Ward County residents dispute right-of-way purchases

WARD COUNTY, N.D. - A growing number of Ward County residents are crying foul over losing parts of their land to road improvement projects.

They say they should be reimbursed for the land they're being forced to give up.

Imagine the surprise for Ward County resident Jerry Stroklund, learning some of his property wasn't his.

“I thought it was ridiculous, and I thought that I hadn't given this land away any place. All the trees here are hand-planted, and we're pretty partial to it,” said Stroklund.

Stroklund learned last year that the county had purchased more than 40 feet of his front lawn--more than two decades ago!

This is the original easement line that was set long before Stroklund owned this property. But, times have changed. The right-of-way line now is right here, set more than 20 years ago. But Stroklund, didn't even know that it had happened.

A growing number of property owners say they are losing land without reimbursement so the county can widen roads.

“If they're gonna build these good roads, and they've done, they've been working on roads in the past twenty years, why haven't they widened them already?” said Brock Axness, with the Ward County Farm Bureau.

County Commissioner John Fjeldahl shows sympathy for their cause.

“They're saying we need that right-of-way to provide safe roads. I don't argue that. If you need the right-of-way, and you can justify that you need the right-of-way, buy the land,” said Fjeldahl.

Commissioner Alan Water argues he has a responsibility to make sure roads are safe.

“We as County Commissioners are charged with making sure that things are done safely, roads are built safely and correctly in this county, not just for all the citizens but for the farmers that use them more than anybody else,” said Walter.

Stroklund said he doesn't want to lose what he planted.

“It's a stressful thing because you see all the trees that we had on here, and they're gonna be taken away,” said Stroklund.

The Ward County Planning Commission will discuss this issue at their meeting Thursday evening at 7 p.m. in the County Administration Building.