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Posted on March 5, 2021 at 9:45 AM by Bryan Obenchain
When Minot was awarded $74.3 million as part of the Housing and Urban Development National Disaster Resilience competition, one of the projects in the city’s action plan was relocating Central Dispatch and City Hall away from a potential flood zone and into an existing building in downtown Minot.
In recent weeks, we’ve taken two major steps toward completing that project.
On Feb. 23, we signed paperwork to officially purchase the former Wells Fargo building. The City used Community Development Block Grant-National Disaster Resilience funds to complete the $2.601 million purchase. The approximately $12 million City Hall relocation project will use a total of $7.75 million from CDBG-NDR sources, grant dollars that could only be used for that purpose.
In 2020, City staff and members of the City Council toured two potential locations for a new City Hall – the Wells Fargo building and the Big M building. Both buildings provided enough space for the City’s current and future needs, but the Big M building would need so much repair and renovation to fit the City’s needs that it would have been financially irresponsible to purchase it. The total cost for purchase and renovations would likely eclipse more than $30 million.
The Wells Fargo building will also need renovation to make it fit the City’s needs, but the cost is much lower at approximately $12 million.
The second important step happened at the City Council meeting earlier this week when JLG was chosen as the architectural consultant for the project. A selection committee that included four City staff members and Council President Lisa Olson conducted interviews with three firms, ultimately choosing JLG to perform architectural services for this project. The City will now begin finalizing a contract with JLG.
This project has been in discussion for several years, with talk at various times ranging from expanding the current City Hall to rehabilitating an existing building to constructing an entirely new building. Per our agreement with HUD, the focus has remained on rehabbing an existing building in downtown Minot. Had we opted to expand the current City Hall or construct a new building, the $7.75 million from HUD would not have been available to use. By purchasing the Wells Fargo building, we continue to work within our action plan that we submitted to HUD that ultimately helped the city be awarded $74.3 million.
While the most recent steps are significant, there remains a tremendous amount of work before City employees move into a new facility. In conjunction with JLG, we will conduct a space needs assessment for all departments that will be housed in the new location, and we’ll work with our information technology department to determine the tech needs of the new building. There will be discussions to determine any necessary upgrades the heating and cooling systems, and new handicapped-accessible elevators will need to be designed, among other topics of discussion.
Once all of this information is compiled, JLG architects can begin the process of designing the building, incorporating input from City department heads and employees, the City Manager, City Council members, the IT department, and countless others. Once a design is formally approved, renovation work can begin. But we’re months away from that happening. City Engineer Lance Meyer told the City Council this past week that a tentative timeline would have the new building ready for occupancy in early 2023, although the timeline could change depending on the final design of the building.
The new location will provide a safe site away from any potential flooding for the emergency dispatch center, which is one of the primary goals of this project. The relocation will also help many of our City staff members work more efficiently, and provide proper space for employees who are currently working in cramped quarters at City Hall or in offices in other buildings. The space that will be vacated in the current City Hall will likely be taken over by the Minot Police Department and Municipal Court, which has outgrown its current space. Moving City Hall to downtown Minot will also help with the downtown initiative, another overall goal of the project.
We look forward to taking the next steps in this exciting project. We know there is much work ahead, but we’re pleased that this process has taken major strides forward. It’s been a long time coming.
Sincerely, City Hall.
You can find more about what’s happening at the City of Minot at minotnd.org, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. We’d also encourage you to sign up for our monthly electronic newsletter on our website.
Posted on February 19, 2021 at 10:26 AM by Bryan Obenchain
It’s a difficult and challenging time for members of some law enforcement agencies around the country, as high-profile cases of alleged and proven wrong-doing by police officers in larger cities have put law enforcement officers under an even brighter spotlight than usual.
While the Minot Police Department hasn’t been immune to criticism in the past year, our officers haven’t endured the same type of scrutiny as other departments. Talk of defunding or reorganizing police departments continues in some parts of the country, but that discussion hasn’t been appropriate or necessary in Minot. No one is claiming our officers are perfect, but we simply don’t have the same types of misconduct allegations as departments in larger cities.
The Minot Police Department had a busy year in 2020: Chief John Klug reports that his department responded to 37,809 calls for service last year, an average of just over 103 calls per day. Every day. While that number is down from the 41,088 calls for service in 2019, our officers had their hands full last year considering COVID-19 complicated nearly every call for service.
Despite the complications brought on by COVID-19, Minot’s officers continue to work diligently to maintain a strong relationship with members of our community. Past and current leadership have created a department that serves and protects the residents of Minot with integrity and respect. The police department strives to build on its already positive relationship with the community by being as visible as possible, taking part in events like National Night Out, Battle of the Badges, and the annual Stuff a Squad toy drive.
Then, there’s the Citizens Academy, which allows participants to get an up close and personal glimpse of what goes on at the Minot Police Department, and to interact closely with law enforcement officers in a learning environment. In 2020, the Citizens Academy was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the 2021 academy is scheduled to be held this spring. All sessions and events will be held in compliance with the ND Smart Restart guidelines and local public health recommendations.
