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Grand Forks council begins to examine budget

By 2022, the city of Grand Forks could face a $16 million deficit in its capital improvement fund, City Administrator Todd Feland said Monday night. The North Dakota Legislature wrapped up last week, and while Bismarck is sending $30 million to G...

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By 2022, the city of Grand Forks could face a $16 million deficit in its capital improvement fund, City Administrator Todd Feland said Monday night.

The North Dakota Legislature wrapped up last week, and while Bismarck is sending $30 million to Grand Forks for its water treatment plant, funding for other infrastructure in the city is unlikely to come from state coffers.

Feland walked the City Council through several options Grand Forks can take, including a second attempt at a citywide sales tax. Voters rejected a 0.75 percent sales tax last November. The City Council examined two options Monday. One is a reattempt at the 0.75 percent sales tax increase, which the finance department estimates would bring in $7.75 million per year, $2 million of which would go toward the water treatment plant and the remaining $5.5 million going toward roads. Another proposal for a 0.5 percent city sales tax would put $3 million annually toward road projects and $2 million to the water treatment plant.

Council member Bret Weber said that while one way of thinking of the potential tax was "potholes and drinking water," he would like to see a small amount of the money directed toward issues associated with opioid abuse.

Feland said the goal of presenting the infrastructure outlook was to get the council thinking about crafting the annual budget.

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Fertilizer plant agreement extended

Grand Forks will continue its agreement with a massive fertilizer plant seeking investors in the region through the remainder of 2017.

The council voted unanimously to extend its agreements with Northern Plains Nitrogen through December as part of its consent agenda Monday. Those agreements open the door for broad use of city water resources for the operation of the plant - an important factor as leaders with NPN attempt to win investors.

The proposed $2.5 billion plant has been in the works since 2013. City officials are waiting for a final close on the project before going forward with infrastructure development. The NPN has estimated a four-year time frame on completing the project before a financial close.

City officials hope the state will get involved with the project and associated infrastructure costs down the road.

Feland said he wants to see NPN update the city every six months to ensure the project is on track. NPN has a site in northwest Grand Forks near the landfill.

City, humane society enter agreement

The council voted unanimously Monday to provide additional services and funding assistance to the Circle of Friends Humane Society.

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The agreement will allow residents to get their animal licenses and pay impounding fees at the Humane Society, which will save people a trip to City Hall if they adopt or have their pet brought there. Circle of Friends will agree to provide services for stray and abandoned animals within the city.

Circle of Friends now receives about $105,000 in public funding. The new agreement will chip in about $50,000 in additional funding from the city.

"It really helps our Police Department," Feland said.

The Police Department often deals with stray or abandoned animals in the city.

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