A new domestic wastewater treatment agreement between the city of Wahpeton and Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative might be coming soon.
The current agreement, approved in 1997, allowed Minn-Dak to use Wahpeton’s sanitary sewer system for the treatment and ultimate disposal of its domestic sewage. The cooperative’s sewage flows to Wastewater Pond No. 1, members of the Wahpeton Public Works and Safety Committee were reminded during a Tuesday, Jan. 14 meeting.
Wahpeton has recently been examining the chemistry of wastewater generated by local industries. Biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) concentration is among the components being measured. BOD is measured as how much dissolved oxygen is needed in an amount of water so microorganisms can decompose the organic matter in the water.
Readings taken from Minn-Dak’s domestic wastewater streams in mid-2019 showed a BOD level between 600-650, Public Works Director Dennis Miranowski said. The latest reading, taken on Jan. 2, showed a BOD level of 265. An ideal BOD level is at or near 250.
“We discovered (in 2019) that there was some of what I’d call ‘cross connections,’” Miranowski said. “Minn-Dak began working on that, investing $40,000 in improvements.”
Ron Johnson, a project engineer with Minn-Dak, said the high BOD concentrations were traced back to the Wahpeton facility’s on-site testing lab. What happened is raw sugar was introduced into the wastewater system when test samples were disposed of.
“All the lab area has been separated off the city system now and we’re pretty confident,” Johnson said.
Test sample history reviewed by Kyle Rogahn, Wahpeton engineering project manager, showed high BOD and ammonia level readings for test wells for both Minn-Dak and the Minn-Dak Yeast Company. The plumbing, according to information shared, has been updated to segregate the sinks used for test sample disposal from the domestic sewage.
“We thank you. You’ve made great strides,” Miranowski said.
Minn-Dak’s history and future will be discussed Thursday, Jan. 16 at Wahpeton City Hall. The cooperative is on the agenda of the Mayor’s Ad Hoc Committee on Environmental Odors, which began receiving reports from area industries in December.
In late 2019, Minn-Dak said it was working to find a source point for strong odors. An exact source of any objectionable odor had not been determined as of December.
“I do thank for your diligence and for making adjustments after the high readings were identified,” 4th Ward Councilman Don Bajumpaa said. “To me, that shows you’re working in good faith to do what you can with what you have.”
Councilwoman at-large Tiana Bohn, the committee chair, suggested drafting a domestic wastewater agreement which would include acceptable discharge levels and sampling requirements. The new Minn-Dak agreement would be modeled after one negotiated with Cargill in 2019.
It is unknown when the new agreement for Minn-Dak will be ready for the Wahpeton City Council. Daily News will continue to follow this story.
“We’re on it,” Miranowski said.
Wahpeton City Hall will be closed Monday, Jan. 20 in observance of Martin Luther King Day.
When does a snowstorm become a snow emergency? When should packed snow be cut from streets?
Mayor Steve Dale, Public Works Director Dennis Miranowski and other Wahpeton leaders discussed possible revisions to the city’s snow removal policy. A Tuesday, Jan. 14 meeting of the Public Works and Safety Committee concluded with Assistant City Attorney Brittany Hatting being directed to prepare an ordinance amendment to consider changes.
“There is some opportunity to wordsmith these ideas, add details and hash them out,” said Councilwoman at-large Tiana Bohn, the committee chair. “I’d like to keep this on the agenda.”
Wahpeton is forecast to experience snow showers and wind between Friday, Jan. 17-Saturday, Jan. 18. So far this winter, the city and surrounding area has experienced at least two heavy snowfalls. They occurred over the Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve holidays.
“There were a lot of abandoned vehicles in places where they shouldn’t have been. It does affect the ability to recover from a large snow event,” Bohn said.
Bohn and Miranowski worked on the proposed revisions. The updates were made to reflect what the public works department does and what needs to be done, Miranowski said.
For example, the matter of declaring a snow emergency:
It is proposed that during snowstorms forecasted to have a snowfall greater than 8 inches, or heavy drifting snow, the public works director or designee with the concurrence of the police chief and the mayor may suspend the ordinances regulating parking. Such suspension would make it unlawful for vehicles to be parked on any street.
Currently, as outlined in Wahpeton’s snow plow policy, the snowstorm must be forecast to last two days or more, with a snowfall greater than 12 inches. The public works director, but not a designee, must concur with the police chief and mayor. When parking ordinances are suspended, it is unlawful for vehicles to park on emergency and special facilities routes.
Additional criteria under consideration include how to handle the cutting of packed snow.
What’s currently stated is that packed snow and ice that result in heavy rutting or irregularities will be cut with motor graders. Current policy also has it that loaders will allow the graders to remove the resulting windrow from driveways.
“(This is) such that no driveway is blocked for more than 30 minutes,” the policy states. “On streets with numerous driveways, two loaders per grader will be needed to open driveways within the above-stated time constraints.”
The 30 minutes or less concept, as well as the allocation of additional loaders, is being considered for removal. Being considered for inclusion is having cutting operations take place during daytime. The idea is to minimize property or equipment damage, according to the draft.
A separate procedure for widening is also under consideration. It currently exists under the policy for cutting.
The proposal is that snow banks resulting from previous accumulations of snow removal operations or drifting would be pushed back or shelved to make space for future snow storms as determined necessary. Alley widening may follow street widening where necessary.
Discussion of the proposals and possible alternatives will continue.
“When you are doing policy, it’s got to be for the next generation, that it’s clear for them,” Mayor Dale said. “All of a sudden, you have department personnel who aren’t meeting expectations. ‘Well, this is what it says,’ and no one knew what the intent was. I think it needs to be crystal clear.”
