Grand Forks city council learned of three unanticipated expenses totaling over $32,000 at the June 24 council meeting.
The batteries that allow the solar powered airport beacons to operate at night were discovered to need replacement at a cost of $9,674, a sewage pump required an upgrade costing $8,205, and the city’s water system required pump upgrades worth $14,955.
According to Grand Forks Chief Administrative Officer Doug Allin, the expenses, while unanticipated, could perhaps be covered without affecting the city’s budget.
“We have an operating budget that we expect these expenditures will fall into,” Allin told council. “But we will make amendments and adjustments to our expenses to account for these. We just want council to be aware that there was an expenditure of $32,000 that we hadn’t anticipated this year.”
According to a memorandum filed by Hal Wright, city manager of operations, because the 16-year-old batteries could no longer power the airport beacon sites, nighttime emergency flights were impossible and so for safety reasons were immediately replaced.
Likewise in June, the submersible pump in Well No. 3 stopped working and required immediate replacement. Without all five city water system pumps working, Wright reported the amount of water required in emergency situations would not be made available.
The upgrade to the sewage pump at the Boundary Lift Station, while not an emergency, was an expense that was becoming more and more necessary. “At the sewage lift station, when people discharge too many products down the toilet or into the sewage system that are less than typical – rags or anything else down there – then it plugs up our pumps and causes big problems to our system,” Allin explained.
He said that every few days, city crews had to remove the sewage pump, clear the blockage caused by garbage flushed into the system and then re-install the pump.
Each operation took two staff members at least two hours to perform. The $8,000 expense is for a new impeller that will be able to better deal with the blockages.
Still, Allin says the public could play an important role if it were more conscientious. “We would like the public to consider what they are putting down the toilet,” Allin said, “Because it does have a big impact on the cost of operating the system.”
If the city is unable to save money in other areas to cover the unanticipated expenses, an amendment to the budget will be brought before council in November, Allin said.