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Chalmers addition questioned

By Staff | Aug 8, 2014

At Monday’s regular meeting of the Rugby City Council, Ward 4 Council Member Craig Zachmeier stated that he is “extremely upset as a taxpayer” because legal opinion from City Attorney Bill Hartl – as detailed in minutes of a special meeting of the Job Development Authority in August 2012 – was not followed by the council. Zachmeier then requested a meeting be scheduled with Hartl, who was not in attendance, to further discuss the issue.

Hartl’s legal opinion, as stated in those minutes, reads: “A strong argument can be made that the acquisition and sale is not for the purpose of developing employment within the City of Rugby, but is instead for the purpose of providing housing.”

North Dakota Century Code says, “The city job development authority shall use its financial and other resources to encourage and assist in the development of employment within the city.”

As stated in the JDA meeting minutes, Hartl’s legal opinion continued: “The Chalmer’s Addition housing project, although performed under the auspices of the Rugby JDA was, in reality, done by the City of Rugby.”

A motion was approved at that August 2012 JDA meeting, to have an opinion obtained from the state’s attorney general’s office concerning Hartl’s opinion. The attorney general’s office lists all of its opinions on its website and an opinion on the issue is not on the site. Liz Brocker, the media contact for the AG’s office, said she cannot confirm whether any contact was made between the office and the City of Rugby or the JDA because general correspondence records are kept for only one year.

The JDA office has no record of the communication, but interim executive director SyAnn Graber said the JDA referred to Century Code.

Ward 1 Council Member Neil Lotvedt said the legal opinion in question was referring to how the Chalmers lots should be advertised. The JDA found that the JDA in Grand Forks was told to first advertise JDA-owned lots and if nothing sold, sales could then be made to purchasers regardless of affiliation.

“It would not be fair to buy the best two lots as a member of the council (before citizens and developers were made aware),” Lotvedt said.

The JDA is a political subdivision of the city, but the city council doesn’t control JDA money. The council can make a recommendation to the JDA about land it owns. The city issued a bond to the JDA to purchase the land.

Former JDA executive director Brenda Foster said she believed the original goal was for the JDA to purchase the land and then sell it to a developer to handle the infrastructure. Foster believes developers were discouraged by influential people in the city, though she declined to specify who. Former mayor Dave Cichos, who was a voting member of the JDA, denied the assumption.

“We were looking for some,” said Cichos, a JDA at-large member now. “We didn’t want to be in the housing business.”

JDA executive director SyAnn Graber confirmed that developers were contacted, including Annabelle Homes and Land, of Minneapolis, a company with an office in Stanley.

Foster resigned in July 2013. She told the Tribune this week that she felt her opinions were not considered.

Zachmeier also questioned whether the Rugby Comprehensive Housing Study – published in February 2011 by a firm in Minnesota – has been followed by the JDA. He pointed to a clause in the 83-page, $9,995 study by Community Partners Research, Inc., of Fairbault, Minn. The point marked “Staff capacity limitations” reads: “The City of Rugby and the Rugby Job Development Authority operate with limited personnel. It is very difficult for existing staff with current responsibilities to develop new housing initiatives.”

Cichos said the limitations mentioned in the study did not present a concern. Two of the 52 lots are sold.

Annexation Resolution approved

The council approved a resolution regarding the annexation of land south and east of the city for purposes of business expansion and development and residential development. Zachmeier voted against the resolution.

The 254.71-acre parcel includes land for Gooseneck Implement’s expansion south along U.S. 2. All landowners affected will be notified by mail and a hearing will be held in September or October.

Pierce County resident Butch Beaver voiced his opposition to being annexed and said he will have to pay an estimated $800 more for taxes. Zachmeier told Beaver that he will have police and hydrants closer to his property, if annexed.

Beaver stated he is not interested in being tied into city water because it would require adding 300 feet of pipe south from his house. He has a sprinkler system in place that would need to be adjusted. At previous meetings, Beaver said annexation also would prevent him from hunting on his land.

“They aren’t going to be doing a thing for me,” said Beaver, who has owned a 2.53-acre plot for eight years. “I just don’t like the way they do business.”

Citizens push council to action on 15th

Work began Tuesday to address standing water issues behind the houses along the south side of 15th Street SW and to the east of 2nd Avenue SW.

