Grand Forks Committee of the Whole advances Fufeng Development Agreement – Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS — Members of the Grand Forks City Council, acting as a Committee of the Whole, advanced Monday a development agreement for a controversial corn mill proposed to be built on the northern outskirts of the city.

The committee approved the deal by a 5-1 vote, with Rebecca Osowski dissenting. Council member Kyle Kvamme was absent.

Although the Committee of the Whole is made up entirely of members of the City Council, it is only a council that meets to discuss city business, consider issues, and provide preliminary approval for subsequent, formal meetings of the City Council. advice. This means that the deal still needs to be approved by the members when they come together at a formal town council meeting. That approval will likely come next week.

Notably, the city has requested a stipulation that requires the Fufeng Group – the company that wants to build the plant – to “secure and have the city issue” a $5 million letter of credit. The funds, according to the agreement, could be used by the City “for the recovery and reimbursement to the City of all costs, expenses and charges incurred by the City” in the event of termination or default. In Monday’s agenda, it was officially listed as the “first amended development agreement” – amended to note that instead of a $5 million letter of credit, “it allows Fufeng to deposit basically $5 million in the bank account,” according to the city administrator. Todd Feland.

The proposal to build the plant has been controversial almost since it was first announced late last year. Opponents have criticized the Chinese company’s track record and worried about what they see as national security risks, given the proposed plant’s relative proximity to Grand Forks Air Force Base.

Recent national reports are unlikely to help alleviate concerns. Late last week, CNN reported that an FBI investigation determined that equipment placed on cellphone towers in the Midwest by Chinese telecommunications company Huawei was capable of disrupting Department of Justice communications. Defense. In its report, CNN noted that the Chinese government denies any attempts to spy on the United States and that Huawei has also denied that its equipment is capable of operating in any communications spectrum assigned to the Department of Defense.

Fufeng chief operating officer Eric Chutorash has also repeatedly stated that the proposed Grand Forks plant will not engage in any form of espionage.

It was announced earlier this month that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States – a group commonly known as CFIUS – will review the Fufeng project.

In the moments leading up to Monday’s vote, committee members engaged in conversation about how the deal has grown over the weeks, while members of the public challenged them not to. not move forward with approval.

Council member Bret Weber, during the discussion, said he thinks the agreement “does a fantastic job of protecting the city from the kinds of concerns that have been raised, and as council members, we have raised, and I move approval of the Amended Development Agreement.”

A member of the public then spoke up, “Don’t do that, guys.”

Weber’s motion was seconded by Danny Weigel.

Councilman Ken Vein then asked City Attorney Dan Gaustad a few questions about the size of the deal.

“I was maybe a little confused,” Vein said. “The original development agreement was about 45 pages and when I printed it it was about 150 pages. … How did it evolve?

Gaustad replied, “There have been no changes to the development agreement other than what has been proposed. The length could be due to the attachments. All of these pieces were in the development agreement as originally drafted.

Council Chairman Dana said any changes that occurred had been included in the agendas of previous meetings.

Except for the exhibits, Vein said, “the rest, you tell me, is the same?”

Gaustad answered in the affirmative.

At that time, Osowski — a new board member who won a spot in the June election — sought to table the decision on the development deal. But Sande said she couldn’t because a motion – followed by a second – had been made and was awaiting a vote.

The committee then proceeded to vote, with Osowski the only member against approving the deal.

The full development agreement (which can be viewed in full on the city’s website) consists of 10 sections – the first simply describes 70 “definitions” used in the agreement. Other headings include:

● Development/construction of the Grand Forks plant and city infrastructure.

● Development master plans and other development agreements.

● Financing and cost sharing of urban infrastructure.

● Utility rates and charges.

● Tax and other incentives.

● Development letter of credit/pre-construction fees and costs.

● Conditions for construction and financing of city infrastructure.

● Construction conditions of the Grand Forks plant.

● Development statements/indemnity/disclaimer.

After Monday’s meeting, Feland said some of the important points of the development agreement include the environmental, engineering and public safety factors of the project.

“It encompasses all areas that we need to explore in good faith with Fufeng to determine if and how to move the project forward,” Feland said.

