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City of Killdeer addresses school construction timeline issues

The Killdeer City Commission held its bimonthly meeting Monday night. City Engineer Brett Morlok explained the new school is on pace to be completed by August, but said an anemic supply chain could throw a wrench in those plans.

Killdeer Public School
An interior section of the new Killdeer Public School building, still under construction, is pictured.
Contributed / Jeff Simmons

KILLDEER, N.D. — During the April 18 Killdeer City Commission bimonthly meeting, the board reviewed the timeline for the new school building construction, while also taking into account potential supply chain issues.

Killdeer’s contracted City Engineer Brett Morlok, of AE2S (Advanced Engineering and Environmental Services), said the building is still on pace to be operational when students return to school in late August, but warned that any further delays in the delivery of plumbing components could leave the new hilltop school high and dry.

“The booster station was anticipated to be installed right away in the spring… But due to a component shortage for the pumps, delivery has been delayed to late June, which means it would be available to install the first week of July,” Morlok said. “Talking with Jeff Simmons and Curt Janssen of Kraus-Anderson Construction, they need water sooner than that to finalize construction.”

Morlok also said he’s had discussions with the local fire chief and state fire marshal about the possibility of using a temporary pump, but fears they would not grant an occupancy permit on the grounds that such a pump could not provide adequate water supply for a full sprinkler system and fire hydrant. To provide the water needed to finish construction, he said they can either work with Southwest Water Authority on a temporary pump or rent a skid pump system from the company that’s supplying the booster station.

Commissioner Ryan Schleepenbach expressed concerns about the implications of not being able to open the school on schedule.

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“The problem we’re going to have is if this isn’t set, those kids won’t be using that school. I think we’re gonna have a lot of upset people. So how can we fix this and make it right?” Schleepenbach asked.

Killdeer City Commission
Commission President Carey Praus, left, Vice President Kevin Candrian and Commission Kelly Summerfield.
Jason O'Day / The Dickinson Press

Supply chain issues

Morlok explained that everything is going according to plan, but that he wanted the commission to be aware of the potential for a delay.

“So as far as we know, or what we're told, the booster station will be installed in time to avoid delaying the start of school. The contingency we're working against is do we trust that that's actually going to happen or will there be additional delays? We can't order just any pump system. We can't build anything because the supply chain is such that that's what we're stuck with,” Morlok said. “We're trying to build something and it can't get built, so we have to find something off the shelf.”

Morlok said someone in the energy industry, who works with oilfield water systems, told him the only booster station alternative with the capacity to meet fire-flow requirements would be a diesel pump.

“Describing this to the fire chief, it sounded like it wouldn't be reliable enough to satisfy (requirements). But without putting words in his mouth, he wasn't ready to commit to signing off on that for a building that's filled with schoolchildren. He seemed to be okay with just having staff in there,” Morlok said.

Killdeer Public School Superintendent Jeff Simmons said he needs more certainty as to how all of this will play out because teachers are already starting to pack up their rooms in preparation to move into the new building on May 26, the first day of summer break. He also said there’s an entire chain of plans riding on the expectation that the new junior high and high school building — which will house students seventh through 12th grades — will be completed in August and not have to be delayed until the next semester.

“We’re moving the preschool over from the church (to the existing school). We are completely renovating one of our kindergarten rooms, turning it into a boardroom,” Simmons said. “We’re hiring ancillary hourly staff — additional cooks and custodians. All of these things are happening. If we can’t move in, in August… that’s what’s at stake.”

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When pressed again by a frustrated Schleppenbach on how such uncertainties could occur with a multi-million dollar endeavor, Morlok explained that the absence of one small part can bring an entire project to a halt.

“Unfortunately with the electrical components, one little thing can hold up the entire show. That could be a $2 part because you can’t install it, you can’t put it in the booster station, you can’t land wires, everything,” he said, adding that supply chain issues have put a damper on other aspects of AE2S' business as well. “Our policy has been to not really bid on another pipeline project this year because you just, you’re not going to get the pipe.”

Commission President Carey Praus sympathized with the supply chain issues.

“This has been an issue for a lot of different industries,” she said.

Morlok then told Simmons he would probably have a more solid answer by May 25.

“I think we can live with that,” Simmons said.

Killdeer Public School
The new Killdeer Public School building for grades seventh through 12th is shown.
Contributed / Jeff Simmons

Other business

The commission had a discussion with Dunn County Commissioners JoAnn Marsh and Larry Lundberg about the possibility of buying the Dunn County Road Department’s Shop building in Killdeer, as they will be constructing a new one soon. No decision was made.

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This week is free spring cleanup, in which the city provides free access to its roll-off dumpster during business hours. The commission discussed the possibility of extending it a few weeks due to the cold weather. City of Killdeer Public Works Superintendent Cameron Deperalta suggested it would be best to pick one extra week, so his staff wouldn’t have too much overtime. The commission agreed to wait until its next meeting to choose a second week.

Schleppenbach made a point to acknowledge the street clearing efforts of the Public Works Department during the blizzard last week.

“I know you guys were busting your tails off, especially when I’m sitting at home, not working because they shut us down. So I commend you guys, thank you. You guys did an awesome job,” Schleppenbach said.

During Monday's meeting, all commissioners were present except for Commissioner Logan Wallace.

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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