Rugby’s underground, construction proposals discussed by city committees
Public works committee members had glimpses of Rugby’s underground at their committee meeting July 21 at city hall.
City Engineer Jim Olson shared results from a camera study of sections of town along Main Avenue, describing problem areas and work done to clear blockages. As he passed photos of crumbling manholes to committee members, Olson said work to televise the northeast corner of Rugby was underway.
An odd item reported in the sewer lines was a fiber optic cable apparently driven through the pipe. The information elicited jokes about internet service quality by some committee members.
Olson showed the committee a manhole which he said was 75 percent plugged 50 feet to the east of First Street Northeast.
Olson described the appearance of the manholes on camera as “like spaghetti inside the cracks.”
Workers also found a 2-inch, white plastic line connecting into the water system running north from Main Avenue toward Otter Tail Power Company. “It goes into our manhole where our main runs east and west.”
City Auditor Jennifer Stewart researched water meters in the area, noting the line ran to an unmetered user. The committee agreed to send a public works employee to turn the curb stop off at the site of the user who possibly received the unmetered water. Mayor Sue Steinke suggested a city police officer should accompany the worker. The committee agreed.
Members also heard updates on progress made with electrical wiring at lift stations in the city’s water system. The committee also discussed the purchase of a payloader lift basket to be delivered to the public works department.
Chair Dave Bednarz told the committee workers had been contracted to haul lime deposits away from the city water lagoons.
Olson spoke to the committee about drawing up a comprehensive land use plan, which would be due to state offices “the end of November to early December, or we lose our funding.”
North Dakota District 14 Representative Jon Nelson also attended the meeting, offering input as a state legislator and a board member of All Seasons Water District, which lies northwest of the city.
When the committee discussed drawing up a new comprehensive plan for the city, Nelson suggested including the new Heart of America Medical Center, to be located near U.S. Highway 2.
“I’m on the steering committee, and they’re very close to naming an architect,” Nelson said of the proposed hospital.
“The goal is to hit the ground running and there are some infrastructure considerations there, obviously with the water, sewer and streets,” Nelson added.
Olson told the group nine miles of water lines running from the wells to the city plant posed a problem, mainly because they were ageing and contained asbestos cement. Olson said Rugby was on a list along with the cities of Horace and Valley city competing for dollars from the state water commission to replace the lines. “They’ll look at it in August and I’m going to go in front of them in January (to make the case for Rugby),” Olson said.
Nelson and committee members pointed out other infrastructure projects already in the works, such as repairs in the area near 2 1/2 Avenue in Rugby, have already stretched the city’s budget. Nelson asked if the committee would consider waiting until the next legislative session to allow him to seek funds for the pipe replacement. Nelson also noted the possibility of accessing money from the state revolving fund.
Funds for city projects approved by the council took up much of the discussion among city finance committee members.
The committee considered financing bonds to pay for repairs to water and sewer infrastructure near 2 ¢ Avenue. Stewart told the committee the financed revenue bonds would amount to $4,934,000.
Olson, who attended the meeting, told the committee financing the project “is a very standard operational funding mechanism” in order to receive USDA grant monies for the project. “They wouldn’t approve us to move forward if we didn’t do this,” Olson said.
Committee member Wayne Trottier, who said he had overseen school projects financed by federal programs, said he was familiar with the need to show financial commitment.
“One of the procedural hoops they’re looking for is (a financial commitment),” he said.
“You have to have skin in the game,” Steinke added.
Olson said the USDA grant would amount to $1.7 million. Another $300,000 would come from city funds.
Other finance committee business included salary and wage reviews for city employees and the executive director of the Rugby Job Development Authority. The committee also voted to move funds into an account for a new fire truck and reviewed other funds set aside for air packs for firefighters. Stewart told the committee a loan taken out for the city fire hall would be paid off in 2025.
Committee members also discussed funds set aside for the city’s portion of a North Dakota Department of Transportation project on a section of Highway 3 through Rugby.
Committee members also reviewed finances for city buildings.
Stewart shared information about the Rugby Armory. “In 2020, we had a cost of just over $61,000 to operate the armory. In 2019, those costs were $70,000,” she said.
For revenues, Stewart said, “the school is a major player; we do have other functions that also (provide revenue), but it’s very small.”
“We are starting to attempt to make the armory a better building for the community and everyone who utilizes it. Those costs (for renovations) are not small,” Stewart added.
“We do recommend that the cost of rent be $17,000 for the next two years. Currently, it’s $14,500 per year,” Stewart said. Under the agreement, rent for armory office space would increase from $3200 to $3800.
Rugby Schools Superintendent Mike McNeff attended the buildings committee meeting and agreed to the increase on behalf of the district. He also told committee members the district sought to “keep communication lines open” on school projects, such as expanding the Ely Elementary School campus.
The buildings committee voted to meet with the school district Aug. 4 at 11 a.m. about proposed construction on Ely Elementary School property.
Other budget issues for the finance committee included budgeting to replace filters and other worn-out parts at the city’s water plant.
“Generally speaking, I think there’s always going to be a high expectation of quality water. I appreciate the water we have. I’ve been to towns where the water’s terrible. There’s going to be a high expectation involving water in Rugby,” Trottier said to the finance committee. “Every time you raise the cost of water in Rugby, that expectation stays the same and even goes up. We appreciate good water.”
However, Trottier noted the large number of required fixes for the city’s crumbling infrastructure.
“We have this list of needs. I think we’re going to have to look at prioritizing them,” he said.
Other committee business included a decision by buildings committee members to approve a construction bid of $189,660 on a window and door replacement project on the Rugby swimming pool. The committee approved a separate bid on the pool building’s roof of $110, 576.
Committee member Maurus Brossart recommended seeking a separate bid on new girts, or supports, for the building.
Other committee business included transferring a light bar from a Ford Taurus owned by the Rugby Police Department to another police vehicle, plans to place electronic speed limit signs in town and the creation of a police sergeant position for the force.
Police Chief John Rose told the public safety committee June had been a “fairly active” month for the department with five arrests for driving under the influence. However, he added, “Things were pretty quiet” at the Pierce County Fair.
Rose told the committee the department had hired Sean Hurly as an officer. Hurly is the brother of Judge Michael Hurly, who told the department he would recuse himself from any court case involving his brother.
Other committee business included discussions by the recreation committee on dugouts at the softball diamonds at the Rugby Recreation Complex. Other items of concern included a leak at the recreation building and work on a picnic shelter at the complex. Committee members also drew up new job descriptions for the recreation manager, recreation director and groundskeeper.
A special city council meeting followed the committee meeting. Members discussed a civil case the city has against Larry and Margaret Vetsch in an executive session. Steinke had no comment on the case, which Pierce County Clerk of Court Karin Fritel was scheduled for July 27-29.
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