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Grand Forks City Council to hold off on scoping service for proposed bridges until a joint meeting is held

The conversation came during Monday's meeting of the Grand Forks Committee of the Whole, a panel that includes all of the members of City Council. Last week, during a regular meeting of the City Council, council members voted 4-3 to not move forward with a proposal to share the costs of consulting services with East Grand Forks.

Grand Forks City Hall
Grand Forks City Hall, 255 N. 4th St. Sam Easter / Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS – After a lengthy discussion on a proposed agreement for consulting services for two proposed bridges from Grand Forks to East Grand Forks, Grand Forks City Council members on Monday voted 6-1 to postpone the agreement until a joint meeting between both city councils is held.

The conversation came during Monday's meeting of the Grand Forks Committee of the Whole, a panel that includes all of the members of City Council. Last week, during a regular meeting of the City Council, council members voted 4-3 to not move forward with a proposal to share the costs of consulting services with East Grand Forks. If it had been approved, SRF Consulting Group, Inc., would have moved forward with scoping services to begin steps that could someday lead to an inter-city bridge and one south of town, on Merrifield Road. The estimated cost of the scoping service is approximately $151,000.

Council member Danny Weigel was the lone member who voted "no" on Monday. Weigel said he is in favor of the agreement if SRF Consulting Group, Inc., focuses solely on the Merrifield bridge. At last week’s meeting, Weigel said the inter-city bridge hasn’t garnered the same support as the Merrifield bridge.

East Grand Forks Mayor Steve Gander and Council President Mark Olstad were present at Monday's meeting to talk about the proposed bridges and the need for both cities to work together on the projects. Gander said the top three points to keep in mind for the inter-city bridge are to achieve traffic objectives for both cities, funding for the bridge and the location.

The exact location of an inter-city bridge is undetermined as officials on both sides of the Red River debate the possibilities. Potential locations that have been discussed previously include 32nd Avenue and Elks Drive. Gander said wherever the bridge may someday be placed, it will have to work for both cities.

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“If it doesn’t pass the test of fitting in with your neighborhoods, if it doesn’t pass that test, then it doesn’t happen,” Gander said.

Olstad said moving forward with the scoping services for both bridges would be beneficial not only in taking the right steps forward in both projects, but also for helping to determine a location for the inter-city bridge.

“That’s what we’re looking with this SRF Consulting firm is to help guide us ... to take to make sure that we get these things done and get it done actually correctly, timely and we move forward instead of looking back 10 years from now, 15 years from now and saying 'we should have done this back then,' ” Olstad said.

Grand Forks City Administrator Todd Feland said the scoping service is the first step for both bridge projects. Feland added that the scoping service could help determine whether an inter-city bridge would be worth pursuing — depending on the results.

Council members who expressed interest in moving forward with the scoping service for both bridges at Monday’s meeting and at previous meetings the past two weeks include Tricia Lunski, Bret Weber and Ken Vein. All three mentioned safety concerns for students at Phoenix Elementary and increasing traffic along DeMers Avenue and Gateway Drive as a need to move forward with the scoping services on the inter-city bridge.

Vein said there has been a focus on the political solution regarding the inter-city bridge and where to place it, but he wants to focus on the technical solution, including traffic numbers, cost and cost-to-benefit ratio moving forward.

A date for a joint meeting between both councils has not determined.

READ MORE GRAND FORKS CITY COUNCIL NEWS
The discussion came at the end of the regularly scheduled Committee of the Whole meeting. Among the topics was council member Ken Vein’s question about the plant’s water access and consumption.

In other news Monday, council members:

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  • Decided to postpone entering into an agreement with Condrey & Associates, Inc., to complete a review and study of the city’s classification and compensation system for a fee of $67,500. With workforce challenges, city staff are recommending having a professional consulting firm complete the study, as the current classification and compensation system was implemented in 2002. Council members will meet with employee representatives to discuss the current salary plan before having the outside consultant complete the review. It will be discussed again at the next Committee of the Whole meeting.
  • Reviewed a proposal to expand the snowmobile route along the Greenway to continue southbound all the way to 62nd Avenue South. City code states that officially designated snowmobile routes within city limits need to be determined annually by the chief of police. Several council members disapproved of the snowmobile route expansion along the Greenway, citing noise and safety concerns.
  • Considered authorizing the distribution of a request for qualifications in order to find a firm that will manage and operate the municipal parking system in downtown Grand Forks. As development downtown is ongoing, staff members are recommending contracting with a third-party professional parking management firm to continue effectively managing the parking system.
Related Topics: GRAND FORKS CITY COUNCIL
Meghan Arbegast grew up in Security-Widefield, Colorado. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from North Dakota State University in Fargo, in 2021.

Arbegast wrote for The Spectrum, NDSU's student newspaper, for three years and was Head News Editor for two years. She was an intern with University Relations her last two semesters of college.

Arbegast covers news pertaining to the city of Grand Forks/East Grand Forks including city hall coverage.

Readers can reach Arbegast at 701-780-1267 or MArbegast@gfherald.com.

Pronouns: She/Her
Languages: English
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