Council members admonish city staff

Chief Administration Officer says demolition only option in Riverside Park
Outlook managing editor

Several council members chastised city staff for plowing ahead on items the council had either previously voted against or had not approved during their Tuesday evening workshop meeting.


Sedimentation basins

Despite council members having indicated at the July 25 workshop that they did not want to take on the financial burden of building new SED basins this fall after the bid for the project came in $1.8 million over the original estimate, staff came back to them with a value-engineered or a pared-down version of the project. In addition to Chief Administrative Officer Heidi Jensen, Public Works Director Kurt Markegard and Clerk Bethany Keeler presenting options to councilors, Chad Hansen from Great West Engineering and a representative from COPP Construction attended.

“We went into designing this a long time ago,” Markegard said. “This project’s been pushed off and pushed off.” He said that the exposed concrete continues to deteriorate and that a few years ago crews had to use 1,200 pounds of concrete to patch the walls of the basin. Markegard also noted that infrastructure throughout the city is crumbling. He advised that there is a short window for making the decision on the basins because construction has to begin soon.

Both Councilors Tom Nelson and Emelie Eaton noted that the city can’t afford the cost and with no money in reserves the city would be in a tenuous position in the event of an emergency.

“We received an interest-free loan on the intake because of our financial situation,” Jensen said, “and the state would give us another interest-free loan for this project.” She said she favored option two, the pared down plan, as the best alternative.

Eaton shared a written statement with councilors and staff and read it into the minutes. It was primarily an admonition to city staff for failing to follow council direction.

“No one approved a value-engineered bid,” she read, adding that the plan was ill-thought out with no oversight by city staff. She recommended revisiting the issue after the first of the year. “It’s not in our interest to extend ourselves another $6.8 million,” she concluded.

Councilor Nelson agreed, noting he had gone through the minutes of every meeting the basins were discussed. “We ought to look at trying to find money,” he said. “We get in a hurry and make mistakes.”

Jensen told council they would have to go through the formal resolution process in order to vote against the project since it went out for bid.


SID 118 bond negotiations

Also on the agenda for executive review was discussion on authorizing the sale of bonds for special improvement district 118. Councilors voted down a like resolution at the Aug.1 meeting. The resolution would allow city staff to negotiate bonds for the $195,000 in improvements already approved for SE 4th and S. Washington Ave. Normally, the law firm of Dorsey & Whitney handles those negotiations, but did not receive the information needed in a manner timely enough to do so in this case, according to statements made by staff.

“It looks like the city went out and did what we voted against,” Nelson said. 

Jensen explained that because it was such a small amount, she and the mayor with the City Attorney Sam Painter, “had the right to go out and get bids. The district has been created so you have to fund it.”


Riverside Park

CAO Jensen informed council that the only company she could get to look at the buildings in Riverside Park was CSI, Inc. and they were only willing to remove the buildings.

“The city has been sitting on their hands long enough for this to go away,” said Irv Wilke, representing the Laurel Rod and Gun Club. “It’s an absolute shame.” 


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