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Posted on March 23, 2020 at 3:17 PM by Bryan Obenchain
In response to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control has recommended that residents across the United States practice social distancing – and, yes, that includes us here in Minot, too.
Social distancing, in short, means staying away from other people as much as possible, and when you do have to be around others, keep your distance (and stop shaking hands and fist-bumping). This is not a quarantine, and it doesn’t mean you are forced to stay home.
But it is our duty not only to ourselves, but to our families and our neighbors, to take the CDC’s advice seriously. You may be young and healthy, and may be only mildly sickened if you contract this virus. But your elderly neighbor or an older relative or someone with an existing medical condition like asthma or heart disease might be more at risk for serious consequences.
As part of social distancing efforts, the City of Minot closed most of its buildings to the public late this week unless you have a specific appointment, with the exception of Minot International Airport and the Landfill. All City services will continue to operate at this time. If you need to make an appointment to see someone at City Hall, please call 701-418-3011 or contact Tami Stroklund at email@example.com.
City Council and Planning Commission meetings will continue to be held, but we encourage anyone who doesn’t have direct business with the Council or the Commission to watch the meetings online, either on Facebook or YouTube. If you must physically attend a meeting, please use the main doors to enter City Hall.
Why is social distancing important in battling the spread of COVID-19? Because close contact between humans is considered the primary way the virus is spreading, especially when some of those humans are coughing or sneezing in the vicinity of others. This cannot be stressed enough: Now, more than ever, if you’re sick, stay home.
In theory, social distancing sounds relatively simple. In reality, it’s much more complicated because personal habits are difficult to break, and North Dakotans consider themselves a hearty bunch. We’ve probably all gone to work or attended a public event when we were sick and should have stayed home. We can’t do that anymore. Social distancing didn’t use to cross our minds when we headed to the grocery store, to the gym, to the movie theater, or to our favorite restaurant. We didn’t think twice about inviting some friends over for game night or a card game. Now, we must pause before venturing out in public or inviting large numbers of guests into our homes.
With the number of positive tests growing almost daily in North Dakota, it’s well past the time to take the CDC’s social distancing recommendation seriously. If we going to successfully slow the spread of COVID-19 locally and nationally, we must all do our part.
Our local schools and university are closed for a reason – to slow the spread of COVID-19. Many businesses have closed, reduced their hours of operation, or changed their business models – to slow the spread of COVID-19. Most public events have been cancelled or postponed – to slow the spread of COVID-19. Health officials have urged students who are out of school not to gather in large numbers at local malls or other locations, since that would defeat the purpose of closing schools in the first place – to slow the spread of COVID-19.
You can still enjoy many of the regular things in your everyday life – just in slightly different ways. You can still support the local restaurant that sponsors your child’s sports team by ordering food online and picking it up at the establishment or having it delivered. The Minot Public Library is closed to on-site patrons, but the library has lots of audio books and videos available to check out online. You can pay many bills online, including your water bill at the City of Minot, and there are also two payment drop boxes in front of City Hall.
Most of us are set up better than ever to spend more time at home until the COVID-19 situation improves. With technology, there’s an endless array of entertainment available at our fingertips. It’s also a great time to catch up on some reading, play games with your family, or spend time outside walking, bike riding or just playing catch with your kids. The point is, it’s easier than ever to stay home, and for many people, to work from home. By the way, while you’re home and online, take a few minutes to complete the 2020 Census; it’s quick and easy.
If there’s ever been a time to practice North Dakota nice, this is it. If everyone does their part in practicing good personal hygiene and participates in social distancing, the chances of minimizing the spread of COVID-19 should rise dramatically – and so will the chance of everyone returning to their normal lives as soon as possible.
Sincerely, City Hall
Posted on March 10, 2020 at 4:14 PM by Bryan Obenchain
Sometimes it takes a tragedy to remind ourselves of what’s really important.
The fire at the Hall’s Apartment building in downtown Minot on Feb. 26 was yet another example of the overwhelming number of good people who live in our community. I’m always proud to call Minot my home, and the outpouring of support that follows these types of unfortunate events always strengthens and reinforces that pride.
This fire was one of those times. Thankfully, no one was seriously injured in the fire. The residents of the building were all evacuated and accounted for, and although the loss of their personal belongings is tragic, we’re grateful that no human lives were lost.
We’re also extremely thankful for the first responders who battled the fire, and that none suffered serious injuries. Firefighters, law enforcement personnel, ambulance crews, and others did exactly what they are trained to do. Firefighters were en route to the blaze 83 seconds after receiving the fire call. Does anyone still think “trained, maintained, ready” is just a slogan for the Minot Fire Department? It’s not. It’s what they live by every second of every day. I don’t know how it works in other communities, but I know this about Minot: When an emergency happens, our first responders knowingly and willingly put their own safety on the line without hesitation. Every day. We must never take their selflessness for granted.
