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City council questions construction projects

The Park Rapids City Council is discussing whether to continue making capital improvements on an intense schedule or hold off due to the economy.

On Tuesday, councilman Pat Mikesh questioned moving ahead on a 2011 Capital Improvement Plan project to replace old sewer lines in the Riverside area of Park Rapids.

The project would replace infrastructure on Washington Avenue, Riverside Avenue, Forest Avenue, Beach Road, Third Street and Fifth Street west of the Fish Hook River. Some alleys would also be included.

City engineer Jon Olson said it was a high priority project because the area has infrastructure dating back to the 1920s.

"We've had backups," he said of the sewer system.

He approached the council Tuesday seeking authorization to move ahead on the preliminary engineering report.

Mikesh expressed concern with continually moving up capital projects.

"We moved up the southwest project and now this is moved up," he said. "How can we keep spending, spending?"

He said the city needs to address the large projects more slowly.

"You're hitting people again. Sooner or later we have to slow down," Mikesh said. " ... I think if we keep moving on we won't have anyone left in the city."

Mayor Nancy Carroll said she agreed with most of what Mikesh said but she was also worried about people having sewer backups.

Public works director Scott Burlingame said the area was recently cleaned but it doesn't do any good because the clay pipe is gone in some places.

"I think if we don't act proactively it will cost more," said councilwoman Sue Tomte.

The council decided to authorize the study and decide at a later date if it will continue with the project in 2011. The vote was 4-1 with Mikesh voting against moving ahead with the study.

Olson explained that the project could be pushed back to a later date but the engineering study would be easy to update.

In other business, the council:

n Set a date for citizens to hear more information about the storm water utility recently enacted in the city. The meeting will be at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 17 at the Hubbard County Courthouse lower level meeting room.

Greg Kimman from SEH will field technical questions regarding the development of the storm water fee formula.

The meeting was set after a handful of citizens attended the last council meeting expressing concern about the new fee.

n Approved a first reading of the Social Host Ordinance.

The ordinance prohibits any person from hosting an event where alcohol is present and being possessed or consumed by someone under 21 years old. The county board approved the ordinance recently.

n Reduced a water bill for Park Rapids Youth Baseball.

The last bill was $645.40. The average bill had been about $45.

It was determined that the bathroom at the ball fields had a leak. The leak wasn't discovered because it had been vacant since July when the baseball season ended.

The council agreed to reduce the bill to the average amount the organization had been paying.

n Approved a request to abate and recertify a special assessment for a property that was affected by the Highway 34 project.

John Gribble III asked if he could pay down his special assessment to make the yearly payments more affordable to him. He offered to pay $10,000.

The council approved the request.

n Denied a request to pay for repairs to irrigation equipment.

Tracy Becker reported damage to an underground pipe of an irrigation system located on farm lease 5, owned by the city of Park Rapids.

Becker said the damage was caused by frost and not anything he did.

Public works director Scott Burlingame said the pipe was shattered and pieces were on top of the ground. He believed this was caused by deep tillage. He recommended billing Becker for the broken irrigator.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561