Weekly Memo 3-15-2013

Each Weekly Memo to the City Council and the agenda packet is also provided on the City Council web page.

WEEKLY UPDATE:

MnDOT Funding

Staff from the City and the MPO participated in a webinar this week discussing Corridor Investment Management Strategy (CIMS) funding. The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) is soliciting proposals for $30 million in funding in CIMS funding that is targeted to quality of life, environmental health, or economic competitiveness improvements. Applications can include enhancements to multimodal access (e.g. bike lanes, sidewalks, bus routes), streetscaping, access and intersection improvements, and several other enhancement activities. Applications require support from the MPO and the MnDOT district office. City staff is investigating the Central Avenue (Highway 220) corridor as a potential target. Applications are due by April 30.

Code Red

Polk County is implementing its Code Red system that would provide e-mail and mobile alerts to citizens on emergency conditions throughout the County. East Grand Forks public safety and administration staff will begin training on the new system next week. Also, East Grand Forks residents currently can receive alerts on city news and announcements currently at the City web site by clicking on the “Notify Me” link on the city’s home page at www.egf.mn. Updates also can include emergency announcements, including snow emergencies, flood updates, city calendar information, and much more customized to each user’s preferences.

Labor Update

The City met with one labor group this week. Two meetings are scheduled for next week.

Legislative Update

Committee deadline on the Ides of March

Friday, March 15, is the deadline for bills to be passed out of each committee in the House and the Senate. Any bills not passed out after Friday will require special action on the floor of each house. The committee deadlines do not apply to the committees of Capital Investment (bonding), Finance, Taxes, or Rules and Administration.

Governor’s revised budget

Governor Mark Dayton submitted a revised budget this week that reflects the updated budget projections. Based on an upturn in the state and national economies, the current biennium projects a slight surplus, whereas the projected deficit for the 2014-2015 biennium was cut by almost half. Dayton dropped all of his proposals to reduce the statewide sales tax rate and on plans to expand the sales tax base to include clothing and many services that are not taxed. Dayton maintained his proposal to create a 4th-tier of income tax for incomes above $150,000 for singles and $250,000 for couples. Finally, the revised budget drops a previous proposal to provide a $500 tax credit for homesteads. Dayton’s overall budget is an increase of approximately $1 billion largely geared toward education and economic development.

Local Government Aid

Dayton’s plan also includes an $80 million increase to Local Government Aid (LGA). Total LGA funding would remain far below 2002 funding levels even with the proposed increase. The Governor’s staff, the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC), and metro cities representatives have worked on a revised funding formula that would more equitably distribute funding increases to Greater Minnesota than under the previous proposal from the Governor. East Grand Forks would receive an increase of approximately $39,000 in 2014. This is approximately $125,000 more than the LGA funding East Grand Forks would receive if the current law remained in effect. I have not seen projections for years beyond 2014 as of the time of this memo.

DEPARTMENT REPORTS:

Fire Department, Chief Gary Larson

This month for training the Fire Department trained on calling a mayday when in trouble. The officers trained on handling a mayday, the communications, and the rescue team operations. This was done in full gear with people trapped and the rescue team had to go in with blacked out masks and perform a rescue. People who were not involved in each scenario were training on self contained breathing apparatus.

The State Fire Marshal’s office came in on 3-5-13 and put on a full day class on Image Trend software for reporting our calls. It also covers modules for inspections, staffing, and maintenance. This will replace our Firehouse software that we now pay for. This software is paid for by the State Fire Marshal’s office and will be recommended to all fire departments.

We experienced trouble with two warning sirens on the monthly test. They have been operating fine until now. The Middle School and DSC siren did not go off. We will have a repairman in to diagnose.

We held an operational flood meeting on Friday the 8th to go over equipment and to see if everything is in good shape. There are a couple small things being taken care of, but everything and everybody are ready. The 50% range for East Grand Forks is 40 feet as of last Thursday’s update.

The Fire Department responded to a trailer house fire on Tuesday morning at 3:14 am. The person had woken up to the smell of smoke and left the trailer. Smoke detectors were not working. We made entrance into the trailer to extinguish the fire, but had to back out because the floor was on fire under the trailer. We were able to put the fire out and were back in service by 8 A.M. The trailer is a total loss and residents had no insurance. We were able to get a dog out, but the cat was a fatality.

We had five people attend a Skywarn class in Crookston to be storm spotters.

Our new hire, Cody Wasylow, has been working out very well. He will be on days for 2 weeks to give him a chance to get familiar with equipment and some addressing.

We are at 170 calls for the year so far.

Public Works, Jason Stordahl

PUBLIC WORKS

Streets- Staff is continuing to widen streets and clean snow from banks around intersections. Our rental motor grader and second Snow Blower are up and running again, although we are still experiencing issues with the snow blower.

Stormwater- We are preparing for the spring thaw and whatever river levels that may bring. Myself, staff, and our City Engineers met with the Army Corps to discuss their annual inspection findings from last summer.

Wastewater- The City Administrator, Finance Director, City Engineers, and I conducted our second Wastewater informational meeting this past Monday. It was an open meeting to discuss options for a facility upgrade. One new option presented was to build our own mechanical plant.

