BERTHOLD Life in the small town is changing for residents of Berthold.
The community counted 454 residents two years ago, but it has been growing, so much so that it is organizing its own police department and expanding its school.
The school district recently received bids to construct an addition with four new classrooms and a set of restrooms. Supt. Brian Nelson said the district hopes to begin construction yet this fall and have the addition completed by the next school year.
Students at the Berthold school look through books during reading time in the library, set up in space that doubles as a conference room in a building where juggling space is common place.
The project, costing about $2.3 million with the associated professional fees, is significantly scaled back from the project associated with a $12 million bond issue that voters in the Lewis and Clark School District rejected in January. Voters in the Berthold and Carpio precincts approved the idea, but overall in the district, the 48 percent approval rate was short of the 60 percent needed.
The school board plans to use a type of revenue bond to get some initial construction going using the district's general-fund dollars and building fund levy. Nelson said it won't replace the larger project, but it will give the school some breathing room while efforts continue to obtain funding for additional construction.
The preliminary plan for the new classrooms is to move younger grades to the new addition, shifting other elementary and junior high classrooms. That would free up space for the learning disabilities program and for administrative offices. Currently, teachers who assist students with learning disabilities work in tight quarters, using a hallway for overflow that can be noisy with other school activity. Administrative offices exist here and there around the school, including in the corner of a classroom. The superintendent's office is a small room tucked away in the vocational education department.
Changing the way the existing facility is used will help with over-crowding on various levels and enable the school to bring the preschool back into the building from a local church where it has been operating due to lack of school building space, Nelson said.
Nelson said the long-term plan is to prepare another ballot measure and better educate voters on the need for more space. The need for more classrooms, a multi-purpose room and larger lunch room haven't gone away, he said. Rather, he said, the need will grow with the new Common Core educational practices being adopted in the state. The program requires that students graduate with certain core knowledge, and that will force more and smaller classes to accommodate students at various educational levels, he said.
While the school pores over building plans, city officials are poring over applications for police chief. Berthold plans to start its own police force in January.
"There's just a lot of additional activity," said Mayor Alan Lee, noting that the city had first approached the Ward County Sheriff's Department about adding a deputy to serve Berthold. The county department reponded that it already is stretched thin, so Berthold decided it may be time to look at hiring.
Lee said the city has talked off and on about having its own officer, but finances always proved to be the insurmountable hurdle. The activity that is prompting the need for a local law officer also is raising the tax base, though. The city now believes it can afford to have its own police department, Lee said.
The city budgeted about $100,000 for 2013 and has been seeking grants to offset the cost to taxpayers. The Ward Commission approved the donation of a used vehicle from sheriff's department. The donation will be a huge savings for the city, Lee said.
The sheriff's office and the City of Burlington, which has its own police department, have been helpful in advising Berthold throughout the process of setting up a police department, he said.
Besides an officer and equipment, the department will need space in City Hall. Lee said City Hall could expand into the existing fire hall if the fire department and ambulance service pursue plans being discussed to construct a new building.
Berthold also will need to set up a municipal court. The city passed a new code of ordinances this year, and a law enforcement and court system would enable the city to enforce municipal laws that the sheriff's department doesn't get involved with. Berthold must take ordinance violations to a district judge in Minot to obtain orders allowing for enforcement. It's a cumbersome process that has discouraged prosecution of violations, Lee said.
The main concern for the city is traffic violations. The city was successful in getting the speed lowered on U.S. Highway 2, and having an extra officer to watch for violations will improve safety, Lee said.
"It's dangerous out there," Lee said. "We know the Highway Patrol welcomes some assistance."
The biggest issue for the city in hiring a police officer may be finding housing.
A developer proposing a large housing project has not yet been able to start. The plan was to build 250 homes through next year, but that could hinge whether construction can get started this fall, Lee said.
Berthold's lagoon expansion project is waiting for movement by the developer, too. Lee said the lagoon is nearing capacity and will need to be expanded to accommodate an influx of new residents.