Print VersionStay Informed
Grand Forks City Council Service/Safety Standby Committee
Tuesday, April 8, 2008 - 4:00 p.m.__________________________________

The city council of the city of Grand Forks sitting as the Service/Safety Standby Committee met in the council chambers in City Hall on Tuesday, April 8, 2008 at 4:00 p.m. Present at roll call were Council Members Kreun, chair; Bakken, McNamara, Gershman.

Others present were John Schmisek, Chief Packett, Al Grasser, Brad Gengler, Bev Collings, Wally Helland, Police Officers Braaten and Flannery, Earl Haugen, Pete Haga, Bill Vasicek, and members of the Hospitality Industry. .

Chair Kreun called the meeting to order at 4:04 p.m., there were number of items on the agenda; Mr. Grasser pulled items 6 and 7 and will bring those back to committee at the next meeting.

1. Liquor license procedures. (Informational)
Det. Mike Flannery reviewed procedures used in processing alcoholic beverage licenses for both new licenses and renewals. He stated that he receives license applications in November, that he checks local records, NCIC and CWIS; reports problems with criminal histories to city attorney and works with him to address any problems that have been identified. He stated after first of the year receives call from Attorney General's Office informing him of businesses that have not applied for their State liquor license and makes a personal appearance that they do not have State liquor license and to cease liquor sales, and that normally can be taken care of by business owner within matter of day; and does the same procedure with the finance department if someone hasn't received a local license. He noted he does other enforcement issues that come up.

Kreun stated they have asked for this briefing as they have some situations arising and want to know what is committee's or council's responsibility when people do not meet guidelines.

Flannery stated he has been doing liquor licenses for past 20 years and has been frustrating as it takes about 2 weeks of his time to do it, and that no matter what he finds doesn't seem to make any difference - the application and fact that says falsification of information, misleading information may be cause to have license either denied or revoked, but made no difference; and asked why they do criminal history checks if it doesn't matter but lately things seem to be changing and has forwarded information to Ms. Pettit, city prosecutor, and she has forwarded it to Mr. Swanson and that what he is doing is beneficial. He stated we have one place in town that is serving that doesn't have a liquor license, and have places in town that don't have liquor license that have never had a license that are serving alcohol or allowing alcohol to be consumed on the premises, not charging for it, people bringing it in on their own or being given as a gratuity, and that ordinance states about dispensing but there are getting to be more places that are doing that - 4 places he know of that are doing that. He noted he has received two applications recently where he has found problems with criminal histories and Mr. Swanson has those aps.

There was some discussion relative to servicing alcoholic beverages (wine) for charities with no charge for the beverage - would not like to see that shut down. Gershman asked if the police department and the people in the industry feel that there is a problem. Chief Packett stated that the backgrounds on these licenses, whether new or renewal, will come up with information and that it gets to the council and that the council isn't getting much guidance from us in the system as to what should be done, and would hope would get some foundation guidance from the committee as to what the council would like to see and then work with Mr. Swanson procedurally what they would see beyond that point, that there is deception on license when they apply and council should know that and should be in decision criteria, if there are things that would prohibit somebody from holding a license the council needs to know that, but would like more of a sequential bullet point system at committee and council level, and once they receive something from police department and Mr. Swanson, there is some communication back and forth as to what do they do with it. Gershman stated that if someone is violating the ordinance there should be action taken and then the appeal process would be city council, rather than have the city council be the decision maker.

Kreun stated that council is not going to be appeal body but that goes to court. It was also noted that new licenses will go to council but renewals are handled administratively. Kreun stated that if a renewal has a problem they should be made aware of that. Mr. Schmisek stated that if set that process in place - that the Code says the license expires on December 31 and we try to send the applications out in October and at 5:00 p.m. on December 31 we will get applications for renewals - and if talk about this in a different process, need to think about timing change in order to get that to council prior to expiration.

Bakken stated he didn't like what they are doing now and need to change it and make sure that police officers are checking and have our support and if something wrong with the license that there is consequence to it, thinks guidance should be that we need to enforce it and we will support you and if need to rewrite some of this and change some of the codes to make this more workable - that if don't obey the rules there will be a consequence and maybe not do business here; that some of the criteria will be in enforcement and rewriting so more defined.

