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City council to rush sewer project so new hospital can begin

The city of Grand Forks is racing to relocate a storm sewer main running through the current Altru medical campus on South Columbia Road by the end of this year.

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The city of Grand Forks is racing to relocate a storm sewer main running through the current Altru medical campus on South Columbia Road by the end of this year.

During a committee meeting Monday night, council members voted to establish a special council meeting Aug. 27.

"That way, we can listen to the bids received during the committee of the whole meeting, and reward them afterward," Assistant City Engineer Mark Walker told the council. Walker said the city will receive bids Aug. 22, after publishing an ad for bids July 31.

The city has this project on a fast track because Altru needs the main moved before it can start its $305 million project to replace the current hospital.

According to a staff memo from Administrator Todd Feland and Walker, Altru hopes to complete the project in 2022.

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The "force main" consists of two lift stations, pumps and a concrete pipe, which all work to discharge stormwater into the nearby English Coulee.

The concrete pipe, which has a diameter of 48 inches, was installed in 1960. In 2002, the city learned from a study the force main was too small, which is why storm water gathers and forms small ponds during large rainfall events. In 2003, the memo said the city rehabilitated the lift station, and adjusted the force main to allow two more pumps whenever the city decided to increase the pipe. Now, as the city plans to relocate the force main this year, the memo said it plans to increase the pipe's diameter to 72 inches.

On June 18, the council voted to spend $63,500 on preliminary designs, where it came up with a total project cost of approximately $2 million, and a detailed timeline, where the city expects the whole thing to be finished by November, with one last cleanup in June 2019.

"We understand that relocating the force main is critical for the Altru Project," Walker told the council. "And we're committed to doing our best to get it done this construction season... on that basis, we're looking for any opportunity we can to accelerate construction."

Altru staff members were not present to address the council during the meeting, but they will have a public forum Tuesday night, from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., at the 701 coworking space downtown Grand Forks.

The mayor's budget

In other business, City Finance Director Maureen Storstad presented the mayor's 2019 budget Monday night.

According to her presentation, the city is working with a general fund of approximately $40.1 million for the 2019 fiscal year. A majority of that, approximately $21.6 million, will go toward public safety costs like the police and fire department. Approximately $9.34 million will cover general government costs, around $7.07 million will go toward highways.

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This year, the city posted budget information on its website at www.grandforksgov.com, where users can interact with pie charts and bar graphs that break down costs and sources. Storstad's presentation was strictly informational, and the council will officially vote on a preliminary budget during its council meeting Aug. 6, after which the city will no longer be able to increase the budget. The council will vote for final approval Sept. 17, and the city will have the budget certified by the county auditor Oct. 10.

"We're in really great shape this year, and I'm glad we don't have to have the difficult discussions we had to have last year," council president Dana Sande said.

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