The next city council meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 21 at City Hall, 1900 Fourth St. N. in Wahpeton.
Wilkin County County Attorney Carl Thunem presented a 2019 annual crime report to the Wilkin County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, Jan. 14. The annual report covered six years of crime statistics and indicated a significant increase in drug-related crimes last year.
The report counted drugs that were found at any crime scene. Alcohol was connected to 44 charges, methamphetamine with 27, marijuana oil with 11, leafy marijuana with 10, pills with seven and heroin with one.
“This data reflects drugs that were found at the scene of the crime,” Thunem said. “However, if multiple drugs were found at the scene of the crime, rather than accounting for each drug, I counted the drug based on the most serious drug found.”
Moreover, if there were drugs found at a crime scene more severe than a drug charge, that drug count was not a part of the report, rather the more serious crime was accounted for. Additionally, if alcohol, marijuana and methamphetamine were found at a crime scene, only methamphetamine would be counted due to it holding the highest severity, he explained.
This method of counting allowed for nothing to be counted for twice, Thunem explained.
“The methamphetamine number is high. That is a lot of meth for a county of this size,” Thunem said. “Historically, we had about 10-15 drug-related crimes a year, which included meth. I think the rise we see is significant.”
Forty-four drug-related crimes were reported in 2019 as compared to 14 in 2018, 11 in 2017, 17 in 2016, 10 in 2015 and eight in 2014.
The report examined crime over six years. Since 2014, total crime has increased from 70 to 143 crimes in 2019. Crimes listed were felony domestic assault and drinking while under intoxicated, gross misdemeanor assault and D.W.I., sex crimes, personal and property crime.
Thunem outlined factors that he found to be related to the significant increase in all crimes in the county: marijuana oil, lack of insurance, better criminal history review, different prosecutorial approach, younger officers, K-9 Officer Leon and increased use of meth.
Historically, marijuana oil was used by those who were considered to have a serious problem with marijuana. The Minnesota legislature treated marijuana oil or wax the same way they would treat meth, making it a very serious crime to possess it. However, in the past year, it has become extremely popular to use, increasing more with recreational users rather than drug addicts, Thunem explained.
Thunem has changed the county’s policy for an individual found to have no insurance multiple times. If he sees no insurance 2-3 times within five years, he would charge that individual with a gross misdemeanor. Thunem explained how the lack of insurance can have terrible effects, especially in the case of a serious accident.
“I am more aggressive in terms of what I am willing to charge out,” Thunem explained, noting how his prosecutorial approach has resulted in more criminal charges in the county. “I will charge something out if I think there is a reasonable likelihood of a conviction in trial and there is probable cause for charges.”
Thunem also attributed Leon, Wilkin County Sheriff’s K9, to an increase as well. According to Thunem, approximately 6-12 cases would never have reached his desk if it wasn’t for the K9. Leon has been trained in narcotics detection, tracking and article searches.
The increase in methamphetamine has been a significant cause of the increased crime in Wilkin County.
Thunem is taking on initiatives for 2020. He expects to change probation lengths from being a “one size fits all” to one that is tailored to criminal history and the severity of the offense. He is currently working on a policy for that change.
He will also be implementing a standardized sentencing policy for offenses such as driving under the influence and low-level drug charges and assaults.
The next Wilkin County Board of Commissioners meeting will be at 8 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 21.
1. Banner year: The city of Wahpeton is giving away the purple banners from the Sesquicentennial. If interested, call 701-591-2109, first come, first served, until gone.
2. Baby, it’s cold outside: A Wind Chill Advisory remains in effect for our area until 3 p.m. Thursday, the National Weather Service states. Wind chills could reach 40 below zero. A Winter Storm Watch goes into effect Friday afternoon and will run through Saturday afternoon. Blizzard conditions will be possible and snow accumulations are expected to be between 2 and 6 inches, with wind gusts as high as 50 miles per hour.
3. Appointed: ND Gov. Doug Burgum appointed Ryan Gardner as interim director of North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department. He will succeed Melissa Baker, who resigned effective Friday, Jan. 17.
4. Today in Sports History: In 1961, Mickey Mantle signed a contract for an annual salary of $75,000, making him the highest-paid player in the American League.
The Breckenridge Active Living Committee (ALC) is set to order 26 “Welcome to Breckenridge” banners for the bike path light posts running north along Highway 75. Banners are expected to go up this spring.
ALC asked businesses throughout the city to sponsor a welcome banner for the lights. The $200 cost covered the expense for the banner and the first year of it being placed. Additionally, there was $50 charge per extra year to have the banner remain on the light post.
“I was very impressed with the amount of responses,” Billing Clerk Lori Gefre said.
The Daily News previously reported that the committee designed the welcome banners to have city of Breckenridge photos on the banners. They chose three photos: the helicopter at Veterans Memorial Park, the train caboose and the Head of the Red monument overlooking the river. The committee will have Auto Creations in Wahpeton print the banners.
“These are three things that say ‘our town,’” committee President Shawn Krause-Roberts said.
The banners will list the name of the business who sponsored the banner as well as the Active Living Committee’s name printed.
The funds collected will go towards the printing of these banners as well as to help fund other committee projects.
Other projects they have worked on are replacing basketball hoops and volleyball nets, and using grants to place bike racks around town.
“Currently we have had to do everything from bringing in funds and asking the city to help supplement, if possible,” Krause-Roberts said. “We want to be able to have some type of funding ourselves. This is kind of the first step of that.”
The next Active Living Committee meeting will be held at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12 at Breckenridge City Hall.