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Mayor, councilmen salaries trimmed

By Staff | Jul 11, 2014

The City of Rugby mayor and the eight councilmen will make considerably less money for the remainder of 2014.

Newly elected councilman Craig Zachmeier (Ward 4) was appointed chairman of the Ordinance Committee at the council’s reorganization meeting June 24 and he wasted little time scrutinizing the city’s ordinances.

Of the five ordinances discussed at Tuesday’s regular monthly meeting, the Elected Officials ordinance (No. 391) had the most direct impact on those at the table.

Zachmeier found that the council had not legally changed the salaries from the $100 per council members per month and $250 for mayor per month set in 1996. Before Tuesday’s meeting the council members were making $300 per month and the mayor $600.

“The bottom line is we cannot operate outside of our own laws and expect everyone else to follow them,” Zachmeier said. “As of now, if we’re violating our ordinance, it’s a misappropriation of city funds.”

The council then approved a measure to follow the ordinance approved in 1996 and revert back to what the members were making on Jan. 1, 2015, when salary changes can next go into effect.

Ward 3 Councilman Jim Hoffert asked Mayor Arland Geiszler if the council has to address a return of wages. Geiszler said a good faith statute protects the city from having to take such an action and repeatedly thanked Zachmeier for pointing out the issues.

“Mr. Zachmeier has been working diligently so that (similar instances) are not out there in the future,” Geiszler said.

Other ordinances reviewed

The council approved the second reading of the franchises ordinance (No. 389), which goes into effect immediately. (Only amended ordinances with penalty clauses take effect after the public has been notified with a publishing of the ordinance’s penalty clause.) The franchises ordinance states that a franchise or easement approved by the council must be obtained before any persons, firm, corporation or utility implements any medium to transport electric or electronic signals, natural gas or other materials. The ordinance also states a franchise may be granted by adoption of an ordinance.

A second reading of the nuisances ordinance (No. 390) was tabled. Zachmeier said the chief of police and municipal judge are not comfortable with the ordinance.

A first reading of the purchasing procedures ordinance (No. 393) was approved. The mayor requested the ordinance be brought into state law, as many of the ordinances have not been changed since 1942.

If the second reading is approved, purchases of more than $500 by city department heads will no longer be left to the discretion of that supervisor or purchasing agent. A committee chairman of the committee overseeing the department will have the authority to approve or deny the request of purchases more than $500.

Department heads can make purchases of less than $500, but the receipt must be presented to the city auditor within five business days, according to the proposed changes.

The amendment also reads, the chairman or committee member who approves or denies a request shall notify the city auditor as soon thereafter as practical.

Other additions to the purchasing procedures include a department supervisor having the authority to make purchases without approval if an emergency exists endangering life; and department supervisor has the authority to make purchases without approval for routine maintenance of city property and for continued maintenance of city government services.

“The mayor wanted more accountability for the taxpayers, so he wanted to hold the city elected officials and workers at the plant accountable,” Zachmeier said.

Another amendment states that two bids shall be solicited for any purchase exceeding $2,500, and such purchases shall require council approval, even if budgeted. It previously stated $5,000 as the threshold. The bids will need to be formally recorded.

A first reading of the city council ordinance (No. 392) was approved in an effort to “allow the mayor to lead the city more efficiently,” according to Zachmeier.

The reading states that special meetings shall be held at a time and date set by the mayor; with said date, time and location publicly posted according to law. This can be done by electronic means (email and text) on top of the previously stated telephone notice and summons.

The amendments to the ordinance also included the updating of committee names, which had not been changed since 1942. An addition gives the mayor authority to order, develop, rename and combine committees as the mayor sees as practical, for the effective execution of the city government unless otherwise directed by majority vote of council.

Council supports sprinkler system for apartment building

The council voted to require owners of the three-story apartment building on 3rd Street SE (east of Third Street Station and across from the fire hall) to install a sprinkler system. Owners Allen and Jennifer Liebert are renovating the old building and hope to have it available for tenants this fall.

The Lieberts argued that there are three fire exits and enough exits per floor to not require a sprinkler system. City building inspector Scott Craun stated his belief that a sprinkler system should be installed and said he is not comfortable taking responsibility without council approval.

Rugby Fire Chief Dave Schneibel Jr. said he believes a sprinkler system should be in the common areas of each floor. Schneibel said the city has no codes, so it forfeits to the state code, which follows international code.

Allen Liebert stated that he spoke with the state fire marshals about a standpipe system, which is already in the building and fire hoses can hook to.

“The state fire marshal is not our fire chief,” Zachmeier said. “If our fire chief says we need a sprinkler system, we support our fire chief.”

Ward 1 Councilman Neil Lotvedt requested the Lieberts get a letter from the state fire marshals stating the city’s liability.

Ward 2 Councilman Gary Kraft opposed the vote.

Animal ordinances discussed

Resident SyAnn Graber addressed the council and explained that her 6-year-old granddaughter is recovering from a vicious dog attack, which is requiring multiple surgeries, including orthodontic work, and counseling.

Graber believes the ordinances are too vague.

“Some communities and states require postings of vicious dogs,” Graber said. “Had my daughter known, she probably would not have let her daughter play there.”

Graber said too many dogs run loose in the city.

Zachmeier and Geiszler assured her that the Ordinance Committee will look into the matter in coming weeks.

“We’re really concerned about any other child,” Graber said. “We need to be more worried about the little ones and for all ages.”

Steel roofs discussed

Resident Steve Brossart asked the council if there are any guidelines for metal roofs in the city.

“I think we have a new resident, who put up pole barn roofing,” Brossart said. “To me, it means people can do whatever they want.”

