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Crooked Crane to receive $1.2M grant

New City Administrator Joseph Gaa, right, enjoys light conversation with Jan Murtha, city attorney, before his first meeting of the City Commissioners Tuesday. (Brandon L. Summers / The Dickinson Press)

Dickinson's Crooked Crane Trail is set to receive a $1.2 million grant to complete Phase 2 of its construction.

City Engineer Craig Kubas told City Commissioners Tuesday that a grant was submitted to the Outdoor Heritage Fund and a presentation given to its board on the project.

The advisory board to the North Dakota Industrial Commission works to help connect people with outdoor recreational opportunities.

Kubas called Phase 2 the most important trail project in the city.

With an estimated cost of $1.6 million, the city requested $1.2 million in grant funds, which is their maximum match at 75 percent.

"Already, last night, we've gotten an email back from that advisory board, and learned, it's not officially awarded, but that advisory board is going to recommend to the commission to fund our project wholly," Kubas said.

He added, "We believe, shortly, we'll have the $1.2 million grant to help fund construction of Phase 2."

The next phase will connect the trail from State Avenue at the bridge, past the North Dakota Game & Fish Department building, to Patterson Lake.

"It will connect all the way to Phase 1, which is the 1.8 mile loop," Kubas said. "This is 1.6 miles of trail here."

A final hurdle remains of getting final approval from Burlington Northern Railroad.

Much of the trail will need to be constructed in their right-of-way, Kubas explained.

"We think we've met their requirements, maintaining a 50-foot separation from the tracks and eliminating a crossing," he said.

He added, "We hope to hear a favorable response from them in the next month or two."

Mayor Scott Decker applauded the project

"It looks very promising," he said. "It will be a great asset to the city, once everything's connected."

In other business:

City Commissioners also approved a memorandum of understanding with the Downtown Dickinson Association for a proposed town square.

The DDA has committed to raising $2 million for the project.

The MOU outlines the project's history, the DDA's obligations with its capital campaign, and the city's obligations in the project's construction.

The project has stalled, though, as appraisals take place for the purchase of private property located on the city's preferred site of the corner of Villard and Sims streets.

The funds must be raised before the city begins construction.

"In the past, with the discussion, my understanding is, we weren't going to proceed until the $2 million is in place," Decker said.

Commissioner Sarah Trustem expressed concerns about purchasing the buildings before the campaign is completed.

"In order to have a capital campaign, we're going to have to show good faith as a commission, and it's going to be very difficult for them to raise money for a project that isn't seeing momentum," she said. " I think appraisals are a good start, but it's also private property."

The MOU also allows for further collaboration between the DDA and the city toward finishing the project.

Commissioners welcomed City Administrator Joseph Gaa, who started work on Nov. 26.

Gaa previously served as city manager for Chariton, Iowa. Among his efforts, Gaa improved the city's financial position, oversaw multiple infrastructure projects, and was a key figure in implementing its downtown revitalization effort.

Gaa said he was "very excited" to be starting work in Dickinson.

"Last week I met with all the commissioners and this week we're meeting with department heads," he said. "I've definitely hit the ground running, and I'm enjoying my time here."

Linda Carlson was relieved of her duties as interim administrator, and resumed her role as deputy administrator.

Commissioners and city staff gave Carlson a round of applause for her efforts.

"I'm sure you're a little relieved just to go into your normal role," Decker said, "and not wear dual hats."

Carlson thanked them for their support.