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Council swears in new council member, hears updates on facilities at June meeting

By Sue Sitter - | Jun 12, 2021

Sue Sitter/PCT Poles in downtown Rugby will feature hanging baskets, flags and LED lighting, according to information presented by officials from two arms of city government at the Rugby City City Council meeting June 7.

Two City of Rugby officials took oaths of office at the Rugby City Council’s regular monthly meeting held at city hall the evening of June 7.

Mayor Sue Steinke swore in Rugby Job Development Authority Director Karl Frigaard, who took his post in April. Later in the meeting, Rugby resident Maurus Brossart accepted a nomination by council member Wayne Trottier to fill a vacancy left by Ward 4 representative Chuck Longie. The council approved Brossart’s nomination with a unanimous vote and Steinke swore the newest council member in.

Council members approved JDA minutes and financials with a unanimous vote.

The council also listened to an update presented by Rugby Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Laurie Odden, who told the group flower baskets would be hung on poles in the city’s downtown area, with allowances made for flag displays on holidays. Odden added she and public works employees had found banners promoting the city and had plans to display them throughout town and on North Dakota Highway 3.

Odden also noted the city’s annual Fourth of July parade would take place downtown at 1 p.m. Sunday, July 4.

The council also listened to updates on several projects to repair infrastructure and facilities throughout town. City recreation committee chair Joel Berg told the council he had received a bid for improvements to dugouts at the city baseball diamonds from contractor Dave Schneider. Schneider’s written estimate set the costs at $3,069 for materials plus extra for fencing and $1,300 for labor.

Finance committee chair Gary Kraft told the council the committee had reviewed changes to the city’s purchasing policy and discussed a timeline for the 2022 budget. Kraft said the committee had met with representatives with utility provider Otter Tail Power to change lighting in the city to LED fixtures for efficiency. The utility representatives had also presented an option to take over ownership of the fixtures from the city.

Kraft told the council the ordinance committee had finished the purchasing policy and submitted a draft for the council’s review. Members approved the policy with a unanimous vote.

Berg, who serves on the city’s buildings committee, told the council the committee had reviewed quotes for work needed on roofs for city hall and the Rugby Armory. Berg also said the committee had reviewed applications for grant money to pay for remodeling that would make the armory compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.

City Engineer Jim Olson presented proposals and quotes for new roofs from contractor A and R Roofing, Minot for 16 mil rubber roofs. Steinke pointed out the city hall building was not ADA compliant. “Maybe this wouldn’t hurt to go back to committee, since there’s a lot of components to it and we have to decide how much we’re going to put into this building.”

The council decided to refer the repair issue to the building committee.

Council members also voted unanimously to hire Rugby firm Johnson’s Plumbing for needed repairs on pipe leaks in a wall at the city hall building.

Olson gave council members an update on a camera project to study sewage flow through the city’s infrastructure in northwest Rugby. Olson also presented plans to repair leaks near the baseball diamonds at the Rugby Recreation Complex.

Olson also requested approval for a study on another section of north Rugby, estimating the cost at $59.221. The council voted to refer the matter to the city finance and public works committees.

Olson reported he had placed calls to computer contractor IPS for delivery of computers to the city water plant. Olson also advised the council to budget for replacing equipment in the water treatment plant.

He also told the council engineering firm AE2S was “working on an application with the state water commission for a transmission line from the wells to the plant, which is a 60 percent grant. They have an August 12 meeting on that issue.”

The council also heard updates from Olson on infrastructure near an intersection of N.D. Highway 3 and First Street. The North Dakota Department of Transportation will expand the intersection and uncover city water and sewer infrastructure.

Olson said improvements to infrastructure without asphalt overlay would cost more than $900,000. “With the complete reconstruction of the asphalt, pipe and all, it’s closer to $1.7 million.”

When asked by Steinke how the project would be paid for, Olson said, “Since we are only on the state water commission’s list with the wells and transmission lines right now, we didn’t even know (the project) would come up. So, it’s not even on the list. So, at the end of August, everyone on the state water commission list, if they exercise their right to go after grants, they’re first, then, (the commission) will take (new requests) first come, first serve. And that’s my only option for a funding mechanism.”