Harry Bushaw asked if police calls would be criteria for license renewals. Mr. Swanson stated that if concerned what the police department is raising is on renewals and new applications, the resolution that was passed by council several years ago says that those renewals are approved administratively contingent upon the approval by police and city attorney, and each one has a checkpoint and if the police department finds that there are problems that they believe warrant non-renewal, they check no and that renewal is not issued. Because confusion and questions in the last few months the council members have gotten a series of memos from him where he has laid out the factual information and has advised council members that he thinks this is a concern as to whether that particular license should be renewed or issued and if would like it to be put on an agenda but there has never been any action by the committee or council and that is part of what the police department is saying, how do you want them to respond.
The other issue is how do you want the departments to analyze the applications - that if mgr. or asst. mgr. has a DUI within the last few months is that a concern or if that person has had a narcotics violation within the last few years and if that is a concern; the standard that he has used is that which is self-imposed and self-derived, is it alcohol/narcotic or issue that is of danger to the public, has not seen one that fits last category but has seen the others and that some of the correspondence to the council and committee have outlined some of those; and doesn't disagree that they would like to have some direction from the council or committee as to what level do you want them to enforce these but that he has the authority and the police department has the authority to put log-jam in there, and then the only appeal is to the council as to whether that license will be issued. Timing is a problem as he won't see those applications until perhaps the middle of January and he will take the responsibility for that is that unless he has a clear basis to indicate that that license should not be renewed, they will treat them as provisionally renewed - that he didn't find a reason on 31st of December at 12:01 or 1st of January if didn't submit renewal that you're closed - that seems to be awfully harsh, have written letters and that if don't have the application form within the next 3 - 5 days, and that generates a response - is not advocating this absolute black and white interpretation, thinks that is unreasonable but with applications, raises some concerns and if want him to make the call, he will do it - and doesn't feel that he has been given that authority other than for the general process where he can check yes or no - and that is why he sent the memo. He stated he has been less concerned about the completing of an application where someone has forgotten to identify the parking tickets or speeding tickets - it is not clear that everyone understands that is a criminal violation in some cases, but there is no excuse if you have been charged with a felony or gross misdemeanor not to disclose those, where it becomes gray is, what happens if there is a period of disposition of those charges. He stated on some issues it will end up to be a judgment call on a case by case basis.

Gershman asked what would be a reasonable time for the city attorney and police, and other departments to receive an application and/or a renewal, November 1. Mr. Swanson stated that applications go to the finance office, and that the process should be that he sees them at the very end after the department heads have made their report. Mr. Schmisek stated that now his office sends the applications out the first part of November, requesting them to be in by mid-November, - could send those out in October. The key is that there is no teeth in the ordinance if they don't come in; will get them on December 28 and we chase everybody down - Bakken stated they are going to change that procedure and not going to do that anymore, have a time on it and if not in, not open. Grasser stated that what they do on certain licenses is that have renewal by a certain date with a fee, and if doesn't come in by that date, the fee is increased.

Kreun stated timing of applications is one process, and the other is the process when there is a violation that takes place and how to handle it, and would like to see the comments that they have and that Mr. Swanson and Chief Packett come back to committee to streamline some of these things so that they have some involvement when there is a question of gray areas and help make that decision. It was suggested that they need to get a date on this, send them out by September and bring back so have reasonable amount of time to go through then before renewal. Mr. Schmisek stated that in working with Mr. Swanson and police can bring that back as a recommendation. Chief Packett asked Mr. Swanson if there was anything he would suggest and if still need to research as far as strengthening the ordinances. Mr. Swanson stated that if want to move timetable for renewals, have a drop dead date and if going to enforce that, suggest putting that in ordinance form.