Wastewater staff have been performing their regular scheduled duties, as well as attending to a leaky valve issue at our wastewater ponds.

Police Department, Chief Mike Hedlund

Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription drugs are perhaps the number one drug problem in the Red River Valley at this time.  There have been a number of burglaries throughout the region where the thieves were targeting prescription medications.  Unfortunately people who are addicted to these drugs often times steal from their own family and friends to support their habits.  If you have prescription medications in your home, especially pain relievers and other narcotic type drugs, it is best to keep them locked in a secure container.  If you have expired medications, or prescription medications you no longer need you can bring them to your local law enforcement agency for proper disposal.  The Pine to Prairie Drug Task Force recently approved the purchase of three “drug take back” boxes that will be placed in the lobbies of the East Grand Forks and Crookston Police Departments as well as in Fosston.  These boxes will allow medications to be dropped off anonymously.  Help us fight this serious problem by turning in expired and unneeded medications and by keeping current prescription in a secure location!

Parks and Recreation, Dave Aker

 

Barons Tournament

The Barons Tournament is being played at all three rinks in East Grand Forks.  This is an adult league tournament and they have scheduled Grand Forks and East Grand Forks arenas.

Park and Recreation

We are making plans for Arbor Day; right now it looks like May 3 is the probable date.  It depends on the fourth grade class and if they can make that date.  We are planning on having it in La Fave Park, part of the donation from US Bank of $2,000 for trees and bushes to beautify the area. The plan is to plant six trees along the bike path and then on a Saturday have a huge planting of trees, about 90 of them.

Weekly Memo 3-8-2013

Each Weekly Memo to the City Council and the agenda packet is also provided on the City Council web page.

WEEKLY UPDATE:

Legislative Update

Red River State Recreational Area

Senator Stumpf and Representative Kiel each have introduced legislation in the Senate and House, respectively, to provide funding for the City’s proposed campground expansion. The Red River State Recreational Area (RRSRA) has 25 spaces without full utility connections. Most of the RRSRA’s customer base is recreational vehicles, which require utilities. The City believes the proposed state funding of $250,000 is a “win-win” for the City and the State. Enhanced revenue from the project provides a return on investment of less than five years. The funding would be a partial match of the city’s local investment of $400,000 in 2009 for a similar expansion.  The Senate bill is SF 850; the House bill is HF 1227.

Border cities

A bipartisan effort in both chambers would also re-enact border city credits for business expansion in the cities of East Grand Forks, Moorhead, Ortonville, Dilworth, and Breckenridge. HF 515 and SF 389 would allocat $2 million to the border city enterprise zone and development zone programs. Eligible businesses would be able to obtain tax credits based on job creation and capital investment. It has been several years since the cities have received a reallocation of enterprise zone credits. The sponsors of the bills are  Representatives Lien (DFL-Moorhead), Kiel (R- Crookston), Davids (R-Preston), Marquart (DFL-Dilworth), and McNamar (DFL-Elbow Lake) and Senator Eken (DFL-Twin Valley).

Minnesota Cities cut spending

Minnesota Cities held the line on property taxes for 2011 according to the Office of the State Auditor’s latest report, Minnesota City Finances: 2011 Revenues, Expenditures, and Debt. Cities spend four percent less in 2011 than in 2010 while maintaining tax rates to account for cuts to state aid programs including Local Government Aid (LGA). The 2011 final figures reflect a long term trend that shows Minnesota cities have reduced expenditures by 20 percent, adjusted for inflation, in the last 10 years. Most of the spending cuts have come from reduced debt service and reduced capital investment. East Grand Forks property tax rate increased from 2010-2011, was held flat from 2011-2012, and was decreased for 2013.

Agenda Supplements

The Council packets contain two supplemental items. The first item is an updated present value analysis and an estimated waste water mechanical plant construction summary. The second is a proposal from Social Science Research Institute (SSRI) to conduct telephone survey related to pool options.

Reminder: The Waste Water Public Forum was rescheduled to this Monday, March 11 at 7:00 pm in the Council Chambers.

DEPARTMENT REPORTS:

Library, Charlotte Helgeson

The EGF Campbell Library closed early on Monday, March 4 due to the weather and rescheduled the Northern Exposure Juried Photography Exhibit Opening Reception for Wednesday at 6:30.  The photography awards include 3 for color and 3 for black and white given from the entry fees; Arts & Crafts Choice, Mayor’s Choice and Friends Choice.  During the same evening, the poetry contest winners will be announced. The winners will be listed in the Exponent for those unable to attend the opening. The poetry awards are sponsored by Glamorous Reruns.

Snow is being removed from the valleys on the Library’s roof.  Braun Intertec and Kraus Anderson have advised the Library to remove snow as a regular maintenance item in hopes that ice dams will not form in the valleys as the sun brightens and the evenings freeze.

The damage from the January vandalism has been repaired by Sterling Carpet One, Keith’s Security and Spare Husband.  The bills will be turned over to insurance.

Monday, March 11 at 6:30 will be the first in a series of Agassiz Audubon Birding Series presented by Heidi Hughes.

Parks and Recreation, Dave Aker

OUTDOOR RINKS ARE CLOSING

The outdoor rinks are open until March 10, after that the rinks will not be maintained anymore and the warming houses will not be open.

