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No emergency yet, New Rockford City Commissioners decided Monday


April 13, 2020

With no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the city and the potential for spring flooding weighing on officials’ minds, the New Rockford City Commission decided not to declare a state of emergency at its regular meeting on Monday, April 6.

Convening via teleconference, members took a “wait and see” approach, citing that the small amount of local funds available should only be used where appropriate and when needed.

Auditor George Ritzke explained that the city does not need to declare an emergency for residents and businesses to access federal and state funds for COVID-19, but a declaration is needed to utilize the city’s modest $7,000 emergency fund.

“I would rather have it than not have it,” Commissioner Justin Ystaas said about accessing the local fund.

“Is this going to be our biggest crisis this year?” Commissioner Stuart Richter asked in response regarding COVID-19.

Ultimately, commissioners agreed that they would revisit the emergency declaration at a later date should the situation change locally with either flooding or COVID-19. A special meeting would likely be called in that event.

BEK Consulting is back in town, ready to pick up where they left off on the city water main replacement project. City officials and contractors met on Friday, April 3 to develop a plan for the long season ahead. On Tuesday, April 7, crews started fusing the pipe that will be bored under downtown. BEK plans to finish 7th Street first.

Several single-block areas will be bored rather than dug to minimize the amount of milling they need to do.

When conditions are favorable, they plan to begin digging in Area N by Community Credit Union. They will “loop” the line by digging along 2nd Street rather than under the frontage road as previously planned. Central Avenue and 1st Avenue North in the downtown area is also on the docket to be finished soon, to minimize disruptions to downtown businesses. Public Works Superintendent Bruce Hirchert said Wednesday he asked BEK to finish its work downtown while traffic is light and businesses are closed due to COVID-19 restrictions.

BEK will mill the asphalt in two parts to reduce impact on streets. The company had originally proposed to mill all the streets at once to minimize mobilization costs, but the commission said they preferred that the project be done in two parts.

Roof replacement for the Brown Memorial and Eddy-New Rockford Library was again tabled, to allow more time for Cash & Carry Lumber to prepare its estimate for replacing the rubber membrane-covered flat roof on the Brown Memorial with a pitched roof. Weisenburger Construction quoted $2,300 to remove the chimney at the Brown Memorial, but that proposal was also tabled until a decision was made on the roof.

City attorney Travis Peterson went over the details of a railroad easement and land lease for the water plant project received from Red River Valley & Western Railroad (RRVW) and BNSF Railway (BNSF).

First, the Agreement for Private Crossing grants easement to the city for the 16’ wide approach to the water plant, effective June 1, 2025 (when the current easement ceases), for a period of 99 years. The one-time fee for the easement is $100. The commission approved the agreement and expected to have it delivered to Wahpeton by week’s end for signature by RRVW and BNSF officials.

The second document clears up an issue engineers identified during the surveying process. They discovered that the water plant encroaches upon the railroad right-of-way on its east side. Per the agreement, the city would lease the land from RRVW for 40 years beginning Sept. 1, 2020. The area is 50 feet wide and 1,088 feet long. The city will pay $100 annually for the lease, billed in advance by RRVW. Once the agreements are signed the city can solicit bids for the water plant upgrades.

Also regarding the water plant, Hirchert presented estimates to replace the windows and doors in the structure. A proposal from The Glass Shop totaled $22,000 for labor and materials to replace the building’s 12 windows and seven doors.

Cash & Carry Lumber submitted a $9,500 estimate for the five upper level windows and all seven doors. Hirchert had not received a written estimate for the labor, however, because the concrete door frames wrapped with metal will need special attention.

A third proposal from Leben Masonry suggested that the ground floor windows be removed and filled in with coordinating brick. The total cost of that project is $6,650. After discussion, commissioners approved the third proposal. A decision on the doors and the upper level windows was tabled until Hirchert had complete estimates from both The Glass Shop and Cash & Carry Lumber.

Kristy O’Connor led the annual Tax Equalization Meeting that evening. There were 19 residential, four commercial and one vacant lot sold in 2019. Since O’Connor needs 30 residential and 20 commercial sales to make up the ratio, she went back three years to prepare her report.

Owners of 15 properties received notices of increase, and two sought clarifications prior to the meeting. The total valuation of the city without any exemptions is $48.6 million dollars, with 72.6% of the value in residential property and 27.4% in commercial property.

A total of 25 properties had exemptions applied via local programs, including 14 active Renaissance Zone projects, 10 residential remodels and one new business exemption.

An additional 43 exemptions came from two state-reimbursed programs. There are 36 participants in the Homestead Credit program for 2020, and the state reimbursed the county $27,540 in 2019. Another seven owners qualified for the Disabled Veterans Credit. The county received $5,000 in reimbursement from the state for those properties in 2019.

The next regular city commission meeting is set for Monday, May 4 at 7 p.m.


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