Mr. Swanson stated that the two licenses that were issued to the Alerus and to the Engelstad are special limited licenses and would interpret that as the other ordinance generally didn't apply to the special license - he stated that can you bring a bottle into a restaurant and open it and drink - No; and should the charities have a license if generally selling tickets to the public for fund raisers and serving alcohol - yes, that is a temporary license. The beauty shop the barbershop are gray areas; and new business opening up and having an open house, law firm having an open house and serve wine - and those are some issues that they handle administratively and to his knowledge has not imposed too many problems or complaints. Kreun stated his concern was that they look at those - beauty shop or barbershops serving complimentary drinks - either have license, etc. Mr. Swanson stated that if available to the general public, yes, but if not and invitational, haven't imposed license requirement and only certain classes of license holders that can do off-premise catering, etc.

Mr. Swanson stated if application comes to him before it goes to council, information would be provided to the licensee if problem with the application. He stated he didn't have a problem with moving timetable up and not sure that it is the auditor is the one to give you that notice, and would prefer that it be from his office and by moving timetable up, you would accomplish that. He stated that the problem is that even with a requested timeline before December 1, there are a large number that don't come back until later in December.

The committee asked Chief Packett to work with Mr. Swanson's office and Mr. Schmisek to come back with recommendations/guidelines to this body to see if there are things that they can do to tighten up some of the loopholes and get more information background to give support in making those decisions.

2. Liquor licensing compliance efforts.
Chief Packett reported that sometime ago the committee had requested an update from our Community Resources Bureau as to compliance and history of specific locations in town, did have CRB work with the Records Mgmt. Bureau to put together some statistics that the committee should have, and Officer Braaten will walk you on how they do compliance and the statistics on what they have seen. He stated he heard a comment from one of the Hosp. license holders of the concern, that they encourage license holders to call in and they want to make sure they are not penalized for that, and walk you through what they have been doing.

Officer Braaten reviewed local licensing compliance checks the police department has done until last month, did one last month with one failure out of 29. The rate of failure is 23% over the period of time since 2000. He stated only comparison was with Fargo who has numbers, and Fargo is mandated by an ordinance that every licensed establishment attend server training, and also mandated that the police department check each establishment 4 times a year, and last year Grand Forks checked 79 establishments, City of Fargo checked 468 and have a 95% pass rate, Bismarck is in the process of doing more compliance checks and working on server training. He stated he was contacted in February by the Dept. of Transportation to be on a board with other law enforcement, safety community coalitions across the state to put together a server training program that a consulting firm would distribute and put together and make available to every licensed liquor establishment across the state by September, 2008; that it is not mandated but the money comes from the federal government for this program which requires them to keep track of their numbers if there are improvements, how many were trained across the state and would get the course post certified so law enforcement would get credited for post license credit hours to make it available for deputy in Williston to teach the course, issue certificate and if that person went to Fargo, he would be licensed there, etc., there would be a standardized test represented across the state. He stated National Traffic and Safety Administration would work with law enforcement to make this course available to any jurisdiction in any community that would like to have it - not mandated at this time but they are building a standardized course. It was also noted that Moorhead, West Fargo, Clay County and Cass County are also mandated and to maintain their liquor license all their employees have to go to server training, and they have trained over 12,500 individuals with their program and we are at about 1400 from 2003. They have multi classes every week and their ordinance required them to do that.

Chief Packett stated what he has seen at the administrative level and are trying to improve numbers on the compliance side and that over the last 6 months have had 6 to 8 suspensions, 10 at the most, and they were self-trained and few that were in violation that went through some of the training and highlights the need for standardization, and have no problem with delegating and train the trainer and CD's, etc. but has to be consistent curriculum to get those suspension numbers down that come in from the A.G.'s Office. Braaten stated from the past history over the last 6 years, will be sending more violations to the city prosecutor because have hit the criteria that everybody has been warned, once or twice, and getting to that age in the program where might see more suspensions, but all he can do is forward it to the city prosecutor and there is discretion there, discretion at the A.G.'s Office, they look at cases that were sent to the city prosecutor, they sent it to the A.G.'s Office and no action taken, but at their discretion might see more suspensions because we have reached that point in the program as everybody has been getting warnings.
3. Server training ordinance.
It was noted that several changes had been made to the ordinance some time ago. The committee's recommendation was to bring the server training ordinance to council, motion by McNamara and Bakken. Motion carried.

