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Belfield debates liquor licensure, staffing considerations and new smartphone app

During a Tuesday night meeting, the City of Belfield considered a wide range of issues.

Belfield City Council
Councilman Bruce Baer, left, and Mayor Marriann Mross listen to the concerns of fellow council members during a meeting Tuesday, March 8, 2022, at Belfield City Hall.
Jason O'Day / The Dickinson Press

BELFIELD, N.D. — During a nearly four-hour long meeting at Belfield City Hall on Tuesday, the Belfield City Council undertook a lengthy agenda where they discussed topics ranging from modifying liquor licensure and public works staffing issues to a new smartphone app.

Sheriff’s report

In his report to the council, Stark County Sheriff Corey Lee noted they received 122 Belfield-related calls for service in February, which is similar to past years. However, now deputies from the sheriff's office are on shift with new dash and body cameras.

With this new technology system in place, Lee said that there are "geofences," which are virtual boundaries that allow the law enforcement department to track how much time deputies are spending in a particular area.

“So as of right now, we're not doing a bunch of little ones. We're just doing bigger ones until we get comfortable with the system,” Lee said. “But I will be able to tell you, probably next month, how much time we're spending west of 116th (Avenue Southwest) for example, where the refinery is.”

Once Lee and the deputies become better acquainted with the technology, they’ll collaborate with the council on a plan for more precise data collection, he said.

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Gas station gambling

The council considered a request by the Superpumper gas station to obtain a liquor license to sell beer and wine on-site as part of a plan to install five gaming machines. Superpumper Regional Manager Lory Polensky pointed out that all proceeds from the machines benefit the Belfield American Legion, which takes in an average of $30,000 a month from them, according to Mayor Marriann Mross. Yet, Councilwoman Pam Gross believes there are drawbacks.

“I'm not huge on gaming. I couldn't care less if there's machines in town or not. I think it causes a lot of problems, especially with people that struggle with income issues,” Gross said. “But I don't have any justification why I should say no to Superpumper when they contribute just as much to this community… as any other bar.”

Councilman Bruce Baer emphasized that Superpumper is not a bar and expressed reservations about the logistics of having customers walking through the store with alcohol intended to be consumed in the building.

“My concern is that you would be serving alcohol in part of your building that nobody’s really supervising except by camera. That bothers me a lot,” Baer said.

City Attorney Sandra Kuntz pointed out the increased risk of minors accessing alcohol. Polensky said she’s willing to modify plans to address this by placing the gaming area in their existing liquor store, which is already closely monitored and restricted to those over 21.

Councilman Ed Braun said he would like to see a proposal detailing that floor plan so the council has something to hold Superpumper accountable to upon potential approval.

Other business

The council discussed and approved a motion to accept a two-year free trial offer from the State of North Dakota to use the Living Local smartphone application and website, designed by KAT Marketing. It’s already being used by the City of Hettinger. The site aggregates information pertinent to the community such as first responder volunteer signups, personal health tools, events, job postings and fundraisers. It features a schools section with an activities calendar and lunch schedule.

City Auditor Connie O’Brien said the advantages of using this platform to reach the public compared to something like Facebook are that Living Local streamlines the information in a central location and allows the city greater control over content. It also lacks a comment section which can distract from the purpose, Gross added.

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During a phone conversation with The Dickinson Press on Friday, a representative with KAT did not have an answer for how much it will cost local entities to continue using the app after the free trial. More details will be revealed via press release in the coming weeks.

Recently, one of two full-time public works employees resigned, and the city has been struggling to find a replacement. The east sewer lift station has demanded several emergency repairs this winter and Public Works Director Kevin Anderson is going on vacation soon, so Braun made arrangements to have a local contractor on call and brought it to the council’s attention.

Mross suggested it would be more economical to bring back a part-time public works employee, who was let go in January.

“I don’t think so if he’s going to sit in the office all damn day. That was a problem when we got rid of him last time,” Braun said.

Kuntz advised that it would be an unwise decision.

“When you're the employer and especially a public employer, liabilities lie with you, not only for their work performance but HR issues and everything else. And so if you've already let somebody go for good HR reasons, it does not make sense from a legal standpoint to bring them back,” she said.

Anderson also said he heard many complaints from citizens about the employee wasting time on the clock at Belfield City Hall. The council ultimately agreed to continue its search for higher quality applicants.

The next Belfield City Council is scheduled for 5 p.m. April 12. For more information regarding the job opportunity with the Belfield Public Works Department, call 701-575-4235 or email mmross@cityofbelfield.com.

Related Topics: BELFIELD CITY COUNCILGOVERNMENT AND POLITICSSTARK COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
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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