CIVIC CENTER ROOF

When we received all the snow an old problem came back to haunt us.  The roof over the lobby of the Civic Center began to leak and the ice worked its way down the side wall.  There was leaking at the side doors and the girls bathroom upstairs.

HOCKEY TOURNAMENT RESULTS

Congratulations to the High School team for winning Section 8 and for winning the opening game at the State Tournament.  We have two other teams that advance to Minnesota State Tournament on March 15 – 17, they are the Bantam A and Pee Wee A.  The Bantam A won the Region Tournament with a 2-1 victory over Thief River Falls.  The opening round they beat North Shore 4-1 and then beat Eveleth/Gilbert/ME in the semi-finals 6-1.  The Pee Wee A took second at their Regional Tournament dropping the championship game to Virginia 7-4.  They had close games all the way through the Tournament starting with at 4-3 (OT) victory with Greenway, followed by a 3-2 win over Duluth Denfeid and a 3-2 (2OT) victory over Warroad to advance to the State Tournament.

The Bantam A team plays at Buffalo on Friday at 6:00 pm against Detroit Lakes.  The Pee Wee A will be at Fairbault Ice Arena on Friday at 4:00 pm and they play Minneapolis.

Other scores in Region Tournaments:

Bantam B lost to Grand Rapids 5-1; beat Crookston 3-0; and lost to Bemidji Blue 4-2.

Pee Wee B lost to host Silver Bay 6-4 and to Grand Rapids 5-4.

Girls 14U lost to Alexandria 1-0 and Warroad 2-1.

Girls 12U lost to Brainerd 5-2; beat Grand Rapids 4-3 (OT); and lost to Duluth Breakers 11-1.

Police Department, Chief Mike Hedlund

Snowmobile Safety

We are starting to have spells of warmer weather which results in melting snow and the subsequent runoff, much of which eventually makes its way to the Red and Red Lake Rivers.  River ice can never be considered truly safe because the changing currents can result in very thin ice only a matter of a few feet from ice that would be considered safe.  The runoff from the melting snow increases the river flow, changing the currents even more and can also create weak spots where the water flows into the river.  People who like to snowmobile on the river should be very cautious and consider staying off the rivers at this time of year.

Agenda Items:

  • The Parks and Recreation Superintendent will provide a quotation through the state cooperative purchasing venture to purchase new playground equipment for O’Leary Park and Stauss Park. The 2013 Budget allocates $30,000 for playground equipment in the Capital Improvements Plan (CIP).
  • The Parks and Recreation Superintendent also will provide a quotation to install an ADA-compliant restroom in the Senior Center. The proposed funding source is the Building Maintenance Fund.
  • The Parks and Recreation Director will request to begin recruitment for a planned Arena Manager vacancy. The current Arena Manager at the VFW Arena will retire at the end of April.
  • The Public Works Director will propose a revised snow emergency ordinance and a snow removal policy. The ordinance would allow the City Administrator and the Public Works Director to declare a snow emergency as needed. The Snow Removal policy details several methods and best practices for snow removal within the Public Works Department. It would also identify four inches of snow accumulation as a general guide – but not a requirement – for implementation of a snow emergency.
  • The Public Works Director will present an update on the waste water treatment project for the final progress report to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). The Public Works Director will present a recommendation following the waste water public forum scheduled for Monday evening. The final report is due March 22.
  • The City Administrator and the Parks and Recreation Superintendent will provide an update to the pool feasibility study. The work session report primarily will cover responses to the questions the City Council posed at the last meeting. The questions include possible cost alternatives for a pool liner in the current pool, the feasibility of an indoor pool, the notification requirements for a possible general obligation bond issue, and a proposed public survey regarding community opinion toward a new pool facility.
  • The City Planner will propose to renew the agreement with Indepth Inspections for building inspections services.

Weekly Memo 3-1-2013

Each Weekly Memo to the City Council and the agenda packet is also provided on the City Council web page.

WEEKLY UPDATE:

Labor Update

City representatives met with one bargaining unit this week. Another unit is scheduled for next week. We have reached a tentative agreement with one bargaining unit; and we expect more soon.

Debt Refinancing

The EDHA Director, the Finance Director and I met this week with representatives from Springsted, Inc. for a general discussion regarding debt service and economic development programs. The City refinanced one bond issue last year at very competitive rates – less than two percent. The next issues eligible for refinancing will be in 2014 and 2015 respectively. We also learned that the City’s debt for the 23rd Street Reconstruction project is eligible to be called. The City procured a 20-year loan through the Minnesota Public Facilities Authority (PFA) at approximately 3.6 percent. The City could actually choose to call this loan because it is backed by a state bond. The City has engaged Springsted to potentially refinance the loan through a General Obligation issue with a present value savings of over $300,000.

Legislative Update

Local Government Aid

The League of Minnesota Cities board of directors discussed last week its position on the Governor’s budget proposal regarding local government aid (LGA). The League generally favors the Governor’s funding increase of $80 million, but also supports increasing funding back to 2002 levels adjusted for inflation. The Governor’s proposal, which generally has been more favorable than others from a statewide perspective, stops short of restoring full funding to LGA.  The League did not take a position on the Governor’s proposed formula, which generally benefits the metropolitan area more than Greater Minnesota.