Water collects between the houses along 15th Street and the former Hub Motel to the south. After rains, properties are flooded and the water stagnates and becomes a breeding ground for mosquitos in both locations. Water will be temporarily diverted to a drain to the east of 2nd Avenue, behind the condominiums along South Main Avenue (across from the high school fields).

Water is pumped from that location to three storm drains to the north on 14th Street, but the fix has proven ineffective with heavy rains as the drains haven’t been able to handle the water. Some water pumped north flows back south and has flooded the property of Don Rosenkranz, who lives on the corner of 2nd Avenue and 14th Street.

Fifteenth Street resident Chuck Longie spoke at the meeting and requested an immediate solution to send the water west and out of the city. Council Members expressed interest in creating a connection to the storm drain to the north. Longie said 17 acres of water is coming into the area and he would like the entire 17 acres assessed.

Ward 3 Council Member Jim Hoffert suggested focusing on removing the water first.

“We don’t want to get ahead and talk about assessing,” Hoffert said. “Rugby has a history of the whole city taking in costs. Let’s determine how to get water out and then determine who pays.”

The council members discussed a 16-inch drain, but Rosenkranz voiced opposition to the idea and was not pleased with suggestions that most designs including a culvert and lift station will account for 95 percent of rainfalls. He said water causes significant flooding and damage every four years.

Zachmeier said he spoke with the NDSU Extension Service about plans that can dry out the problem areas. He requested a study on the entire watershed area and urged the council to explore available services that are already paid for with taxes. Zachmeier added that an emergency plan with extra pumps should be put in place before a permanent solution is established.

Rosenkranz questioned a small trench that was carved down 15th Street to divert some water.

Rosenkranz also asked why 2nd Avenue and 15th Street haven’t seen the city’s street sweeper this summer. Public Works Supervisor Rick Larson responded: “You want to run it?”

Mayor Arland Geiszler requested order.

“The ultimate goal is to drain it all west out of Rugby,” Geiszler said. “How to finance the whole project is yet to be determined.”

1st Street storm drain discussed

The council discussed an issue with storm water flooding citizen Jackie Albrecht’s property at 201 1st Street NE. Rainwater flows from four directions into her front yard across from the elevator and through her driveway and into her garden on the south side of 2nd Avenue N.E.

Albrecht said she has spoken with Council Members for six consecutive summers since the curb in front of her house was dropped 12 inches. She estimates spending more than $6,000 to combat the issue with drainage ditches. Following a steady rain, those ditches are filled with dirt, rock and debris from the streets.

“I know this is costing the city, but I want you to know this is costing me a lot too,” Albrecht said. “Cigarette butts and glass comes into my yard. I put a driveway in last year and it has to be redone.”

A motion was passed for the city streets crew to get elevations of the street and then contact the city engineer to get an opinion and options to address the problem. Ward 4 Council Member Terry Wentz and Ward 2 Council Member Dave Bednarz discussed possible solutions.

Bednarz said the hill going north on 2nd Avenue needs to be cut down so water can flow north and he believes raising the curb in front of her house to six inches will stop much of the water flowing from the elevator. Second Avenue was adjusted two years ago, but Bednarz said the change did not go far enough north.

Geiszler assured Albrecht the issue will be addressed in the near future.

Ward 2 Council Member Gary Kraft expressed frustration with past projects failing.

“We spend a lot of money on engineers and they don’t seem to be held accountable,” Kraft said.

Dogs and cats ordinance reviewed

A first reading of the dogs and cats ordinance was approved. Owners must register a pet kept in the city in excess of 30 days, not consecutive, per year. Registration will be free, as the city hopes to get a more accurate number of pets in the city. A first offense fee for a non-registered animal running at large was increased to $100 from $50, plus impoundment fees. A second offense for an animal not wearing a city tag increased to $100 from $75, plus impoundment fees. Subsequent offenses for non-tagged animals will increase to $250 from $100, plus impoundment fees. The police department will be responsible for investigating complaints.

In an effort to prevent attacks, language was added to the definition of a vicious dog: “an animal acting dangerous, aggressive or liable to attack or bite.”

An animal bite will also require the chief of police to submit a press release to the newspaper and radio station, stating: date and time of occurrence, age of victim, address or location of incident, description of animal and current location of animal.

Council wages discussed

Hoffert questioned wording in the elected officials ordinance, which called for wages of the mayor and council members to be discussed every other July.

