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Water plant issues, finances on city council agenda

By Sue Sitter - | Feb 6, 2021

Rugby City Council members focused much of their attention on public works and infrastructure problems at their regular monthly meeting, held the evening of Feb. 1 at city hall.

Public works committee member Dave Bednarz and city water plant manager Greg Boucher reported problems that had cropped up Monday with the plant’s carbon dioxide tank and system, which both said were vital to providing the city with water. Boucher said the recent problems started when a heater in the system stopped functioning.

Engineer Jim Olson of Grand Forks firm AE2S, who provides consulting services for the city, said of the 12-ton tank the plant currently uses, “For the record, it’s the oldest tank in North Dakota, which puts it at over 50 years old.”

“It never really had an integrity test. The test that (an inspector with a CO2 system contractor) did back on June 11 of 2018 failed. They stamped it with a big red stamp that said, “Failed Test.” At that time, Rugby had a supplier of C02 but work to fix the problems never got addressed because of bigger issues to take care of. Now, it’s coming back to us and this tank is obsolete.”

Olson noted Rugby would not be able to source CO2 from cheaper sources due to the fact the equipment’s failure to pass inspection. Rugby currently receives CO2 from a firm in South Dakota, who Olson said supplies CO2 “at a risk.”

“The pressure valves are shot; the heater’s shot; the compressor’s shot,” Olson said, adding,

“If something happens to this plant (because of the faulty system), Rugby’s out of water.”

The council voted unanimously to seek bids on a new system, which Olson said could cost more than $100,000 with installation and other costs included. Olson said refurbished systems were also available. Both new and refurbished systems are available with one-year warranties, he added.

The council also approved a request by Boucher to purchase materials needed to keep the system functioning until the tank could be replaced. The council also voted to spend a sum of not more than $5000 for a portable backup tank and equipment for the CO2 system.

Other public works requests included approving a purchase of generators and wiring work for lift stations in city infrastructure.

Olson also updated council members on the formation of a steering committee for a city comprehensive plan, which would include public works and infrastructure issues. The committee consists of council members, city officials and residents.

Finances also received attention from the council.

Ann Wuolett of financial firm PFM, Fargo, presented information via conference call on refinancing city bonds for a 2013 purchase of land in the Chalmers Addition on the east side of the city.

Wuolett explained the bonds’ “call” or refund date would come on May 1, 2021, and recommended refinancing the bonds.

“Interest rates are really low right now, but since these bonds are called on May 1, even if these rates aren’t as low (then) as they are now, it’s possible a lot of times to refinance,” Wuollett said.

“But rates being where they are right now, the city has a chance to save quite a bit of money. We estimate the savings would be around 7.8 percent of the refunded bonds or the 2013 bonds and 8.2 percent of the refunding bonds or about $153,000, is what I’m estimating. Of course, rates can fluctuate a little bit but you should see really good savings on these bonds.”

The council approved a preliminary resolution to set March 1 as a sale date for the bonds to take advantage of the lower interest rates.

Wuolette said the interest rates for the March 1 purchase would be fixed. “We can only estimate (interest rates) right now, but the plan would be on March 1 to take bids and they’d all be fixed rate bids.”

In other business, the council approved a final payment to drain tile contractor Austin Harles of $6,865, contingent on whether the firm leasing a skid steer to the city would accept the equipment at full value when returned. Bednarz and other council members questioned whether scratches on the skid steer would cost the city more money.

The council approved the conditional final payment 4-3, with members Jackie Albrecht, Joel Berg, Frank LaRocque and Chuck Longie voting yes, while Bednarz and members Wayne Trottier and Matt Lunde voted no.

The council also voted to advertise for seasonal recreation jobs. A seasonal, part-time recreation manager position would be made available paying $1,100 per month for six months. Trottier and other council members asked whether or not the city’s personnel committee, which had no record of meeting in 2020, should be involved. Council members said the committee usually didn’t involve itself in hiring matters.

Trottier and Lunde cast “no” votes on the motion to advertise for the positions. The measure passed with Berg, Albrecht, Bednarz, LaRocque and Longie voting “yes.”

The council also approved an updated water and sewer rate study for city utility customers by consultant Miranda Klevin of AE2S.

Other financial business approved included a schedule of rates billed for labor and equipment use for non-city related purposes.

The council voted yes to a proposal for infrastructure-related geotechnical exploration services by Material Testing, Minot. The firm bid $6,100 for the contract.

Jamestown firm Pipe Detectives also won a bid for services. The firm submitted a bid of $20,772 to televise and flush sewer lines in the northwest quadrant of Rugby.

The council approved a first reading of Ordinance 431-1-3, which would restrict zoning for hemp processing to the city’s I-3 industrial zone.

The council also heard updates from the public safety committee, which reported two vacancies with the Rugby Police Department had been filled.

Other business approved by the council included budget transfers for the city highway fund, the 2020 year end report and 2021 financials.

The council approved minutes and financials submitted by the Rugby Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Rugby Job Development Authority.

The council also approved applications for raffle permits submitted by the Pierce County 4-H Leaders Council, the Rugby High School Future Business Leaders of America and Rugby Dollars for Scholars.

The committee will next meet March 1 at 7:30 p.m. at city hall. This meeting will follow a public hearing on a proposal to locate a 30,000-gallon propane tank in a residential area near the Rugby Farmers Union Elevator.

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