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Busy day for city committees

Public meetings set for February, March

By Sue Sitter - | Jan 30, 2021

Sue Sitter/PCT Two Rugby residents walk for exercise in the Rugby Armory on a recent Friday morning. The City of Rugby has scheduled a public hearing for March 15 at 7 p.m. to present a plan for updating the facility.

City of Rugby government committees made final recommendations for a controversial project at the city recreation complex in regular meetings held Wednesday, Jan. 20, at city hall.

A project to replace drain tiles on baseball diamonds at the complex spurred months of discussion when factors such as early snowfall caused delays in work and added expenses when sod pulled from the grounds froze and died. More expenses were incurred when the contractor, Austin Harles of Fargo firm MBF Drain Tile used city equipment for some of the work and according to recreation committee members, damaged fencing on the property.

Members voted to make a final payment to Harles of $6,865 after deducting $3,375 incurred by repairs to the fence, $2,500 for reseeding grass and $6,460 for equipment rental. The sum for the equipment rental represented $65 per hour for use of the city’s skid steer for 84 hours and $100 an hour for use of the city’s mini excavator for 10 hours.

The committee also accepted a letter of resignation submitted by Recreation Manager Jamie Wald. City Auditor Jennifer Stewart informed the group Landen Foster, who had served as recreation director for the 2020 summer season, would not return for the 2021 season. The committee voted to advertise job openings for both seasonal positions.

The board voted to make the manager position a six-month, seasonal job paid at $1,100 per month.

Committee Chair Joel Berg said he wanted to clarify information about the position published in the Jan. 9 Tribune. The information, contained in a story about the city council’s regular January meeting stated Wald did not receive any pay for work done prior to the 2020 season.

“This was not intended to be a volunteer position,” Berg said. “(The prior recreation manager) was offered a salary and chose not to take it. She didn’t turn any (documentation of time working), so there was no pay. I’ve had a couple of people question me already asking if it was a volunteer position, and I said it was not a volunteer position. It was a paid position, but she chose not to take pay,” Berg added.

Stewart said records showed the manager received compensation for what Berg described as “a very small (number of) hours in 2018.”

The city finance committee later approved the recreation committee’s recommendations to announce the two seasonal openings and offer $1,100 per month for the six-month manager’s position.

The finance committee also approved the payment to MBF Drain Tile Systems recommended by the recreation committee.

Committee member Wayne Trottier voted against the compensation sum for the project, while members Gary Kraft and Jackie Albrecht voted to approve it.

Trottier called the drain tile project a “debacle.” “There’s been a lack of accountability on the contractor’s part. There was no contract, per se,” Trottier added. “The specifications were very vague. The expectations were almost nonexistent. There were no guarantees. That’s the one that catches me the most.”

The finance committee also approved 2020 budget transfers from the city’s general fund to the street and highway funds.

The committee also approved a 2020 year end report presented by Stewart.

“The general fund sits at $961,000,” Stewart said. “A large part of that is due to just under $295,000 that we received back for wages for law enforcement. In this, you see $266,000 back and we’re still waiting for the December payment which we’ll receive in this fiscal year,” she added.

Stewart said other deposits came from state Prairie Dog funding and “strong sales tax receipts for the last month of this year – higher than we have had for many years, which is helpful for the infrastructure fund, which ended at $412,000.”

Stewart also presented a fee schedule for equipment rentals, stressing the city “is not in the business of renting equipment.” However, Stewart said the city sometimes helps private citizens or businesses with work such as adding handicapped parking symbols to parking spaces on city streets front of businesses, mowing properties with overgrown grass after giving the owners notices of ordinance violations, or salting and sanding on private roadways.

Albrecht emphasized city work would take priority over work done for private citizens.

The committee also discussed the importance of allowing only city workers to use city equipment and investigating liability issues that may arise from use on private properties.

The committee voted unanimously to approve a water and sewer rate study for Rugby residents. The study would be placed on the February city council agenda.

Rugby’s ordinance committee discussed purchasing procedures, a topic brought to the surface by the recreation complex project. The committee voted to table further exploration of the purchasing regulations contained in City Ordinance 426, which covers smaller purchases such as those involved in the recreation drain tile project, until their February meeting.

The committee also voted to recommend restrictions on zoning for hemp processing to the city’s I-3 zone, located on the northeast side of town near Rugby’s industrial park.

Public works committee members had multiple topics for discussion, most centering on the city’s 2 ¢ Avenue and 6th Street sewer and water infrastructure project.

The committee reviewed $11,000 proposal for geotechnical services for the area from Grand Forks firm Terracon and discussed soliciting bids from other companies. The committee also voted to recommend hiring Jamestown firm Pipe Detectives to send a camera through approximately 11,000 linear feet of water and sewer pipeline.

Engineer Jim Olson of Grand Forks firm AE2S recommended the committee consider scheduling a public information meeting on the project.

The committee voted to approve the public information meeting, set for Monday, Feb. 1, at 6:30 p.m. at city hall.

Olson also reported his firm had nearly finished a proposal for work recommended for the Rugby Armory. The committee voted to set a public hearing on the proposal for March 15 at 7 p.m. in the armory.

The committee also voted to form a steering committee to create a comprehensive plan for the city. Mayor Sue Steinke tapped public works committee member Gary Kraft, who also serves on the Rugby Job Development Authority, to serve on the steering committee.

Public works committee member Dave Bednarz reported he and another city employee would pick up two new work trucks purchased from Sioux Falls Truck and Trailer at a delivery point near Fargo.

The committee also voted to recommend compensating city employees $25 per month for work-related use of personal mobile phones.

City of Rugby buildings committee members also discussed the armory, hearing Olson’s report on work for the building and voting to require individuals renting the building for events to provide proof of liability insurance.

Rugby Police Chief John Rose told the public safety committee his department had re-hired former officer Jeremiah Farmer “temporarily.” Stewart said Farmer would start Jan. 22 as a full-time, benefited employee. Rose said another officer candidate would be hired as a probationary employee for one year.

Committee member Frank LaRocque recommended city workers clear more residential streets in the city “other than just Main Avenue” after snow falls.

“We have an older population that lives in town, and now you can hardly walk out to your car without slipping and sliding on the streets because the snow had turned to ice because it hadn’t been removed yet,” LaRocque noted.

La Rocque said workers had told him “cutting edges cost money. I replied, ‘So do hips,'” he said.

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