Classes are scheduled to be held on Tuesday evenings between May 4-25 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. In this four-week program, participants will get hands-on instruction in the area of patrol operations, crime scene response, special operations (SWAT, bomb squad, K9 units), use of force, and weapons familiarization. Applications are due by April 23, and can be submitted to Master Officer Aaron Moss at email@example.com. He can also be contacted at (701) 857-4711.
I’d encourage you to consider taking part in the academy. There are many benefits of holding the Citizens Academy. It’s good for the participants, and it’s good for our officers.
Our officers are very aware that they work in the searing spotlight of public scrutiny, and they accept that responsibility every day. They strive to conduct themselves with the highest levels of professional responsibility and integrity. The officers will work closely with members of the public during the three-hour sessions, sharing information about their job duties and how they conduct a variety of operations. It’s also a welcome opportunity for officers to spend time with members of the public in an informal, educational environment designed to facilitate open and honest discussion about the challenges facing law enforcement agencies.
For the participants, the Citizens Academy is an opportunity to meet members of the Police Department on a personal level. It’s a chance to ask why the department performs its duties in the manner it does. It allows participants to better understand the inner workings of the Police Department, as well as the operations and training methods used by the officers. Participants are also encouraged to join a patrol officer for a ride-along to see the officers on the job, and to experience a little bit of the challenges our officers face on a daily basis.
Past participants – both police officers and members of the public – have utilized the Citizens Academy as a learning experience. It continues to have a positive influence on those who attend, as members of the community and our officers have shared their perspectives and opinions about a wide variety of issues during the academy’s sessions. Open and honest communication can lead to a mutually beneficial understanding of both our police department and our community’s expectations of law enforcement, and that’s a good thing.
Posted on February 5, 2021 at 1:43 PM by Bryan Obenchain
Every session, hundreds of proposed bills wind their way through the political process at the North Dakota Legislature. A unique feature of our Legislature is that every bill receives a hearing, no matter how large or small the issue or the effect of the proposed legislation.
The 2021 Legislature is no different in that regard. Bills are being debated every day and given either a “Do pass” or a “Do not pass” recommendation from committees. While some bills are small in scale and scope, there is always a group of bills that has the potential to create real-life change for our state’s communities and residents.
House Bill 1431 is one such bill.
This proposed legislation is at the top of our list at the City of Minot. HB1431 would play a vital role in progressing the Mouse River Enhanced Flood Protection Project and our community’s planned Center for Technical Education project. The proposed legislation includes $74.5 million for the basin-wide flood protection project and $9 million for the CTE project in Minot.
The 2017 legislative intent spelled out $193 million for flood protection work inside the City of Minot over an eight-year period. That construction would get the project, in Minot, complete up to the first milestone, which would provide protection of approximately 60 percent of the valley. The first milestone includes the first five phases of the project. However, there has been ongoing confusion surrounding the intent of that $193 million in regards to the overall cost of the entire basin-wide project.
It’s an enormous amount of money, and we certainly appreciate the Legislature’s previous and current support as we continue to push forward on the largest infrastructure project in Minot’s history. That funding has allowed us to make visible and real progress on protecting our community and others from future flooding.
The $193 million from 2017 was intended to help fund only Phases 1-5 of the project. Work on Phase 2 and Phase 3 is complete, while Phase 1, which includes floodwalls along Fourth Avenue Northeast and the storm water pump station near the Broadway Bridge, is nearing completion with the station’s pumps anticipated to be tested sometime this spring.
Phase 4, also known as the Maple Diversion, is in the design stage and in late 2020 we received authorization to use federal funding on this phase. We are working with our congressional delegation and other federal partners to secure federal aid to help fund this approximately $90 million phase. Phase 5 will combine flood walls and levees to the east along Railway Avenue to complete that portion of protection. That process is in the design phase.
Remember, the $193 million dedicated to this project in 2017 was intended to help fund the first five phases inside Minot – but there are many phases remaining that include work near Burlington to the west of Minot, and phases that stretch from roughly Third Street Northeast in Minot to the east side of the City.
The MREFPP has always been a basin-wide project, one that will protect not only Minot, but our neighbors to the east and west. It’s vital to complete the entire project, since an unfinished project does not provide adequate protection to all residents of the river valley – in Minot, above or beyond the city. We must remain focused on the entire project. That’s why HB1431 is so important.
At the current rate of state appropriation, we anticipate construction lasting another 20 years before the MREFPP is complete. That’s 20 years of watching the river every spring, hoping we don’t repeat the calamity of 2011. That’s 20 more years of increasing inflationary construction costs and 20 more years of costly flood insurance premiums for residents in the river valley.
HB1431, if approved, is a step forward that can help change that for Minot. The next step will be accelerated funding from the state. With accelerated funding, we would be able speed up the building process and reduce the construction time to between 12 and 14 years, reducing the number of years our residents will have to keep a wary eye on the river. The savings in Minot alone with an accelerated build rate would be more than $100 million.
Finally, leveraging Legacy Fund earnings for long-term low-interest loans for communities like Minot to use as local match dollars for projects would be further investment in North Dakota that would compound the savings. The financial tools could be capitalized by many communities in North Dakota for major water infrastructure projects. We, as a state, simply have to find the will to take them out of the tool box and put them to work.
HB1431 is vital to the future of many infrastructure projects in North Dakota, and right here in Minot with the MREFPP. Please contact your local legislator and urge them to support this crucial piece of legislation.