The development agreement is also important because it protects the city financially, according to Feland.

“Not only does this require us to provide detailed studies and find positive ways forward, but it also protects the city upfront on some of the initial investments we make in environmental studies and reviews,” he said. -he declares.

Also on Monday, sewage pretreatment, traffic, thermal plumes and odors were among Fufeng’s memorandum of understanding progress updates delivered to council members.

Paul Boersma, associate vice president at Black & Veatch, reviewed some of the updates.

For wastewater pretreatment, a team of consultants determined that the aerobic treatment process offered by Fufeng is a common and accepted method for wastewater pretreatment. The consulting team has also determined that hedges should be considered for certain processes, although this discussion is ongoing with Fufeng.

Work on water supply including raw and portable/fire water as well as solid waste management is currently underway and will be presented to council at a future meeting.

A thermal plume assessment looked at the potential impacts the plant could have on light general aviation used by UND for training and commercial aircraft. The assessment determined that there is no negative impact on light general aviation and commercial aircraft, although there is a slight impact on sport aircraft.

Odor control expectations have identified potential sources of plant odors including various raw material handling/processing, soaking, fermentation, material drying and wastewater treatment processes which can be reflected in a factory smell. An air permit will be submitted in August.

Bolton & Menk, an engineering consultant at Fargo, was hired to complete a traffic impact study, analyzing existing and projected traffic conditions expected to be affected by truck traffic from the plant. The study focused on the circulation of private cars and trucks. Mike Bittner, Senior Transportation Engineer at Bolton & Menk, provided an overview of the final report.

The main corridors likely to be affected are Washington Street (State Highway 81) and Gateway Drive (US Highway 2). Since both roads are also state highways, Bolton & Menk and city staff partnered with the North Dakota Department of Transportation to ensure that all of their concerns were addressed as part of the traffic study.

The study estimates that the plant will generate 200-300 trucks per weekday and the total trip generation, including passenger cars and trucks, is estimated at 480-580 trips per weekday.

Several recommended improvements to accommodate increased truck traffic at intersections were identified in the study. Improvements include constructing a northwestbound left-turn lane on North Washington Street at 27th Avenue North, lengthening the southeastbound left-turn lane on North Washington Street at Gateway Drive, construction of a southwestbound right-turn lane turn the lane on North 42nd Street at Gateway Drive and lengthen the eastbound left-turn lane northbound on Gateway Drive at North 42nd Street.

The study also recommends extending the west-to-northbound right-turn lane on Gateway Drive to North 42nd Street and converting North 42nd Street from Gateway Drive to 27th Avenue North to a three-lane section if traffic issues arise. occur when the plant is in operation. .

In other City News Monday:

● Council members received a revised ordinance for electric scooters. The council first heard about the possibility of the electric scooter system, from Birds Ride Inc., in late June. Since then, an ordinance relating to the use and operation of electric scooters in Grand Forks has been drafted, with the first reading last week. After last week’s discussion, a revised order was drafted. The revised ordinance lowers the age required to drive an electric scooter from 18 to 12, although anyone under the age of 18 must wear a helmet. Council members discussed how many scooters they would like to be available in the city with a fixed number to be determined at next week’s council meeting at a public hearing and a second reading of the arrangement.

● Considered approving PKG Contracting, Inc. to provide at-risk pre-construction services for wastewater treatment facility upgrades, and to complete tendering and construction using the delivery of the CMAR project. The use of the CMAR project delivery for the two upcoming sewage treatment facility improvement projects was approved by board members on June 6th.

● Earlier today, members of the Grand Forks/East Grand Forks Intermunicipal Wastewater Advisory Board received an update on sewer interconnection operations. The sewage interconnection ensures that the City of Grand Forks provides sewage treatment to the City of East Grand Forks. The cities of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks entered into an intermunicipal agreement in 2016, and sewage service in East Grand Forks began in 2017. During the meeting, leaders of the cities of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks shared that the sewage interconnection between the two cities has been working well. The projected cost of service for interconnection in 2023 will be $434,539, up from the 2022 cost of service of $392,000.

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