Brossart suggested a survey be sent to residents asking whether they find metal residential roofs acceptable, and if so what kind.

Lotvedt explained that the metal roofing is cheaper than shingles and that he expects more people to go with metal in the future. Geiszler said the city has nothing in ordinances to prevent the metal roofing and asked the ordinance committee to look into the matter.

Resident Jim Day stated his desire to see one design and style of steel roofs decided on.

The council approved a motion to have the Building, Property and Construction Committee present a scheduled recommendation to the ordinance committee.

Council tables agreement with BNSF

A drainage rights agreement between the city and BNSF was tabled at the request of Zachmeier. City Attorney Bill Hartl will be asked to further review the agreement with the council. The agreement calls for the “City to grant BNSF the right to allow the freeflow of water from BNSF property into the City’s storm drain system.”

Zachmeier questioned language in the agreement, which highlights the benefits for the city. He said the language has no business in such an agreement.

A fourth point at the beginning of the agreement states: “The drainage of surface water from BNSF property is of benefit to both quality of life in the City, and to the efficiency of rail operations.”

Zachmeier also takes issue with the compensation clause of the contract: “BNSF shall pay the City the sum of ten and No/100 Dollars ($10.00) as compensation for the rights granted in this Agreement.”

“They’re naming the price?” Zachmeier said Tuesday. “Why aren’t we drawing up the agreement. That should be drawn up by the City of Rugby. Why would we ever release them from any liability if they pollute water? That drainage eventually goes into the ground somewhere.”

The liability clause states: “BNSF shall indemnify and hold the City harmless from any and all liability caused by contaminants in the freeflow of water from BNSF property into the City’s storm drain system taking place pursuant to the rights granted in this Agreement, except to the extent any of such liability is caused or contributed to by the City.”

Zachmeier also takes issue with the following clause: “The parties intend for nothing in this agreement to be construed to give the City any right to enter upon property owned by BNSF.

Rick St. Germain, of Houston Engineering – a company working with BNSF, was present and expressed his concern that construction on a pull-off line in Rugby will be delayed. He requested a special meeting of the council as soon as possible to finalize the agreement.

Change order approved for new fire hall

The council approved a change order for contractors Bartsch Electric and Johnson Plumbing in Rugby and American Builders in Minot for construction of the new fire hall. Lotvedt stated that the change will result in savings between $27,000 and $30,000.

Soil conditions in Chalmers Addition discussed

The council tabled a decision for a change order for Park Construction on the Chalmers Addition housing project. Hoffert requested the Job Development Authority be included in the conversation because it owns the land.

The company is asking for an estimated $35,000 to address soft spots in soil, where gravel is to be laid and paving done soon. Lotvedt explained that heavy trucks needed for the road construction may further compromise the soft spots, especially in the loop of 7th and 8th Avenues.

Lotvedt, chairman of the Building, Property and Construction Committee, went through four proposals submitted by Wade Senger of Interstate Engineering, but was not comfortable endorsing any of the options.

The first option calls for a total of two feet of base course with drain tile. The second option calls for gravel on all the streets involved, installation of the curbs and gutters this year, and installation of pavement next year. Senger explains that this option would allow for stabilization during the winter through a freeze-thaw cycle and asphalt could then be placed on a stiffer-based course.

The third option calls for asphalt to be laid on the roads, except in five of the 11 soft areas, with gravel up to the finished asphalt elevation. If the water table lowers in the future, gravel could be dug out and replaced with asphalt.

The fourth option calls for completion of the project as planned, but the areas in question will not be as stable nor as likely long lasting.

The mayor said he’s driven the areas with his pickup truck and is not comfortable simply adding a couple feet of asphalt.

Zachmeier said he is “extremely irritated” by the way the addition is going.

“Let’s get a plan in order,” he said. “Otherwise it’s going to be $35,000 now and again.”

Hoffert expressed frustration with Park Construction, saying, “They should have their ass here. It seems Park waits around for rain. They’re jerking us around.”

Park is confident its deadline will be met.

“Even with the heavy rainfall this spring, we are still on track to meet our August 30th, 2014 completion date,” Park Construction vice president Michael Christianson said in a press release.

“I can’t agree with you more, Mr. Hoffert,” Geiszler said. “This has been a trying process for JDA and city council.”

The JDA was scheduled to met Wednesday and recommended the city approved the first option at about $38,000.

Zachmeier emphasizes meeting rules

The council was urged to properly conduct meetings as Zachmeier cited a Bottineau case in 2007 and a Mandan case in 2008, where mayors and council members met illegally in both locations. If five or more council members (including the mayor) meet to discuss city issues, they have to call a meeting with proper public notice and have the minutes published. A phone or messaging conversation of four or more would also break the law.

The same guidelines apply to two or more members of a committee.

A meeting is anytime a quorum, or majority, of the council (or a committee) is together and discusses city business.

“The public doesn’t understand that the council and committees are different, so we have to be aware of the perception,” Hoffert said.

Council approves other measures

The council approved an auditor bond limit of $1.5 million and the pledge of securities, a twice-a-year report on the city’s finances.

The council approved three homestead abatement applications for Joe Tuchscherer, Richard Simonson and Adeline Bonn.

The council approved gaming permits for the Geographical Center Historical Society and Rugby Sports Boosters.

The council approved the minutes from four June meetings, the municipal judge’s report for June and the latest bills and financial statements.

Ward 2 Councilman Dave Bednarz was absent.

Other news

Zachmeier requested that the finance committee budget for more training for city employees in leadership and management.

Ward 2 Councilman Gary Kraft requested an update on the proposed annexation east of the city. The mayor said the council is still gathering opinions of property owners.

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