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By Caroline Downs
The Berthold City Council approved one developer’s agreement during their August 5th meeting, but an incomplete report on the city’s sewer system resulted in further questions and delays, while council members fumed.
Brice Nelson of KLJ presented the portion of the engineering report he had finished regarding the city’s lagoon expansion project. He first noted the initial estimate of 19 acres needed for the project had been revised down to 8-14 acres. “[A system of that size] should take care of a population of 750 to 1000 people,” he said, “and we’re proposing two cells, instead of just one.”
He also said the proposed expansion would nearly double the capacity of the current system and include the new standards for ultraviolet treatment for disinfection expected to be mandated by the North Dakota Department of Health. “We are preparing you for those new standards,” he said, adding that other communities would have to invest in the upgrades.
Nelson estimated a total cost of $1 to $2 million for the expansion, but emphasized that only the report about the treatment elements of the project was completed. “We need to do the collection system side,” he said. “That means we need to see what the lines look like.”
Kemper Construction currently has a contract with the city of Berthold to inspect the majority of the city’s sewer structure with their camera equipment to determine the condition of those lines and locate points where water infiltration is occurring. Nelson said KLJ expected to use the data to prepare the report for the proposed expansion.
Council member Nathan Fegley reported Kemper Construction had been working in the city on Fridays, with eight blocks of lines inspected so far. “I talked to them on Sunday and they haven’t seen evidence of any major infiltration yet,” he said, “but they still have over half the town to go.”
“I feel we’re late on this study,” said Steven Ibach, “and I know we’re late with the camera.”
Nelson said the information obtained by the camera provided facts for the report. “I would come out here and pop manholes, and then we just make guesses,” he said.
He suggested the city approve a plan for KLJ to do preliminary work for the project, including a topographic survey of the property, the necessary geotechnical work for the proposed site, and the basic design of the system.
“It would be good to get this work done before the weather turns,” he added, “but there’s no way to move dirt before this fall. If we did the design, come spring this could go out for bids.”
“We have developers sitting here who want to know tonight what it’s going to cost so they can plug those numbers into their formulas,” said Mayor Alan Lee. “How long will it take to get these numbers?”
Ibach gestured at the three developers in the room. “We have millions upon millions of dollars sitting here, waiting for those numbers,” he added.
The council approved the preliminary work plan recommended by Nelson, for a cost of $29,932.
Lee told Nelson he would obtain permission from owner Delano Mollerud to give KLJ staff members access to the property in question to complete the survey work. The city has not purchased the property yet where the new lagoon would be built, but Mollerud has offered the city a 60-acre parcel at the cost of $10,000 per acre for the project.
for Prairie Rose project
Alex Gregg of North Dakota Development and the proposed Prairie Rose residential and commercial project expressed his disappointment at the lack of progress on the sewer expansion report, but he sat at the table with the council to forge ahead on a developer’s agreement with the city, following review by attorneys for both sides.
Mayor Lee provided copies of the agreement to Gary Kramlich, representing Greenways Development Group LLC and the proposed Berthold Manor project on the south side of town, as well as to Curtis Urbanski of Dakota Neighborhood Development, who is proposing a residential and commercial development extending along Main Street.
Lee started by telling Gregg the city wanted to see quality housing in the Prairie Rose Development, which includes a mix of mobile and modular homes. “One of our big concerns is that you’ve represented one thing and something else is delivered,” he said.
Gregg said a designer was hired to assist the project engineer with layout and landscaping. “If we don’t have a good product on the ground, we’re not going to get very far,” he said.
He and the council members continued their review of the agreement and clarified the city’s ownership of the development’s infrastructure, except for the North Prairie Rural Water District’s water lines, following annexation into the city. Gregg also agreed to increase the roof pitch required for single family houses, as requested by the council.
Lee again emphasized the importance of finishing phases in the Prairie Rose development, especially regarding the developers’ partnership with the city for the sewer expansion. “The city is not interested in the current residents being stuck with the bill if the development is not completed,” he said.
Council members voted unanimously to approved the revised agreement with North Dakota Development, allowing engineering work to proceed for the project. The agreement is on file with the Berthold city auditor.
Urbanski noted his project would be ready to proceed once the sewer expansion report is finalized.
Kramlich said he would forward the agreement to the Greenways Development principals for their review and that he was ready for that project’s engineer to complete the sewer and water study necessary for the project.
However, Lee reminded him the preliminary plat had to be completed and approved first, with the city’s next Planning & Zoning Committee meeting scheduled for August 26th.
Berthold resident and builder David Shelkey took issue with the city council about several issues during the meeting. He started by asking if the city had done anything to address the water drainage problems in the south part of town, as discussed during the July meeting. “All I know is that our sloughs are full, but the drainage ditch by the elevator is empty,” he said.
He reported on a variety of research he conducted related to the Berthold Manor project proposed by Greenways Development Group LLC, a project that he opposes. He noted the application submitted to the Planning & Zoning Committee was signed by Carl Cyrowski of Michigan Global Solutions, which is a mergers and acquisitions company in that state.
According to Shelkey’s investigation, the Greenways Development Group LLC does not exist in the state of Michigan. “They are not licensed in the states of Minnesota, North Dakota or Michigan,” he said.
