College, East Grand Forks council at odds over parking lot
The parking lot behind Rivera Cinema 15 and the Blue Moose in downtown East Grand Forks isn't just a place for customers to park. It's also a training area for future truck drivers: for now. The Northland Community and Technical College commercia...
The parking lot behind Rivera Cinema 15 and the Blue Moose in downtown East Grand Forks isn't just a place for customers to park. It's also a training area for future truck drivers: for now.
The Northland Community and Technical College commercial vehicle operations program has been using the city-owned lot since 2014.
Northland met with the East Grand Forks City Council and entered into an agreement that has been renewed yearly and has not required Northland to pay for the use of the lot. But this last December, the contract was unexpectedly denied.
"It seemed like a smooth process, and to my memory I thought that the vote at that point was unanimous," NCTC Dean Huschle said.
Huschle and the commercial vehicle operations instructor, Davis Hamilton, attended a city council work session last week to plead their case.
After hearing from Hamilton and Huschle, the council members agreed to vote on a new agreement at their Jan. 16 meeting.
Huschle said he is worried about the learning experience for the students in the commercial vehicle operations. Without an adequate training lot on Northland's campus, and being unable to cross into North Dakota, Huschle said the school will have to make due for now.
"As you can imagine, with any new driver, whether it's driving just the regular car or one of these large commercial vehicles, there's a value in having a paved or large suitable area that's closed to traffic for a beginning driver to practice maneuvers," Huschle said.
If Northland is unable to renew the contract with the city, they will be forced to use local streets for training. In some cases, there will likely be traffic interfering.
Council members discussed several factors in denying the contract, including the lot maintenance.
East Grand Forks Mayor Steve Gander, who was present for the meeting, said he was surprised the contract wasn't renewed, but he understands why it wasn't.
"For us to be responsible to our taxpayers, we should be paid when someone uses a city asset, and the payment should go toward the maintenance and replacement of the asset when that becomes necessary," Gander said.
The parking lot is 18 years old with no major upgrades anticipated for 15 to 20 years. While the cost to replace the parking lot would be around $1 million and 1.2 million, according to City Engineer Steve Emery. Though the city has spent little for maintenance, the concrete will need to be resealed, estimated to cost $25,000.
According to Huschle, the parking lot is a thick concrete slab that is ideal for the slow-turning maneuvers of big rigs. The wear and tear of the training isn't as damaging to the concrete as it would be for asphalt.
"It was built for more than what we put on there, it was built for loaded truck traffic and we're unloaded trucks," Huschle said.
Whether the contract for Northland's use of the lot is renewed or not, Huschle says the school will continue to search for outside funding and grants in the hope of building a lot on the school's campus.
After last week's meeting, Huschle said he believed the council understood that Northland's use of the lot was not damaging the lot.
"My sense from this past Tuesday is that it will be approved," Huschle said.