Street Improvement Districts

Both the House and the Senate introduced legislation to authorize municipalities to approve street improvement districts. The legislation is modeled after Sidewalk Improvement Districts, which already are authorized by state law. Under the legislation, cities could collect fees for street maintenance and construction. The authority would be optional to each municipality. Street Improvement District enabling legislation has been a high priority of the League in recent years. It has received additional support as a result of the Governor’s Transportation Finance Advisory Committee. The bills in the legislature are HF 745 and SF 607.

State budget forecast shows improvement

An improved economic outlook shows the projected state budget deficit for FY 2014-15 reduced to $627 million, down from $1.1 billion. The remainder of the current fiscal year shows an improved surplus of just under $300 million, most of which will be used to partially repay the school funding shift of fiscal year 2010-11.

Waste Water Public Forum

The City Council will hold its second Waste Water Public Forum on Monday evening, March 4 at 7:00 pm in the Council Chambers. Staff will review feedback and questions from the previous meeting on February 4. And, the staff will discuss a potential third option for waste water treatment – a mechanical treatment plant in East Grand Forks. The other two options currently under consideration are the reconstruction of the City’s waste water stabilization ponds and a proposed interconnect with Grand Forks. The public is encouraged to attend.

The City must deliver its third and final progress to the MPCA’s Alleged Violation Letter (AVL). The AVL was delivered to the City in September 2012 following the MPCA’s annual inspection of the waste water treatment facility. The AVL contained several minor repair items. The City has responded and remedied most of the issues in the AVL. The final item to address is the proposed schedule for a waste water treatment upgrade.

DEPARTMENT REPORTS:

Parks and Recreation, Dave Aker

Regions to start on Friday, March 1

Our youth teams start Region Tournaments on Friday, March 1 for the Bantam A & B, Pee Wee A & B and Girls 14U and 12U.  We wish all the players and coaches a good tournament and Good Luck!

Compressors at the Civic Center

The compressors at the Civic Center are running better than they have all year.  We had some problems with the wiring but they fixed that before Saturday’s semi-finals and everything is running good.

Park Maintenance Worker

The job opening for the parks maintenance worker is now open and all applications must be filed with the Civil Service before 5:00 pm on March 14th, 2013.  The EGF Civil Service may require a written, oral or other examination deemed necessary.

Public Works, Jason Stordahl

PUBLIC WORKS

Streets- Staff has been busy trying to widen streets, and clean up intersections and cul-de-sacs.  Our rental motor grader and one of our snow blowers have been down with mechanical problems.  We are hoping to have them up and running sometime next week.

Police Department, Chief Mike Hedlund

Scams

The East Grand Forks Police Department continues to get reports of a variety of financial scams.  These scams often involve someone claiming to be a relative who needs you to wire them money because of some financial problem or emergency.  These fraudulent claims are usually easy to resolve by contacting another family member who would know if the supposed relative is really in trouble.  Another common scam involves a claim that you were a “BIG WINNER” in some type of contest.  The contest winner scam typically requires you to wire or somehow send money to another person/company as a handling fee or similar expense which will then allow the release of your prize – often times claimed to be very large amounts of money.  The best advice we can give to our citizens is that if something seems too good to be true it probably is.  If you receive a letter or a phone call that you think might involve a scam contact the police department before you send any money.  We may not be able to arrest the person committing the scam (they are often from another country) we can probably help you figure out whether their claims are legitimate or not.

Traffic Safety

As a reminder as our days grow longer we are seeing more melting snow.  Those water puddles in the afternoon quickly turn to ice in the evening as the sun goes down and temperatures drop.  The warmer daytime temperatures also result in more children playing outside.  Slow down and drive defensively and help us keep our community safe.

Agenda Items:

  • The City Council will consider accepting the proposed low bid for 2013 City Project No 2 – Water Main and Force Main Improvements. The project replaces selected water mains and installs a force main connection to the area around 10th Street NW. The waste water force main connection should significantly reduce the occasional odor issues around 10th Street NW.
  • Under old business, the Council will reconsider a resolution to waive the statutory limit for general liability insurance. The Council previously opted to also purchase optional coverage of an additional $1 million per individual and per occurrence. The additional coverage costs approximately $35,000. The staff recommendation is to waive statutory limits and to not purchase excess liability coverage.
  • The City Council will consider a resolution to request the City’s addition to the Fire Escrow account with the state. The program allows the City to potentially collect insurance proceeds from a fire-damaged property if the City must remediate a property.
  • The City Council will consider the 2nd Reading of an ordinance to update the City’s regulations regarding employee background checks.

Weekly Memo 2-22-13

Each Weekly Memo to the City Council and the agenda packet is also provided on the City Council web page.

WEEKLY UPDATE:

Mayor, Council meets with MPCA

Mayor Stauss and some Council members along with staff met with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) in Detroit Lakes on Thursday. The topic was the proposed waste water treatment project. Several items were addressed including the timing of proposed improvements, the capacity of the existing facility, and the viability of a “water balance” test to determine alleged seepage rates at the current lagoon.