He continued, “My question to the council is, is the application they submitted still valid? I visited with legal counsel to see if the application was valid and it’s not. If you proceed with the development, I need a legitimate business to sue, and in the absence of this Greenways Development Group LLC, I would sue the city. Keep that in mind.”
He also referred to a recent demolition project at the Berthold golf course, which took place without a demolition permit. He said he spoke with the state’s air quality control office about the matter and was informed that demolition of houses must be accompanied by the proper checks for asbestos and lead contamination.
“I’m not trying to cause anything here,” he continued. “I’m just saying the residents have to follow the rules, and the city has to follow the rules.”
Shelkey finished addressing the council with a concern about the city’s work to pump water from the sewer system earlier in the summer, following heavy rainstorms. “I visited with the state health department because I found it odd that the city could pump sewage out of the lift station down the drainage ditch,” he said.
He said a representative of that office informed him that in such cases, the city had one day to fill out a report about the action taken. “In talking with a past councilman, I learned the city has been pumping water from the lift station like that since 2004,” he said. “[State health department personnel] said had you been filling out your reports like she said you should, the health department would have caught on sooner than this. They will be visiting you.”
The council took no action on any of Shelkey’s statements during the meeting, except regarding the legitimacy of the Greenways Development Group LLC application for the Berthold Manor proposal. Fegley and Ibach both directed Kramlich to look into the issue raised by Shelkey and report back to the council on the status of the company.
In other business:
•Council members approved minutes of the July meeting along with the city’s bills for payment.
•The council approved a request to grant credit on sewer expenses incurred by one property owner and a request from a second property owner for a building permit to construct a deck, as recommended by the Planning & Zoning Committee. Council members also voted to deny an application to build an addition onto a trailer house, and tabled a request to grant a variance to a property owner who wanted to change the location of a home he was placing on a lot in the city.
•Planning & Zoning Committee chairman Nathan Fegley reported that Minnesota Ltd. had constructed a 90’ x 144’ shop on their property before the necessary building permits were requested. He agreed with Mayor Lee the penalty would need to be discussed with city attorney Bryan Van Grinsven. “This is why Berthold needs a building inspector,” said Alechia Neubauer.
•Berthold police chief Al Schmidt reported that as of July 31st, the city had collected $5,400 in fines. He noted he was prohibited by law from collecting fines paid directly during traffic stops.
•Schmidt expressed a concern about truck load limits in the city, especially for those involved with local construction projects or those purchasing bulk water. “I have a scale from the state to use now,” he said. “For some of these trucks, it’s going to be a $5,000 or $6,000 fine.” He agreed to prepare a load permit the city could issue to companies whose trucks were operating in the city limits.
•Council members directed city public works superintendent Dwight Thompson to order a new motor to be installed in the city’s mower. Thompson obtained a preliminary price quote of $2,375 for a replacement motor, without installation costs.
•Thompson suggested the city appoint an interim judge to serve in municipal court during his upcoming absence. Mayor Lee reported Van Grinsven was checking into the possibility of having attorney Jim Maxson of Minot serve as interim judge, but said he would also ask council member Chris Burnside about his interest in serving.
•After extensive discussion, the council approved a raise for Thompson from $15 to $18 per hour on a 2-1 vote, effective with the new budget year beginning October 2013. Thompson, who has been employed by Berthold for the past year and a half, noted he took no sick leave, no benefits and no overtime from the city. “It’s gotten busier,” he said. “I thought I could whittle this down to a part-time job, but I can’t.” Steve Ibach suggested the council perform an annual review of all city employees in the future to determine any appropriate changes in hours, wages and benefits.
•The council took no action at the meeting to change the municipal judge’s pay, currently established at $50 per court session and paid out of court costs assessed. Thompson said court was being held twice monthly on alternate Wednesdays and that he generally had to research ordinances and state laws related to each case before the session. “Initially, I thought court was going to be about barking dogs, but it’s been about drugs and guns,” he said.
•Auditor Penni Miller announced the June water billing had been mailed to residents and that she continues training with the Black Mountain company on the new billing system. She has also mailed certified letters to property owners who have not had new water meters installed yet, along with letters to residents who are late in paying their water bills. She described plans to change the bills to a postcard style in order to save postage for the city once the new system is completely operational, preferably by January 1, 2014.
•Council members approved a motion to hire an accountant at $50/hour to assist Miller on a short-term basis with the city budget and books. Mayor Lee and Fegley both cited the disorganized condition of the city’s records when Miller was hired.
•Mayor Lee directed Thompson to visit with property owners whose trees were blocking visibility at various intersections in the city. The city will remove branches or limbs from trees located on city property at those intersections.
•Neubauer reported a new twin home recently placed on a city lot did not meet the required 25-foot setback. “It’s only set back 11 feet in front,” she said. Ibach agreed to measure the distance, but again lamented the city’s lack of a building inspector. “And that’s the problem,” Neubauer answered. “If we did, we wouldn’t have a problem with this.”
•The next meeting of the Berthold City Council will be a special session scheduled for Tuesday, September 3rd, at 7:30 pm at city hall. The meeting date was changed because of the Labor Day holiday. The public is welcome to attend.