4. Request from Building Inspections for amendments to the Building Code.
Bev Collings, Inspections, reported that every 3 years a new set of International Building Codes is presented by a group of International Code Council and the City has for many years adopted those along with the State of North Dakota, amendments are very similar - first the State adopts the code and we do our own adoption but also participate in the State's adoption of that code at the same time, ours is very close to the State's code. The State code is made by building officials proposals, that most cities make proposals, not talking drastic things. She stated they are considering the Building Code, Residential Code, Mechanical Code, Fuel Gas Code - but that Electrical Code is state code. The one issue she would like to bring up is the International Residential Code, that 3 years ago when they did the adoption the City presented a change , it was replacing an egress window in an existing home and wanted to bring it up to current code. She noted that Forx Home Builders and other contractors spoke to her about that and was difficult to do that, costly and are reversing that so are less strict, but are going to encourage them to put in a legal egress window at this time. She noted these codes are brought to the Board of Appeals, a review board made up of architects, engineers and other professionals, and at that time thought it was the proper action to take and did include an exception that you could request (brick structures, historic structures, etc.); but encourage homeowners if they can possibly do it, to do it correctly. She stated that at one time this did meet the code and if an individual came in and wanted to put a bedroom in his basement, he would have to meet current code. She noted this was the only major change, and others are very similar to the State.

It was moved by Bakken and McNamara to introduce adoption of the International Building Code Series for introduction.

Mr. Swanson stated with regard to the Gas Fuel has to be put in final form . Motion carried.

5. Joint Powers Agreement for septic system permitting services between the City of Grand
Forks and the County of Grand Forks.__________________________________________
Bev Collings reported that the County went to a permitting system and inspection system, and City has never had a formal system since she has been here, is a positive step as they don't have a lot of septic systems in the city, can't have one in the city unless you are x number of feet from a sanitary sewer - there are a few systems throughout the city but now have the 4-mile extraterritorial area and would like to follow suit with the County and they have offered to do the permitting and inspections. She stated this is only for the extraterritorial area, but have more retention type tanks that they have to do. It was noted that because of the high water table they are making them do a percolation test on these properties and if water table is high will have to go to the mound system, that they are requiring the testing procedures to decide and have to have a system designed by certified septic system installer. It was noted that the permit is $250.00 from the County, that they do a soil test, and they go back to make sure the system is installed correctly.

Moved by McNamara and Bakken to approve the Joint Powers Agreement with the County of Grand Forks. Motion carried.

Council Member Gershman left the meeting.

6. Warranty deed transfer with the Park District.
7. CIP discussion.
Held for future meeting.

8. Update on School Traffic Control Device Strategy Study.
Earl Haugen, MPO, reported that next Thursday, April 17, they will be holding public meeting to present this to the public but to bring to committee prior to that time. He reported the reason for doing this is that had a request from the City as they have inconsistency with how to do traffic control around schools, different parking, signage, different ways they flash beacons and also have an issue where the manual Uniform traffic Control is changing and updating and bringing into the manual some things that are innovative and wanted to establish strategies or criteria they will use when approached with these requests.

He reviewed various tables that determines how to start figuring whether there should be any type of traffic control device at a crossing, where they have established safe routes to elementary schools, public and parochial, and trying to emphasize only crossings that are shown on these maps and if not on an identified route would not be installing school traffic control devices, and table that gives you an idea of vehicles crosses a crossing and how many students using that crossing.

He reviewed study relating to school traffic control device strategy outlining pavement marking strategy, signing strategy, flashing beacon strategy, innovating device strategy; as well as in-pavement LED markers, radar speed display signs, pedestrian countdown signals, accessible pedestrian signals and school speed zones.

He stated the MUTCD is causing the City to look at its signage, not just school traffic, but all the signage to get retro-reflectivity and other issues up to date and will also be looking at whether you should massively replace all the signage or follow this matrix and only emphasis those crossings that meet the criteria that does several things for us, it provides the consistency that we are lacking currently in the community, one school is not the same as all the other schools and trying to make all schools similar, and ultimately reduce your costs of maintaining the signage and markings throughout the system. He stated there is a phase of implementation that you have in the manual changes and one of the reasons this came to the forefront is we have been asked by certain schools to go into those schools and do an in-depth circulation study plus traffic control study. The first one was Ben Franklin, and now have done Kelly plus several others and those we have some money to do some of the improvements but as there wasn't consistency with what should have been implemented at each of those, and what they did at Ben Franklin and by the time they did Kelly thought they should have done things at Ben Franklin differently but didn't want to go back and change that so over time will do consistency but as we go through and have to update some signage or update the pavement markings are only doing those that show up in the system as being warranted.

