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Questions remain with Grand Forks-East Grand Forks sewage contract

Two words gave some East Grand Forks City Council members pause Tuesday while reviewing the latest version of a deal that would hire Grand Forks to treat their city's sewage.

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Two words gave some East Grand Forks City Council members pause Tuesday while reviewing the latest version of a deal that would hire Grand Forks to treat their city's sewage.

Staff in both cities will have to iron out a disagreement over the use of "may" instead of "will" when it comes to where Grand Forks would keep revenues from the sale of recycled sewage.

East Grand Forks Council member Clarence Vetter voiced his concern with the rejected phrasing, which was echoed by other members.

"This issue was one of the items Grand Forks leaders told us we would share in any windfall from the recycling of the wastewater," council member Mike Pokrzywinski said. "Changing the word 'will' to 'may' sounds a little bit like they're hedging. It's an important distinction."

Treated wastewater could be sold by Grand Forks to large industrial customers.


Some council members worried the revenues could be transferred to Grand Forks' General Fund, which is used to pay for a significant portion of city services, instead of staying in its Wastewater Enterprise Fund and benefiting customers such as East Grand Forks.

The disagreement stems from comments submitted Thursday by East Grand Forks City Attorney Ron Galstad regarding a cost of service agreement, which upon approval by both cities would dictate the terms of Grand Forks providing sewage treatment to East Grand Forks.

A Tuesday memo sent to Galstad from Melanie Parvey, the water works division director for Grand Forks, noted his suggestion of saying "revenues will be allocated to the Grand Forks Wastewater Enterprise Fund to offset costs of operations," in the agreement was not accepted.

The memo said the phrasing would be kept as "may" instead of "will." The change was not made in order for Grand Forks to be fair and consistent with all its wastewater system users, according to the memo.

"I guess I'm not understanding how putting 'will' instead of 'may' and keeping it within that portion of their budget that any of the wastewater users is not being fair and consistent with the users of the Grand Forks wastewater system," Galstad said.

Council members agreed more clarification was needed on why the change was not made.

The agreement will appear at the council's meeting next week for a vote on whether it should receive final approval.

Across the river, a Grand Forks City Council committee also met Tuesday to review the agreement.


The Service Safety Committee voted 3-0 in favor recommending its approval. The contract will go before the full council next week for final approval.

Grand Forks City Administrator Todd Feland praised the agreement.

"I think it's a significant step forward in combining infrastructure in a more regional fashion," he said.

The cities must agree on the document before the construction process can begin for building the $10.7 million interconnect that will allow East Grand Forks to pipe its sewage to Grand Forks.

Estimates put the annual cost per year East Grand Forks will have to pay for the service at about $411,000. The estimates are based on a daily usage of 1 million gallons in the city, with capacity for up to 1.2 million gallons.

If the agreement is approved this month, the projected timeline would have East Grand Forks seeking bids and awarding the project to a contractor in March and April, with construction beginning in June and expected to finish in 2017.

Herald staff writer Sam Easter contributed to this report.

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