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JDA delves into procedures in brief regular meeting

By Sue Sitter - | May 22, 2021

Sue Sitter/PCT An undeveloped lot owned by the Rugby Job Development Authority in the Chalmers Addition subdivision sits overgrown with weeds.

Although the Rugby Job Development Authority’s May 12 regular meeting was brief, it sparked questions about agency procedures and discussions on several topics for board members.

Most of the board’s questions stemmed from purchasing and bidding procedures used by the City of Rugby. The JDA functions as an arm of city government.

The board examined City Ordinance 426 after events stemming from a controversy that began when a resident of the JDA-owned Chalmers Addition expressed interest in mowing undeveloped lots in the subdivision. The JDA board had solicited bids in the mowing job, which had in past years been done by city workers. The JDA then voted to table the bids they received.

Board members explained their decision at their meeting and a May 3 city council meeting. JDA board member Gary Kraft and Mayor Sue Steinke, who both attended the JDA meeting, told the council the bids they had received did not describe the work to be done in clear terms. Additionally, Steinke and Kraft said the terms for the work to be bid on had not been clearly spelled out.

The JDA board had decided to seek advice from an attorney on the matter. Steinke and Kraft, who also serve on the city council, learned new information at the council meeting about ordinances covering procedures for city government agencies that hire outside help.

At the May 12 JDA meeting, Board Vice Chair Rob St. Michel shared information he had learned about Ordinance 426.

Reading from the text of the ordinance, St. Michel said, “If the amount of a purchase exceeds $2,500 but does not exceed $200,000, (city government agencies) shall informally solicit two or more quotes from vendors which quotes need to be in writing.”

The ordinance also calls for supervisors or other government employees to keep detailed records of bids received.

“All purchases exceeding $2,500 shall require specific council approval even if budgeted,” St. Michel said, reading from the ordinance.

“Basically, by reading that, if we know of two or three people in town who do mowing, we can just ask them,” JDA Chair Blair Brattvett said.

“That’s right. You can just walk up to them, like the two people that bid before and hand them that. Really, that’s all you have to do according to this,” St. Michel said.

St. Michel and other board members questioned the section of the ordinance calling for council approval “even if budgeted.”

“That would mean it’s something the council has determined that we need or that we purchase?” Kraft asked.

“I would maintain that we can accept bids based on council approval, that’s what I have,” St. Michel answered, re-reading the text.

“Are we talking an aggregate total or are we talking each time? If we’re talking about $400 each time somebody mows out there, you may not hit $2,500, but it’s a recurring cost,” Kraft pointed out.

Members also pointed out depending on how the mowing work was paid, the price might not amount to $2,500 in total for the season.

Brattvett noted the ordinance implied a larger role for the city council in the JDA’s business. “Are we going to start doing this for everything we spend on?” Brattvett asked of bidding and roll call votes for budgeted expenditures.

“The way it looks, I would,” St. Michel answered.

“We submit our budget each year and they approve the budget so to me that should be sufficient as long as we don’t go over our budget,” Brattvett said.

“I would think the budget is sufficient,” Kraft said.

“I have two calls in to the city attorney and I’m going to ask him that,” St. Michel said.

“We’d better get that clarified,” Brattvett agreed.

Steinke and other board members pointed out the JDA had used the services of local attorney Galen Mack in the past; however, city ordinances said legal services could only come from City Attorney Bill Hartl. Outside services could be sought if Hartl recused himself from a matter or if JDA members used their own funds or other non-taxpayer funds for the work.

The board voted to solicit bids for mowing on the Chalmers Addition for a second time. Terms and dates for the work would be decided after consulting with Hartl.

In other business, the board voted to send Executive Director Karl Frigaard to the Economic Development Association of North Dakota’s summer conference in Bottineau June 15-17.

Frigaard told the board he had taken a tour of Rugby Manufacturing’s facility, listening to concerns from managers about filling 50 job openings at the location.

“Then, also, we’ve been contacted by people interested in expanding their businesses,” Frigaard said after the meeting. “I can’t say anything else on that because nothing formal has been done yet.”

Frigaard also reported meeting with parties interested in buying a lot in the Chalmers Addition.

The board also approved updating the JDA’s email software and reviewed a request for an external hard drive for the office.

The board also approved a motion to hire an office assistant for 10 hours per week.

Other business included updates on transferring signatures for bank and credit card accounts for the agency.

The JDA board next meets June 9 at noon in the JDA office.

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