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City committees discuss masks, armory, holiday concert and more

By Sue Sitter - | Nov 28, 2020

Sue Sitter/PCT Traffic near Ely Elementary School, pictured, was a topic for discussion in Rugby’s Public Safety Committee on Nov. 18.

The Rugby City Council held its regular monthly committee meetings by phone or online Nov. 18.

Committees holding meetings were public works, finance, public safety, buildings and recreation.

Jay Kleven of engineering firm AE2S presented updates on the Rugby Armory to the Buildings Committee and offered advice for completing a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant application to fund the repair work on the building, which is more than 50 years old.

The firm estimated the cost of the update project at more than $2.8 million.

The committee decided to apply for a 100 percent grant for the project, however, according to City of Rugby Auditor Jennifer Stewart, the application process is in the preliminary stage. Stewart said funds approved for the project might not come in at 100 percent, resulting in a need to seek money from other sources or loans for the project.

The committee also reviewed the armory floor plan and the proposed changes.

Rugby Police Chief John Rose presented the Public Safety Committee with the monthly police report.

“We’re really kind of low on calls,” Rose said. “I don’t know if that’s because of the COVID surge or what’s going on. Rose reported 10 arrests and 13 citations. Rose said his office received one alcohol permit request for a public event at the Prairie Village Museum.

Rose told the committee the police department again had an opening for a law enforcement officer.

The vacancy was created when officer Jeremiah Farmer left his position two months ago.

“I pulled the conditional offer for the one candidate I got, so we’re starting over,” Rose said, adding the department saw “not a lot of applicants” for the position when the department first advertised the opening.

The committee discussed hiring a law enforcement academy student or high school graduate on a conditional basis.

“I think we’ve got to take a hard look at what our options are now,” committee member Wayne Trottier said.

“Right now, there’s just not enough people that want to come out and do this line of work,” Rose said. “Some of it’s (due to) COVID,” he added. “There are a couple of things going against us right now.”

Rose told the committee he would provide an update when he received applications from candidates.

“Our police salaries from March through October have been reimbursed by the North Dakota CARES Act,” Stewart told the committee. “We’re going to be eligible to apply for November and December as well. Just on the 12th, we received over $80,000 back. So, we’ve received over $200,000 back for our law enforcement salaries this year,” she added. “Even with the overtime, we’re getting that money back this fiscal year.”

In other business, the committee discussed complaints from a resident living near the Pierce County Courthouse about commercial truck parking and a lack of signage on the street. Signage prohibiting commercial trucks has been placed near N.D. Highway 3 and Golf Course Road.

Rose also reported safety hazards present at student drop-off and pickup times near Ely Elementary School. Rose said most problems are caused by extended parking in loading areas and students being dropped off in streets instead of at curbs. The committee discussed speaking with Rugby School Superintendent Mike McNeff about the issue.

The committee voted to approve allowing the city parking lot near the Rugby Amtrak depot for a safe, drive-in Christmas concert featuring Ryan Keplin.

Rose and the committee also took on the matter of the city mask mandate put in place earlier in November.

Rose said officers would encourage individuals not wearing masks to comply with the mandate as a first step. “If somebody wants to push the issue, it will be a $25 ticket. If they want to keep pushing it, it will end up as a trespass or disorderly conduct type of situation,” Rose said. “That’s what we don’t want.”

Steinke asked if non-compliant citizens would receive warnings to wear masks before citations.

Rose said he would prefer that citizens became educated on the role of masks in preventing the spread of COVID-19. “We know we’re not going to change any minds. I can’t say this is going to change anybody’s mind either for or against.” Rose said officers would evaluate each situation to see if violators would leave businesses voluntarily or comply with the mask mandates.

“We don’t want to escalate this, but again, us being called is going to escalate it,” Rose said. “It’s kind of a no-win situation. But we get that a lot. We’re used to it,” he added.

“As long as the hospital is telling us, ‘We’re in trouble,’ or ‘We’re on the edge of disaster,’ or however they want to frame it, we can say, ‘We’re not doing this to make the governor look bad or good; we’re doing this because this community has this issue.’ I think the local people will understand and accept that,” Rose added.

“I think it’s a real eye-opener to say out of 30 beds, we have 28 people hospitalized with COVID in Rugby as of Nov. 17,” Steinke noted.

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