The MPCA expects a final progress report from the City on March 22. This date was amended from the previous deadline of February 22. The progress report should include a proposed schedule of design and construction for a new facility. The MPCA did not indicate that the City had to choose a project by next month. Nicole Blasing, Pollution Control Specialist, said that the MPCA expects to see in the final progress report that the City is “committed” to upgrading its treatment facility in a prescribed time line, presumably to coincide with the current facility permit expiration in 2016.

The MPCA presented a brief list of facilities in communities similar in size to East Grand Forks. Mechanical treatment was the predominant method of most peer cities. MPCA staff said the mechanical option was as much a function of land availability land as it was the effectiveness of treatment. The parties discussed water balance testing in some depth. A water balance test, at its most basic level, involves the placement of water barrels in the treatment facility to determine seepage. One can calculate with high accuracy the amount of overall seepage from a lagoon facility based on the inflow and release of water from the barrels. The advantage of a water balance test is that the City would know with relative certainty whether or not the current facility is in compliance. The disadvantage of conducting such a test, in addition to the cost of the test, is that the City could face an accelerated design and construction schedule if the current lagoon facility is determined to be non-compliant.

The group also discussed the capacity of the current facility. The waste water treatment pond is at 89 percent of total capacity even if everything else is compliant. As such, the City is limited in its ability to grow or to attract business and industry without substantial improvements.  Finally, the topic of affordability was raised briefly. Most state and federal grant programs require a community to establish waste water rates at 1.5 percent of annual median household income in order to be eligible for grant funding. This translates to approximately $66 per month for East Grand Forks. The current rate for an average household is $29. Similarly, the City received a coincidental, but unrelated, message from the Minnesota Public Facilities Authority (PFA) on Thursday afternoon. PFA confirmed that the City is not currently eligible for grant funding or for a 30-year loan term for waste water improvements. The City remains eligible for a 20-year loan at a historically low rate. The City Council is expected to meet for its second Waste Water Public Forum on Monday, March 4 at 7:00 pm. The public is encouraged to attend.

Police Headquarters Update

I authorized Legend Technical Services to proceed with mold testing of the Police Headquarters facility based upon input at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Staff will return to the City Council at a subsequent meeting with a revised recommendation, if applicable, regarding the proposed Police Headquarters renovation project.

Legislative Update

Tax bills have been introduced in both legislative chambers that represent Governor Dayton’s budget proposals. The changes include broadening the base of the state sales tax while reducing the overall sales tax rate, creating a 4th-tier income tax for high-income filers, and increasing several other fees and surcharges. The Governor’s LGA proposal at this time includes an $80 million increase to the program statewide. Greater Minnesota would actually lose over $3 million in net LGA funding in 2014 despite the statewide increase due to changes in the formula. East Grand Forks would lose over $1 million annually. Governor Dayton has repeated that he is open to alternatives to the proposed formula.

The legislature also will consider changes to the Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA), primarily for public safety personnel. Both the employee and employer contributions to pensions would increase for police and fire employees. The employee contribution would increase from 9.6 percent to 10.2 percent of salary in 2014, and 10.8 percent thereafter. The employer contribution would increase from 14.4 percent to 15.3 percent in 2014, and 16.2 percent thereafter. The League of Minnesota Cities advocates changing these percentages so that the burden of additional cost falls equally on employees and public employers. The bill would also increase vesting requirements, and would limit cost-of-living adjustments to pension payments until the overall PERA fund is funded at least 90 percent for at least two years in a row. Last Monday’s Cities Bulletin has more information.

Finally, both the House and Senate later will consider bills that would provide funding to cities with public safety personnel called overseas on military leave. Cities could request reimbursement if it either had to hire additional personnel or incur additional overtime costs to cover the cost of a police officer or fire fighter who is called to active duty.

Intergovernmental Retreat

On Friday afternoon, the Grand Forks-East Grand Forks Chamber of Commerce will host the annual Intergovernmental Retreat with representatives from the City, Polk County, East Grand Forks School District, and Northland College. State and federal representatives from our area also will attend. The event runs from 11:30-4:00 at the Boardwalk Bar and Grill. Later, Representative Deb Kiel will host a public forum at the VFW at 5:00.

DEPARTMENT REPORTS:

TEAMS off to Regionals

Congratulations to all the youth teams and their coaches that are headed to Regionals next week.  The Bantam A’s are going to Warroad for Regionals after they took 1st place in the Districts.  Bantam B team is going to Crookston after finishing second in their District Tournament.  Pee Wee A go to Two Harbors after taking second place in the Districts.  Pee Wee B team is headed to Silver Bay after a third place finish in their District tournament.  12U team goes to Brainerd after their third place finish and the 14U team goes to Roseau with an automatic seed into the Regionals.

Compressor at the Civic Center

We are extremely happy to say the compressor at the Civic Center is up and running.  Ten days ago the compressor went down and we had American Industrial Refrigeration from Plymouth, MN come up and replace the old Frick compressor with the Vilter compressor we had in waiting.  We started out with a snow storm and finished with a snow storm but still got the compressor going.  I would like to thank Midwest Refrigeration, Eagle Electric, Ron Bubendorf, Kevin Hanson, Alex Barta and Brian Larson for their hard work along with A.I.R.

