Belfield addresses sewage issues, fire truck

Two of Belfield's sewage lift stations were built in the 1950s and 60s, and one is now in dire need of $1 million worth of renovations. The city argued that continuing to put it off could result in basements full of raw sewage.

Belfield City Council members Brett Northrop, Pamela Gross, Edward Braun, Bruce Baer and Mayor Marriann Mross discuss city business Tuesday during their monthly meeting.
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Two of Belfield's sewage lift stations were built in the 1950s and 1960s, and one is now in dire need of $1 million worth of renovations. The city argued that continuing to put it off could result in basements full of raw sewage.

The Belfield City Council held its monthly meeting Tuesday, Dec. 14, discussing many issues including sewage, water, a fire truck and liquor licenses.

Stinky situation

President Lonni Fleck and Robert Procive of Interstate Engineering Inc. addressed the council regarding Belfield’s deteriorating sewer system. Fleck suggested raising sewer rates by $25 to $33 in order to fund repairs.

The second time Fleck mentioned her proposition of raising rates to fund the improvements, Councilman Ed Braun interjected, expressing his opposition to charging residents more money.

“Bullsh*t… There’s money in the budget,” Braun said. “The answer isn’t just raise everybody’s rates. There’s grants and stuff that we need to have somebody look into. I mean, I know I’m very bold and it’s not (directed) at you.”


Councilman Bruce Baer suggested the funding could come from a combination of the general funds and raising rates, Braun agreed. Baer noted the city has approximately $630,000 saved.

Procive said one of the reasons they suggested raising rates is that to qualify for government grants to support these types of projects, cities must charge sufficiently high enough rates.

Belfield has three sewage lift stations, all demanding various degrees of maintenance and repairs. Here’s how it works : a toilet is flushed or water runs down a drain to a small pipe outside the house. This connects to a larger sewage pipeline that typically runs under the city street. The sewage line is angled at a slight downward slope, allowing gravity to carry the waste water until it reaches a maximum low point.

It flows into an underground enclosure called a wet well, with sensors tracking water levels to keep them below a certain depth. Submersed pumps get the waste water pumped up to a force main that carries it to the nearest waste water treatment plant, where it is cleaned and released back into a local waterway.

Interstate Engineering estimated that the project for the east side lift station will cost $1,000,436 to complete, and $886,000 for repairs to the west side station. Councilmembers acknowledged that tackling this east side project is a high priority because it’s in the worst condition and if it fails unexpectedly, that could result in raw sewage backing up into the basements and homes of many residents. The third lift station reportedly only needs minor repairs.

“The last time that (east side lift) had some work done on it was the early '90s, and it was a Band-Aid back then. This can really has been kicked down the road,” Procive said, noting that both the east and west lift stations were built more than 60 years ago.

Procive warned the price tag may end up being higher than that estimate due to economic volatility. Since this is a matter of public funding, the city will be required to open the project for bidding before deciding on a contractor.

“We were looking at a box culvert this week, and there’s some talk that steel prices are going to double. So the construction industry right now is a little bit on the worried side on raw materials,” Procive said.



In other city news, Belfield Volunteer Fire Chief Kevin Hushka spoke at the meeting, advocating for a new fire truck, with estimates between $280,000 to $290,000. Hushka said they’re utilizing a government purchasing co-operative service based in Minnesota called Sourcewell , which he believes could save them $50,000. Currently, the Belfield Volunteer Fire Department has $190,000 in the truck fund.

“We don’t have to put money down on the truck until they actually bring the chassis into the factory, which the way it sounds could be 12 to 18 months. This truck might not be done for up to 30 months, but we need to sign a purchase agreement to lock in these prices,” Hushka said.

He added that the community has been generous in its support of the fire department.

“The (American) Legion has been extremely generous. They gave us a $40,000 check, plus $5,000 here and there. Endeavor also gave us $40,000. Mud Run has been pretty good to us,” he said.

The council approved a motion to allow Hushka to sign the purchase agreement upon research and review by City Attorney Sandra Kuntz.

Other business

City maintenance manager Kevin Anderson raised the issue of cooking grease showing up in the east sewer lift station, and suggested inspections may be necessary. Mayor Marriann Mross asked if he thought grease was being deliberately dumped down drains.

“No, I’m not saying they’re pouring it down there, but it’s possible that the grease traps are overflowing or not being maintained properly,” Anderson said.

The old city shop building needs a new roof if the city wants to keep it, he said, adding that it’s not keeping water out and black mold is spreading. He said the rest of the structure could use some work but is in generally decent condition.


City Auditor Connie O’Brien said she’s received calls from some residents complaining about cloudy, smelly water coming from their faucets. Baer requested that she record the date and location of such complaints, so that any water issues can be pinpointed more easily.

O’Brien also said she’s received complaints about the train horn causing a disturbance to residents. Getting the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway to shut off the horn is a burdensome process but it can be done, Baer said, pointing to South Heart and Medora as examples. The council raised the prospect of installing a pedestrian crosswalk to ensure the safety of children and other residents on the railroad tracks.

Liquor licenses were approved for The Rendezvous, American Legion, Rusty Rail, Burly’s Roughrider Bar and Superpumper. The city raised residential water rates by 11 cents per 1,000 gallons. The Dickinson Press has an outstanding request through the city to ascertain the increase from the previous rate.

Jason O’Day is a University of Iowa graduate, with Bachelor’s Degrees in Journalism and Political Science. Before moving to Dickinson in September of 2021, he was a general news reporter at the Creston News Advertiser in rural southwest Iowa. He was born and raised in Davenport, Iowa. With a passion for the outdoors and his Catholic faith, he’s loving life on the Western Edge.
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