“In good government, in order to administer, we have to consider changes,” he said.

The retooled ordinance, which requires another reading, would have wages discussed in July. On election years, the mayor and council members are elected in June.

“We should tie salaries to the budget process and give time for new councils on election years,” Hoffert said. “Departments tend to request changes during budget process.”

The council approved amending the language, which will have the salaries approved in October with the rest of the city budget.

Other ordinances reviewed

A second reading of the city council ordinance was approved. The amendments included allowing the mayor to call a special meeting whenever deemed necessary. The names of the committees were also updated and the mayor will appoint members every second year instead of previous annual appointments. The mayor will also have the authority to order, develop, rename and combine committees when practical and for efficiency, unless otherwise directed by a city council majority vote.

A second reading of the purchasing procedures ordinance was approved with a primary update to match Century Code. The update says purchases of more than $100,000 must be posted in the newspaper for three consecutive weeks and bids be open for no less than 21 days. Authority to purchase based on prices was also updated.

Money transferred for fire hall

The council approved a resolution for transfer of money for the construction of the new fire hall. A total of $700,000 will be transferred from the infrastructure fund to the fire reserve fund. Upon completion, the same sum will be transferred from the fire reserve fund back to the infrastructure fund. The measure was made to reduce financing costs without incurring interest costs through a construction loan.

Variance requests approved

At the recommendation of the Rugby Planning and Zoning Commission, the council approved two variance requests. One request was filed by Heather Garnas and Dustin Schell to allow for construction of a chain-link fence at 1516 6th Ave. SE (Block 1, Lot 1 of Blessum’s Addition).

The other request was filed by Garry Thompson for the construction of a lawn shed at 502 3rd St. SE (Block 3, North 90 feet of Lots 5 and 6, Serumgards’ Addition).

Raffle/gaming permits approved

The council approved gaming permits for Heart of America Medial Center Auxiliary and North Dakota Good Sam RV Organization. The council tabled a gaming permit for Soteni until more information was gathered about the non-profit. According to Soteni.org, Soteni International is a Cincinnati-based nonprofit with chapters focused on raising support for HIV/AIDS prevention in Kenya.

A special event retail alcoholic beverage permit was granted to 3rd Street Station for the mud run fundraiser for the Fair Board to be held at the fairgrounds Aug. 30.

Special event retail alcoholic beverage permits were approved for 3rd Street Station and I.C. Dubbles on condition that Geographical Day street dance organizers provide the police chief with an approved security presence. Rugby Police Chief John Rose said his force is unable to staff the event because an officer will be on vacation.

Citizen Jim Day urged the council to not approve the permits.

“I recommend not having it because we’ll have a drunken orgy,” Day said. “We already have people crawling around drunk after midnight.”

Committee reports

Public Safety Committee chairman Bednarz asked Public Works Supervisor Rick Larson to move stop signs that were placed at a wrong intersection at Ely Elementary. The signs should be on 3rd Avenue SW at intersections of 2nd and 3rd Streets.

Hoffert reported on the Law Enforcement Center committee meeting held a week earlier. He stated that he believes the city is contributing a proper amount for prisoner boarding fees at Heart of America Correctional Center. The city pays about 24 percent of all Pierce County taxes.

Hoffert added that fees for 9-1-1 phone bills that go to P.O. boxes are automatically sent to the county with the lowest taxable value, which currently is McHenry. People are encouraged to call their cell phone provider and request that fees go to Pierce County.

The Public Works Committee report from chairman Wentz included mention of lines around the schools to be restriped before class begins. Building/Property Committee chairman Lotvedt said plumbing for the new fire hall was to begin the following day.

New business

Bednarz questioned why garbage was still being collected from David Duane Kramer’s property on 2nd Street SW at no charge. Geiszler said he is still waiting for a health inspector to confirm he or she is coming to the property.

Don Rosenkranz requested a Children at Play sign be installed on 15th Street.

The board approved a 15 mph school zone along 3rd Avenue SE between 11th Street and Panther Street. The request was made by Rugby Public Schools, which added a preschool program to the Head Start facility along 3rd Avenue.

The council approved its minutes from a regular meeting July 7 and a special meeting July 15. The council approved July’s bills and financial statements, the municipal judge’s report for July and Job Development Authority’s minutes from May and financials from June.

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