SNOW REMOVAL

You could say we are the other guys that are removing snow.  We have been extremely busy moving snow at City Hall, downtown, library, arenas, sidewalks, outdoor ice rinks and bike paths.  There are special events such as the Iceman Triathlon down on the Greenway in town this weekend.  Snowmobilers are suppose to use caution and give the racers plenty of room on Saturday, February 23, from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm.

SECTIONS START

Section 8 begins the quarterfinals Thursday for the higher seed teams.  They move to East Grand Forks Civic Center on Saturday for the semi-finals and the following Thursday, February 28, is the Championship game.  Let’s get out and cheer the GREENWAVE to victory!

Police Department, Chief Mike Hedlund

EGFPD Bike Patrol

The East Grand Forks Police Department has begun to take steps to form a bike patrol that will begin operation later this year.  Officers for the patrol will be selected from the existing staff and will receive specialized training prior to working on the bikes.  Bicycles and other related equipment will need to be purchased to get the program started.  A number of local businesses have stepped forward to offer their financial support for this program.  The bike patrol will involve officers using the bikes to enhance community interaction as well as working special events, patrolling the city’s parks and bike paths, and conducting additional crime prevention duties.  Officers on bikes can be very effective at responding to specific types of crime problems such as vehicle break-ins.

Public Works, Jason Stordahl

Streets- Staff has cleared snow from all streets and alleys.  They are now working on widening streets curb to curb, hauling away banks around intersections and cul-de-sacs.

Wastewater-We had a meeting with MPCA on Thursday Feb.21st to discuss our current wastewater facility and upgrades that may have to be done.  Council members that were unable to attend can feel free to stop by the Public Works office, to discuss details of the meeting.

Storm water- The new gate well shaft for Lift 16 is not finished yet, but we are hoping that it will be done and delivered any day now.

Fire Department, Chief Gary Larson

Snow removal has taken up plenty of time this week.

We are looking at getting away from Firehouse Software and going with State recommended Image Trend. The Fire Marshal’s office would like to see all Fire Departments change over. It should save us some money.

We had the annual meeting with the rural townships this Tuesday. We discussed purchasing GPS units for vehicles, 800 mghz radios, ISO Rating, and possibly some new rural maps.

Agenda Items:

  • The City Engineer will present bid results for 2013 City Project No. 2 – Watermain and Forcemain Improvements. The project funding is a combination of waste water and water funds. The total bid price is $657,916.15, almost $80,000 over the engineering estimate. The force main portion of the work is an extension of a 2010 Water Main project on 10th Street NW. The City installed a new sewer main in that area while the street already was excavated for water improvements. The new main was not connected at the time. This project would connect the new main to the existing waste water system. The force main addition – as opposed to the current gravity main on 10th Street NW, should alleviate much of the odor issues in that area at least before the master lift station.
  • The City Council will discuss options for swimming pool renovation. Staff from Ballard King and Associates, OLC Design, and EAPC will be available via conference call to answer questions as needed. The consultants seek direction from the Council regarding a final proposed project so that they can complete the final feasibility report.
  • The Parks and Recreation Superintendent will discuss the City’s arena rental policy. The City Council raised concerns at a previous work session regarding the city’s rental rates relative to private businesses and clubs for receptions. Staff will review and seek input on rental rates for events, including receptions, ice rentals, sporting events, and other activities as appropriate.
  • The Public Works Director will present a revised snow emergency ordinance for Council review. The City Council discussed at the last work session the possibility of increasing the City’s snow emergency activation to four inches of snowfall rather than two inches. The increase may result in slight cost savings to if crews are not called in on overtime for minor events of less than four inches. Additionally, the Police Department would issue fewer tickets for events that many do not deem emergencies. Response time to snow events, especially in non-peak, non-business hours may be delayed in lighter snow events.

Weekly Memo 2-15-13

Each Weekly Memo to the City Council and the agenda packet is also provided on the City Council web page.

WEEKLY UPDATE:

City Sales Tax Bill held over

A bill that would exempt cities and counties from sales tax was laid over for possible inclusion in the Omnibus Tax bill later this session. Cities and counties have paid sales tax on many goods purchased since 1992. At the time, the sales tax was included as a way to fill a budget hole while retaining LGA funding. Since then, LGA has been cut several times while the sales tax on city and county purchases has remained. Schools remain exempt from sales tax, and townships were exempted in 2011.

Labor Update

The City met with two labor groups this week. Final offers are out to three of the city’s five bargaining units.

DEPARTMENT REPORTS:

Police Department, Chief Hedlund

Late Winter Driving

Our late winter weather brings frequent snowfalls which can create some unsafe road conditions throughout our region.  As our days grow longer and the sun starts producing more heat we will frequently experiencing melting conditions during the day followed by freezing at night.  Those roads that seemed fine at 3:00 PM can be very icy later in the evening or in the morning hours.  Slow down and help us keep our roadways safe.

Regional School Principles Attend Drug Presentation

Eighteen school principals from around our region attended a drug presentation that was put on by the Pine to Prairie Drug Task Force on February 13, 2013.  The Drug Task Force is made up of officers from the East Grand Forks Police Department, Crookston Police Department and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.  The Task Force uses a variety of measures to combat illegal drugs in our area and they are working hard educate the public on the specific problems we face in the Red River Valley.

