Water main installation complete
October 12, 2020
The city reached a milestone last week. The last of the new water mains have been installed by BEK Consulting. The restoration work, including paving and concrete replacement, is expected to continue this week. At the regular city meeting on Oct. 5, commissioners approved a $576,436.25 payment to BEK for work completed in September.
The contract for the water treatment plant upgrade remains held up due to concerns USDA has about the railroad right of way. However, Wade Senger of Interstate Engineering said they remain hopeful that construction can commerce yet this fall. The water treatment plant work represents the third and final phase of the city's major water infrastructure project that began in the summer of 2020. All the windows and doors of the existing water plant were replaced this summer in anticipation of the upgrade, which is expected to cost more than $2 million.
Public Works Superintendent Bruce Hirchert reported vandalism in water main construction zones last week, both on First Avenue North and Third Avenue North. He noted drawings in fresh concrete, graffiti on valley gutters, and inappropriate language spray painted on traffic control signs used by contractors installing the water mains. A report was filed with the sheriff's report, and suspects have been identified and referred to juvenile court, according to Hirchert.
No work has been done on the U.S. Hwy. 281 project since commissioners raised concerns with the NDDOT at the last meeting, per Hirchert. Meanwhile, the exposed conduit of the crosswalk pole on the east side of the highway has been hit by vehicles three more times. The pole was knocked down more than a month ago by a vehicle, and the city has asked that it be reinstalled on the south side of the sidewalk to prevent vehicles from striking it in the future.
Pool patronage was up more than 15% this summer, according to park district manager Dennis Nybo. He delivered his annual report to the commissioners Monday. Although season pass purchases were down this season, 5,613 individuals enjoyed a splash in the city's 5-year-old pool during the short two-month season. Nybo also noted that the pool was only closed 1 full day the whole summer, compared to 12 days last year.
The new dugouts in north park are nearly complete, and Nybo said they will be fully functional in time for the 2021 softball and baseball season. Participation for summer ball was on par with last year.
The Homecoming Spaghetti Feed was held on Oct. 1, even though Homecoming was postponed to Oct. 13. The meal fundraiser generated $1,200 this year, with participation down considerably.
Commissioners approved a 15-year franchise agreement with Midco, a provider of phone, internet and cable television services in the county.
The city reviewed its policy regarding checks returned for insufficient funds (NSF). After discussion among commissioners and consideration by city attorney Travis Peterson, the city will continue to follow the current ordinance. The fee assessed for an NSF check is $10, which commissioner Kelly McKnight suggested should be increased. Upon notification that a check has been returned due to non-sufficient funds, Ritzke will debit the account the amount of the check and assess the $10 fee as a service charge. If payment is not made in a timely manner, the city's recourse is to turn off the water service to the property.
Two city employees have missed work due to COVID-19 exposure in the past month, prompting city officials to discuss a revision of their sick leave policy. According to the Department of Labor, full-time city employees are entitled to 80 hours of paid sick leave at their regular rate of pay due to COVID-19 exposure or sickness. Considering that two employees qualify for those two weeks of pay already due to COVID-19 quarantine, President Richter asked that the commission consider how to support those same employees should they fall ill with COVID-19. The policy would apply to all full-time city employees. Ritzke was tasked with contacting the League of Cities to see how other communities our size are approaching the issue. In the interim, the commission agreed to pay 60% of an employee's salary after the first 80 hours of COVID-19 sick leave are exhausted.
Peterson outlined a resolution passed by the City of Minot in March. The resolution defines circumstances where employees are granted leave, including sickness due to COVID-19, periods of self-quarantined due to exposure, voluntary isolation due to an underlying health condition, and time spent caring for a family member diagnosed with COVID-19. The employees must justify that they are out specifically due to COVID-19 by providing letters from their healthcare providers regarding quarantine orders and diagnoses. Further, the employees must utilize regular sick leave or annual leave for unrelated issues, and the city will consider remote accessibility options if applicable. This information will be considered as the city commission drafts its own policy.
Ritzke gave a report on activity of the city tree board. They did receive a grant to replant trees on boulevards lost in the 2018 wind storm. Due to the water main replacement project, they decided to postpone the planting until 2021. The board is also looking for another member, so interested residents are encouraged to contact Rtizke.
The next regular meeting is set for Monday, Nov. 2.