Associated Press, Published January 11 2012
Churchs Ferry to remain incorporated after voteCHURCHS FERRY, N.D. — The ever-rising and expanding Devils Lake in eastern North Dakota has nearly drowned out the town of Churchs Ferry, but enough residents want to maintain the community that it will continue to have a future.
Unofficial results of a special election Tuesday show five residents voted to continue as an incorporated city, while two voted to dissolve the community. The Ramsey County Commission meets Friday to certify the results. If the city remains incorporated it can continue collecting taxes for services such as trash collection and street maintenance.
“We'll still be here, until the water takes us,” Mayor Paul Christenson told WDAZ-TV.
Churchs Ferry was incorporated in 1897 and had a peak population of about 450 people in the early 1900s. The population had dwindled to fewer than 100 in 2000, the year the federal government bought out most residents because of the flood threat from the lake that has been rising for about two decades due to a string of wet years. Only about a dozen people now remain in the town along U.S. Highway 2 that lost its school about 20 years ago; its biggest business, the local grain elevator, about 10 years ago; and its last church last spring. The school closed due to declining population, the elevator moved to nearby Leeds and the church closed when its sewer system was inundated by floodwaters.
Four residents filed a petition last year seeking an election on whether to dissolve the town and turn to township or county services, which they said might be cheaper and better.
Christenson said he respects the right of residents to force a vote on the town's future but that it only added to the stress caused by the flooding.
“We're trying to hang on to our town and what we like about living here,” Christenson told the Grand Forks Herald. "We're sitting on an island. Nobody's helped us. We've dug into our own pockets to keep what we have.
“Those of us who have called this home all our lives ... everybody who has lived here, everybody who went to school here can still say this is a town and they have a community to come home to,” he said.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.