Fire Department, Chief Gary Larson

We have been busy training at the Fire Dept. We sent 2 people to Windom, MN to an ice rescue class in January, and they came back and trained the department in February at our monthly drill. All went well considering we were putting people in a hole in the ice. The volunteer association purchased a Rapid Deployment Craft for water and ice rescue which worked very well for ice rescue.

We had 4 people go to Fergus Falls for an evening class on Fire leadership.

We had 2 people go to Alexandria for a class on Fire Department Management.

Rental inspections have started for 2013.

We have had 97 calls for 2013 so far.

We are repainting the inside of Station 1. There will be a new floor going in soon, so it should be all fresh. Work is being done by on duty firefighters.

We are working with the State Fire Marshalls office to bring in a class on inspections and fire codes.

Reminders:

Most City offices will be closed for Monday, February 18 for Presidents Day.

City, County, and School Officials along with the Chamber of Commerce will meet Friday, February 22 at the Boardwalk Bar and Grill for the Intergovernmental Retreat. Please RSVP your attendance to the Administration Office.

The City Council will meet with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) on Thursday, Feburary 21 at 8:30am in Detroit Lakes.

Work Session 2-12-13

The packet and agenda for Tuesday evening’s special meeting and work session can be found on the City Council web page.

  1. Andy Magness, of with Extreme North Dakota Racing and Ground Up Adventures, will address the Council and proposed events for the beginning of the 2013 season in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks.
  2. The Finance Director will readdress the issue of excess liability insurance with the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust (LMCIT). The City Council previously authorized excess liability, which is essentially an umbrella insurance policy, of $ 1 million. Previously, the City has waived statutory minimums on liability coverage but has not purchased excess liability.
  3. The City Engineer will discuss the scheduled 2013 downtown project by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to repair various curb cuts along Business Highway 2 (4th Street NW and DeMers Avenue). No city match is required for the project. The project will impact the downtown for a brief period of time. The sidewalks will change slightly for compliance with the Amercans with Disabilities Act (ADA). And, the state will repair the intersection of the 2nd Street and DeMers Avenue.
  4. The City Engineer will discuss alternatives and priorities for improvements to the police building.  There is $400,000.00 that was budgeted for these projects.
  5. The City Attorney will present a proposed updated background check ordinance relating to city employment.
  6. The Police Chief will present a proposed order for a new Police SUV as well as declaring surplus a retired Crown Victoria patrol vehicle. The SUV purchase is included in the 2013 Budget.
  7. The Police Chief also will request declaring surplus seized and forfeited firearms at the Police Department.
  8. The Police Chief will request authorization to recruit and fill a patrol officer to fill a current vacancy.
  9. The Parks and Recreation Director will request approval to authorize a wedding reception at the Civic Center. The City Council must approve the request to allow alcohol consumption at the City Center. The City requires General Liability Insurance by the host plus liquor liability service to be provided by private server. The City also requires at least two security guards for the event.
  10. The Parks and Recreation Director also will request to fill a vacant Parks Maintenance Worker position. The position has been vacant for about two years. If approved, the Parks Maintenance Worker would respond to routine maintenance requests from City Hall and the Library in additional to general parks maintenance work. The position was approved in the 2013 Budget.
  11. The EDHA Director will present a request to continue the New Residential Tax Rebate program through 2015. The program provides for a two-year tax abatement on new single-family residences in the City. One can find other current incentives available including the New Construction Incentive Program and the Construction Landscaping Grant on the EDHA web page.
  12. The Executive Assistant will propose the City’s participation in the state Fire Escrow Account. Participation would allow the City to seek reimbursement for any condemnation or clean up charges on a fire damaged property if the City was forced to intervene. In the event that the City had to remove debris from a damaged property, the City would have a lien on the property owner’s insurance policy via the state program.

A prescription for maximizing productivity

“Working in 90-minute intervals turns out to be prescription for maximizing productivity,” according to Tony Schwartz in the Sunday New York Times.

Rather than skipping sleep, breakfast, and breaks, Schwartz echoes a growing body of evidence that:

More and more of us find ourselves unable to juggle overwhelming demands and maintain a seemingly unsustainable pace. Paradoxically, the best way to get more done may be to spend more time doing less. A new and growing body of multidisciplinary research shows that strategic renewal — including daytime workouts, short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, more time away from the office and longer, more frequent vacations — boosts productivity, job performance and, of course, health.

It is part of the “renewal” process. Most people, especially in the Western Hemisphere, are horrible at it. We recognize intrinsically that mere mortals can only engage in any rigorous activity – mental or physical – for a limited duration before becoming largely unproductive. Yet, we continue to persevere whether it is because we are chronic overachievers, because we emphasize work over results, or because peer pressure (in which we are likely co-conspirators) seduces us to continue well past our optimal performance.

Supervisors, especially, should actively encourage, even reward activities that support renewal. After all, we are most concerned with outputs and outcomes. It is quality over quantity. If we can obtain the same or better results while using fewer inputs, that is the model of efficiency. And, if we also maintain happier, hence more productive, employees, we all should say “Mission Accomplished.”

