This is Up and Down, where we give a brief thumbs up or thumbs down on the issues from the past week.
Burleigh County received new election equipment last week, as part of the state’s investment to replace aging machines. The county received 50 ballot scanners, 50 accessibility devices and one central scanner for tabulating absentee ballots. Other counties are expected to receive equipment in the coming weeks. A survey by the North Dakota Association of Counties found that 27 ballot scanners in 16 counties failed in the 2018 primary and general elections. The $8.2 million state investment, along with $3 million in federal funds, is important to ensure voters’ confidence in election results.
North Dakota two-year colleges are slightly more expensive than competitors in the region. In 2018-19, the average direct cost of North Dakota two-year colleges was $12,084, compared to the regional average of $10,720, according to a report produced by the North Dakota University System. The cost difference is part of a historical trend, but something for state officials to work to address as efforts continue to deal with a shortage of workers.
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North Dakota will receive $6.5 million in federal money to replace aging bridges, the first time such a grant has been offered. Eighteen rural bridges are targeted, including two in Burleigh County. The bridges are not considered unsafe but are in need of being replaced due to their age, condition or load-carrying capacity.
The number of abandoned oil wells has grown 10% in the past two years to more than 700. A state oil regulator said last week that some companies with “junk” wells in North Dakota have tried to unload them by selling them to another operator. It’s good to see the state move toward adopting new rules to rein in this problem. Increasing bond requirements would be a good step, as long as the rules are enforced and bond amounts are adequate to cover the cost of reclamation.