Olson said grant funds for the project could be added to loans by the state revolving fund for clean drinking water and the Bank of North Dakota.

The council resolved to send the matter back to committee.

A request by Rugby Homes owner Gary Kirchofner to access three lots west of the business to city water and sewer lines went before council members.

The council voted to ask Kirchofner to assume responsibility for the sewer work and follow city specifications.

In other business, JDA representatives present at the meeting gave Brossart an update on weed spraying in the Chalmers Addition subdivision.

The council also approved a salary increase to the recreation manager, who has also assumed the duties of the recreation director for the 2021 season due to a lack of applications for the job. Members approved a monthly salary of $2,000, which is $350 less per month than the pay for two positions combined.

Council members Berg, Kraft, Matt Lunde, Jackie Albrecht and Dave Bednarz voted for the increase, while Frank LaRocque and Wayne Trottier cast ‘no’ votes on the motion. Members approved the pay after discussing a $1,850 monthly salary for the six-month season. The council also resolved to review and rewrite the job descriptions for both positions for the 2022 seasson.

The council also heard from Paul Niemi and Steve Arnold of the Rugby Eagles, who submitted requests for special event licensing and permits to serve alcohol to raise funds at the Pierce County Fair.

Both representatives referenced updates to liquor licensing ordinances, which had been done two years ago with input from bars and restaurants serving liquor in town. The Eagles hall lies outside of city limits.

City Attorney Bill Hartl reviewed ordinances concerning liquor licensing and told the council he saw no exceptions for charitable organizations such as the Eagles.

Niemi asked the council if the normal licensing fee could be prorated from the annual rate to an amount for one week. Ordinance committee member Kraft, who had participated in the draft of the license ordinance, said, “Had (the Eagles booth at the fair) been a consideration when that ordinance was getting done, I’m sure there would have been an adjustment made for the Eagles. Nobody else seems to be interested in doing that for the fair and these guys are non-profit and giving back (to the community).”

La Rocque suggested, “Maybe that ordinance committee can make that change for 2022.”

Council members voted to grant the license and special event permit and investigate whether the fee could be prorated for the event.

Council members also voted to approve gaming applications submitted by the Rugby Jaycees for 3rd Street Station and IC Dubbles.

The council also listened to a presentation by Heart of America Medical Center CEO Erik Christenson, who invited city officials to attend meetings by the hospital’s steering committee, which is in the process of planning for a new health care facility.

Christenson said the committee’s next meeting would take place June 16 at 7 p.m. Christenson also told the group a builder’s representative would be onsite June 10 at 9 a.m. and invited council members to meet with the representative as well.

Christenson also said members of the public have told him they believed they would have to pay more taxes because of the new hospital. “The project is not run that way,” he said.

Christenson told the council USDA grant would fund “up to 80 percent of the new facility. Other possible sources we’re looking at are the Bank of North Dakota. Tanner Johnson, who’s on the steering committee, has completed a lot of research on this and I’ll be meeting with him this week to look at various financing sources and we’re going to be working hopefully with our local banks here and developing financing for that other 20 percent, what the USDA would not cover.”

“But again, no tax funding,” Christenson stressed, adding, “The only tax question I suppose would happen with it would be on the property and how the city has to deal with the property.”

Christenson said the hospital would also “look at forming an old building steering committee” to discuss the fate of the current HAMC facility.

Christenson also stressed the project would be built “through federal funding sources, the USDA – that’s what it’s there for.” More funding could come from the Bank of North Dakota’s Medical Facility Loan program, which he said would carry a low interest rate and be available in an amount of up to $15 million.

When asked by Kraft about the building’s feasibility, Christenson explained the old building would not be reimbursed for depreciation costs due to the lack of recent remodels. Large bills for energy and upkeep would also drain the facility’s resources, Christenson said.

A new facility would increase revenues by $2.3 million per year.

“You pay a $45 million loan, the payment on that is $1.6 million per year, you have $2.3 million (in revenues); you do the math and it pays for itself,” Christenson said.

“There are significant dollars that come into our organizations by building a new building and the significant efficiencies that are added.”

Trottier suggested the city invite Christenson to more council meetings. “We’re going to reach a point where as a city we’re going to have to engage in this project.”

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