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Belfield fields sewer proposals from Interstate Engineering

During a public hearing Thursday at the Belfield Theater, Daryl Horbuckle of Interstate Engineering Inc. delivered a presentation on the city's options for repairing its sewage lift stations.

Belfield City Council
Belfield City Councilman Ed Braun makes a point during a discussion with Interstate Engineering Inc. at a meeting March 7, 2022.
Jason O'Day / The Dickinson Press

BELFIELD, N.D. — Interstate Engineering Inc. is collaborating with the City of Belfield on a plan to fix the city’s sewage lift stations. Daryl Hornbuckle, of Jamestown, is one of Interstate Engineering’s lead engineers working on the project.

In a presentation to commissioners, Hornbuckle delivered an outlined series of solution packages Thursday, noting that the first of the options would be to take no action and continue making emergency repairs — an approach he cautioned would only prove more costly in the long term.

“Costs get higher, repairs get bigger and things break down,” Hornbuckle said. “The 30-year cost of that could be as high as $7 million simply from replacements occurring in emergency situations and doing it piecemeal.”

The second option would involve replacing the west lift station with a brand new one and converting the east station to a submersible model. His third proposal would be somewhat similar, with rehabilitation work in the west and keeping the existing concrete infrastructure.

“Number four, this one we’re looking at a phased approach. Right now, the council’s biggest concern is the east lift station. So in this one we would do the east lift station now and the west lift station in, I arbitrarily picked five years, just so I can compare them side-by-side,” Hornbuckle said. “We again would be changing the east lift station into a submersible style lift station, bringing the controls up, repurposing the dry well… The estimated cost is $1.3 million.”

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Councilmen Ed Braun and Bruce Baer expressed support for this option during the March 7 city council meeting.

During the public hearing, Braun said he wants to complete the project while sacrificing the least amount of taxpayer money possible. He doesn’t want to raise water or sewer rates, but also pointed out that Interstate Engineering found them to be ineligible for certain government grants and subsidized loans because they weren’t charging enough for these utilities. He believes getting a loan for half the cost and paying down the rest out of existing city funds is the best option, and also said this problem has been put off for too long.

“The city, financially, is in a pretty good state. That’s why we’re looking at 50%,” Braun said. “I’m not trying to pick on anyone, that is my opinion. This can has been kicked down the road. So 20 years ago, they applied some Band-Aids that would last 10 years. Yes, we’re going to have to spend some money. No, I don’t want to see anyone’s sewer backup.”

Braun explained a recent emergency repair that demonstrated the poor condition of the east lift station and how urgently repairs are needed.

“Last week, we had to use a vac truck to move sewage for 24 hours because the piping that comes out of the bottom of the lift station washed a hole in it,” he said. “When that washed out all the water came to the surface, got into the conduit and pushed into the lift station. And we had an electrical short, I mean it shorted out everything. When they opened up the panel there was literally water running out of the wall.”

Repairs were successful, but it’s ultimately another unsustainable Band-Aid, he said, adding that the city could pay in full to fix the east lift station, but they want to maintain some cash reserves in case of unexpected additional costs.

“If we do just the one station, I believe there’s enough money in the funding to pay for it fully. There are unknowns. That’s why we have to have the loan, doesn’t mean we have to use it. When we start digging up some of this stuff, we don’t know what kind of gremlins we’re going to find,” Braun said.

He also expressed frustration with the financing and bid processes.

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“I can’t tell you how much this is going to cost. We can’t go out and get bids until we apply for a loan. We don’t know how much to apply for a loan until we receive the bids. So everything is in play,” he said.

A full video of this hearing can be found on the Facebook group Belfield Discussion and Forum, courtesy of Belfield resident Diane Buckman.

Related Topics: BELFIELD CITY COUNCILINFRASTRUCTUREGOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
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 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. His reporting focuses on Stark County government and surrounding rural communities.
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