The House has narrowly passed the budget for the state Department of Transportation.
Many of the “no” votes came because of DOT’s proposal to close eight maintenance sites around the state. Those scheduled to be closed include New England, Fessenden, Starkweather, Courtney, Gackle, Litchville, Finley and Mayville. The plan is to offer the shops and the snowplows with them to counties, cities or townships. DOT would lease the buildings, and give the snowplows to local governments.
"When you think about the Department of Transportation, the primary function of the agency is to keep our roads open," said Rep. Dwight Kiefert (R-Valley City). "I don't feel it's right to dump that responsibility on to the local communities at this time."
"These county shops represent the difference of making it to work on time in the morning," said Rep. Daniel Johnston (R-Kathryn). "And also in an emergency, the difference between life and death."
Rep. Mike Brandenburg (R-Edgeley) chairs the Government Operations subcommittee of House Appropriations. He told the House DOT already has the authority to close the shops – and this is a way to try and alleviate some of the problems.
"Would you rather have somebody who lives in that town who has a nice snowplow, and you can have it there in a short time, or would you rather have somebody 40 miles away that can't be there for two hours, or may not be able to get there," said Brandenburg.
The DOT budget bill passed 52 to 38. It will likely end up in a House-Senate conference committee.