Mr. Haugen stated that most of the well established schools in the very mature neighborhoods perhaps have one or two more crossings than are necessary and trying to focus on those crossings that will provide the safest way to get to school; and some of the newer schools in the newer neighborhoods have less crossings but still some issues where those crossings and trying to make them as safe as we can.

Grasser stated they originally requested this and in the traffic world you always have the MUTCD manual to look at with traffic signals, every time somebody requests putting in a traffic signal the traffic engineer states that you have to see if it meets warrants, and found that we didn't really have what they felt was a good warrant system for school crossings. Over the years the system has come about by the PTO wanting a crossing here or the principal thinks there should be one there and sometimes there are pavement markings with sign, etc. and some of the others get more formalized with a full overhead, flashing beacon sign issue. There are dollar amounts assigned with those types of systems and wanted to try to come up with something that was more analytical to determine 1) where they should be, 2) what the level should be, and there is a definite cost to these on a side issue; that he has always questioned is should that cost be 100% City's responsibility or should there be a school district contribution because we are both creating the conflict but won't push that issue today.

Kreun stated from this information if they were going to ask the public what their thoughts are, that you are going to formulate a plan or response. Mr. Haugen stated this is not specific to any crossing and once this is adopted as the guideline, the traffic engineer will start a process of updating where we should have markings, which markings need to be repainted, what signs need to be replaced as part of the sign inventory replacement program. Some of the overhead beacons and strategy that we have are not necessarily going out right away but that is a decision as they get aged and need replacement want to invest in a signage that criteria doesn't suggest should be there.

Kreun asked if there is funding available or any grant process. Mr. Haugen stated there is a specific program, Safe Routes to School Program, that would fund these at 100% federal funds for the construction cost, these are probably all eligible because if there is a safe route to school they are probably all eligible for your urban roads program as well as part of the Title 23 Highway Program, there is a pot that competes with everything else, and some of these would be eligible for enhancement of applications. Grasser stated that some of that is going to be bid this year, bringing the signage up to date. Haugen stated that there are some programs that you would apply for and those would be additional dollars coming into your community, could have existing programs which they are eligible for but compete against your basic street reconstruction program.

Grasser stated federal paperwork is too complicated to go after these monies, what you would do is if it was PR crossing within another project that you were doing, then incorporate the appropriate control devices. Safe Routes to School is not quite as beauricratically heavy yet so we can apply for those monies and worthwhile for us. Haugen stated there is a non-infrastructure grant and an infrastructure grant and they (School) have received monies for the non-infrastructure which is the education and the Help Safe Routes to School map process and getting kids and parents informed there is a map and would give the safest route to school. He also stated the last couple points would be that they did work with the steering committee that had safe kids, school administration involved to come up with these recommendations and also presented it to all the school principals, administration and school district board so they have all been exposed to it as well. He stated conceptually they can all buy into that, we are trying to be consistent and trying to set the criteria that establishes the safest route for kids. Grasser stated he didn't think they would take an aggressive program to remove as some that over designed now but when somebody else comes in and wants to have a crossing, inform them that under the new criteria that one isn't warranted and have criteria to back it up to justify or not. Haugen stated they are going to continue with the school sites specific, that Ben Franklin a good example where they went into a school site on 11th Avenue and probably a dozen school crossing marking, too many, and school administration was very protective of that, we were able to get them down to half as many but if would have had this in place at that time, would have been down to half again more; safer than having kids going at too many different locations. Grasser stated that at 11th Avenue are protected but when over supply that the drivers start to tune them out and not doing the purpose of what their original intent was. It was noted that this study does recommend that you don't use the overhead flashing beacons, the preferred is dual below the signs at the side of the street, not going to replace overhead ones. Information only.


The meeting adjourned at 5:45 p.m.

Alice Fontaine
City Clerk