as they are in person.

“When (COVID-19) hit, our fund-raising efforts more or less ceased,” Wheeler said. “You cannot go meet with anyone. It is always best to be there in person to make or do the presentation.”

Williams County Commissioners had already given the two facilities a combined $750,000 contribution last year, noting the importance of agriculture to the community.

On Tuesday, Williams County Commissioner David Montgomery reiterated that, calling it the backbone of the county’s economy.

There was some discussion about which fund to take the money from, which prompted Montgomery to say, “My opinion would be I don’t think we would have any problem coming up with the $400,000.”

A motion approving the funding passed unanimously.

Wheeler told the Williston Herald the group will continue raising funds to complete the projects, and the hope is to have the facility completed for this crop year.

That is one of the reasons the project wasn’t rebid, Wheeler added. Particularly considering that the Foundation Seed Program is already growing more acres for seeds than it could reasonably handle with the old facility.

“We didn’t rebid because of the delay,” Wheeler said. “We need to have it ready for the next season. Plus, we might end up with a bid just as high. We didn’t feel we could take that chance.”

On other matters commissioners:

• Approved a zone change to light industrial and a conditional use permit for a 9-acre parcel in Judson township requested by Rough Riders Propane for the storage and sale of bulk fuel. The property was zoned agricultural.

• Decided to deny a request for a zone change from commercial to heavy industrial for a 30-acre parcel in Hofflund Township and to instead grant a conditional use permit for Advantage Midstream, which wants to add mobile processing equipment that will convert natural gas to diesel fuel. Since the project is only for two to five years, Commissioners felt a permanent zone change to heavy industrial could pose future problems for landowners in the area, depending on future uses of the land. Commissioners also approved a staff-initiated request to update the zoning for the 8-acre tract of land in Judson Township.

• Approved a staff-initiated request to change the zoning for a 67-acre parcel in Trenton from residential to urban residential. A developer had requested a preliminary plat, variances from setback requirements and street design standards for the tract, but has since withdrawn the project.

• Approved resubdivision of lots in the Blacktail Dam Subdivision in Blacktail Township, currently zoned existing small lot residential.

• Denied an abatement request from the owners of the Grand Williston Hotel, which had wanted to reduce the value from a little more than $10 million down to about $2 million based on a recent sale of the property. However, the sale cannot be used for that purpose because it doesn’t meet required criteria in North Dakota Century Codes, Williams County Assessor Darcy Anderson said.

• Approved a five-year contract for the Department of Motor Vehicles.

• Appointed Beau Anderson and Barry Ramberg to a committee to discuss a joint powers agreement with the Water Board, and appointed Anderson to the Alva J. Field Trust board.

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