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Norman County attempting to secure funding to pave road

GRAND FORKS - The Norman County Commission will try to secure funding to pave a road that is jeopardizing a specialty seed potato business in rural Halstad.

The commission Tuesday decided to seek state approval to revoke a county state aid highway designation from a portion of a county road in the northern Norman County and to transfer that designation to a 1.5-mile section of County Road 102 in rural Halstad.

If approved by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, County Road 102 would become County State Aid Highway 51, according to a spokeswoman in the county auditor's department.

Sandi Aarestad, owner of Valley Tissue Culture, has claimed that dust from the deteriorating road this summer contaminated as much as 40 percent of her crop -- disease-free seed potatoes that are cloned and grown in a sterile greenhouse environment. The company averages 10 employees.

Some commissioners said they would not spend county tax money on repairing the road. Estimates to pave the road have ranged from $91,000 to $155,000 this year.

"I really appreciate everybody who stepped in and let their feelings be known," Aarestad said Tuesday. "We needed help. It helps when people see the other side and support you."

The County Board on Tuesday directed the county engineer to start the paperwork for the request to the state. Under the plan, seven miles of the road presently known as County State Aid Highway 5 in Lakeview and Spring Creek townships, would lose that state aid designation.

That would allow the county to designate 1.5 miles of County Road 102 as a county state aid highway. If approved, state gas tax revenue now designated for CSAH 5 would go to the new CSAH 51. The state gas tax revenue can be used for road maintenance and construction.

The issue has festered for more than a year.

Recently, the Halstad Economic Development Authority started a campaign to support Aarestad and Valley Tissue Culture. It published a long letter to the editor in the Norman County Index, the weekly newspaper in Ada, Minn., the county seat. "2,000 feet of pavement equals 10 jobs," was a plea to the County Board to address the situation.