How shopping local can reduce property taxes

From Governing‘s Idea Center:

Looking to boost the local economy, Marlboro Township, in New Jersey rolled out a new program in September 2012 that allows residents to reduce their property tax bill by spending money at local businesses. Speaking to the local CBS affiliate, Mayor Jonathan Hornik described the program as the first of its kind in the country. Residents must first obtain and activate a free ‘Shop Marlboro’ card from the town hall and then shop at one of the 40 businesses already participating in the program. Each business sets a percentage of the total amount spent that the consumer earns as credit towards their property tax bill. Participants can register their cards online to track their balances and see a list of the participating businesses. So far the township estimates that 1,200 residents are using the program and have already earned $10,000 towards their property taxes.

Weekly Memo 2-8-13

Each Weekly Memo to the City Council and the agenda packet is also provided on the City Council web page.

WEEKLY UPDATE:

Governor Mark Dayton to visit East Grand Forks

Governor Mark Dayton will visit East Grand Forks on Tuesday afternoon. The Governor and selected staff persons will meet the with Mayor and City Council members. County and school district officials also will attend. The Governor later will meet separately with Northland College staff.

Greater Minnesota Day at the Capitol

Mayor Stauss, Council President Buckalew, Council Member Tweten, and I attended Greater Minnesota Day at the Capitol on Wednesday. We spoke with several key legislators including:

  • Speaker of the House Paul Thissen (DFL –Minneapolis)
  • Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk  (DFL – Cook)
  • Senate Tax Chair Rod Skoe (DFL – Clearbrook)
  • Senate Capital Investment Chair LeRoy Stumpf (DFL – Plummer)
  • Senator Kent Eken (DFL – Twin Valley)
  • House Education Finance Chair Representative Marquart (DFL – Dilworth)
  • Representative Kiel (R – Crookston)
  • Representative Fabian (R- Roseau)

The City delegation focused on the future of Local Government Aid (LGA), the proposed expansion of the Red River State Recreational Area (RRSRA) campground, and the proposed Waste Water Phase II project in East Grand Forks. Mayor Stauss and Council Member Tweten also spoke with Governor Mark Dayton, who will be in East Grand Forks on Tuesday. Governor Dayton addressed the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC) at the CGMC’s luncheon on Wednesday. Dayton indicated that he is open to alternatives to his proposed LGA formula.

Green Choices Challenge

East Grand Forks finished the Green Choices Challenge 24th out of 50 communities for recycling reporting. While the online reporting of recycling was lower than we anticipated during the challenge, we know that the community’s overall practice of recycling remains very high. Recycling is not only good for the environment, but it is also very easy to do and it saves the taxpayer funds by keeping waste out of the landfill, for which we pay to dispose of all solid waste materials.

Waste Water Treatment

The Public Works Director contacted the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) following Monday’s Waste Water Public Forum to establish a direct meeting with MPCA staff. MPCA staff has agreed to discuss waste water treatment with the Council via webinar or conference call. This meeting is scheduled for February 21st in the City Hall Training Room. We will update the Council as we have additional information. Please forward any questions that you have for the MPCA to the Public Works Director so that MPCA can arrange for the appropriate staff contacts to be present during the meeting.

DEPARTMENT REPORTS:

Parks and Recreation, Dave Aker

Bids for Park and Recreation

I have been busy with a couple of different bids for our Department.  The first bid is for the Senior Center handicap bathroom, we had bids on the plumbing and construction of the bathroom.  The second thing we are getting bids on is the Blue Line Arena.  We are getting the front doors fixed and the door by the zamboni room.  The electrical door was broken and the exit door’s handle was broken when the arena was vandalized.

Exit lights at the Civic Center

We are going to put new exit lights in the Civic Center; they should be put in before Sections.

Tournaments for boys and girls

Sections start Thursday night at the higher seed team for Girls High School.  The girls finished third in the Section.  They defeated Lake of the Woods at home in the quarterfinals on Thursday, February 7.  Crookston hosted Park Rapids also on Thursday, with the winner playing Warroad at East Grand Forks on Monday, February 11, at 6:00 PM.  EGF plays TRF on Monday at East Grand Forks at 8:00 PM.  The Section Championship is at East Grand Forks on Thursday, February 14.  The Boys Section starts on Thursday, February 21, at the higher seeds, with the winners advancing to East Grand Forks on Saturday, February 23, for the semi-finals.  The Section Championship is Thursday, February 28, at the Civic Center in East Grand Forks.  The championship game is being televised by WDAZ, the first time the Section 8 Championship game was been televised.

Monday, February 11, we have our District 16 seeding meeting at Red Lake Falls.  The Districts will be February 15 – 17, with Regions two weeks later.

Police Department, Chief Mike Hedlund

EGFPD Conducts Firearms Training

The EGFPD is currently conducting its annual cold weather/night firearms training.  Because there is no way to predict when officers might wind up facing a situation that requires them to use deadly force the department conducts annual training where the officers have to deal with the dual problems of cold weather and the low light of night time conditions.  Officers are better able to deal with real life situations when they have trained in conditions similar to those they might actually face.  Cold weather is a fact of life in this part of the country and the officers need to be prepared to deal with the weather through proper clothing that will hopefully keep them warm while still allowing them to perform their duties – including shooting accurately and effectively if necessary.  Low light conditions are a problem that officers need to deal with on a daily basis and poor visibility adds a level of danger and stress to almost any police situation.