While the firefighters were still battling the fire, another kind of effort was also under way throughout our community: the work to assist the displaced residents. Local agencies like the Red Cross and the YWCA quickly put out the word about what items were needed to help the victims. Helping people in times of crisis is their mission, and they continue to do that for these displaced residents and other people who rely on their services. Their continued efforts in this incident and the positive work they do every day is commendable.
In the hours following the fire, the immediate and concerted efforts of many individuals cannot be ignored. Using the power of social media, many Minot residents quickly began circulating information about how to help the victims of the Feb. 26 fire. Within hours, drop off points were established for folks willing to donate clothing, personal items, and other necessities. Area residents helping total strangers in the face of tragedy reveals the true character of our community. That’s what makes Minot special. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.
Sometimes, it’s easy to forget the overwhelmingly positive aspects of our community members. Too often we allow ourselves to become numb or indifferent to the needs of our neighbors, perhaps choosing to live through the electronic devices in front of us instead of paying attention to the real world. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we’re tempted to forget what really makes us a community, until our eyes are jolted open by the reality of a tragedy.
In reading through some online posts following the fire, I read several comments like “Minot isn’t as bad as I thought it was” or comments that expressed similar sentiments. The truth is that Minot has never been as bad as the naysayers claim. We forget that truth all too easily, as we get wrapped up in our own daily schedules and narrow vision of life. But in our hearts, we know this is still true: Minot takes care of its own when necessary.
Unfortunately, we know there will be more tragic events in Minot’s future. But we’re soothed by the knowledge that when it happens, community members will respond, just like they’ve always done. It’s who we are. It’s who we’ll always be.
When tragedy strikes our community, there are many local agencies that can provide assistance to victims, with your help. Here are just a few of them:
Once again, the truth about our amazing community and its character have been revealed in response to tragedy. Real life matters. Real people matter. Well done, Minot.
Posted on March 3, 2020 at 1:20 PM by Bryan Obenchain
The City of Minot is investing in an official appeal of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s flood risk maps that will result in significant savings for area residents.
The City Council’s decision on Feb. 18 to file an appeal could delay the implementation of the flood risk maps by as little as six months, or as long as two years, according to City Engineer Lance Meyer.
Every delay in implementation is good news for Minot and other area residents who own property in the flood zone under FEMA’s latest updated maps, which included a base flood level at 10,000 cubic feet per second of river flow. According to FEMA, Minot has approximately 1,929 active flood insurance policies with a total premium of just over $1 million. With anticipated premium increases over the next two years, the total premium would climb to approximately $1.6 million, and if the number of policies rises, the total premium could jump to $1.8 million.
Successfully delaying implementation of the maps during an appeal process could help keep the total premium to just over $1 million in 2023, saving area residents significant money.
While the appeal process comes with an estimated cost of $250,000, the savings to area residents in flood insurance costs is still well worth the time, money, and effort to file the appeal. As Council member Shannon Straight rightly pointed out at the last meeting, this decision “is in the best interest of the community.”
The appeal is also in the best interest of everyone in the Souris River basin who could be affected by the updated flood risk maps. Meyer said the appeal will be based on differences in hydrology modeling throughout the entire Souris River basin.
Meyer told Council members that modeling by FEMA differs with modeling done by the City in conjunction with Ackerman-Estvold, with FEMA’s projections including more properties in the flood zone. Meyer said the City’s hydrology models include a river flow of 8,000 cubic feet per second with a smaller flood zone and fewer properties that would be required to have flood insurance.
Meyer said he believes the City has a 50/50 chance of winning an appeal, which makes the process well worth the cost and effort. We know there are no guarantees, of course, but the support shown for residents of this community from Council members was apparent in the unanimous vote to move forward with this appeal.
How did we get to this point? It’s been a long process, for sure. FEMA issued its preliminary flood insurance rate maps in June 2017. The City submitted comments on those maps, which delayed the implementation by roughly 18 months. Under the current schedule, FEMA will soon publish its updated maps in the Federal Register. Once the maps are published, the City has 90 days to file its appeal.
Of course, that means the City has 90 days to essentially compile years of data to make its case. Once that information is assembled, it will be submitted to an independent scientific review panel, along with FEMA’s information. The review panel will make a final determination.
During the appeal process, the flood risk maps won’t change, meaning flood insurance rates likely won’t change, either.
If nothing else, the decision to appeal serves as yet another reminder to property owners in the current flood zone: If you haven’t already done it, buy flood insurance and maintain that insurance. That way, when the flood risk maps eventually change, existing policies will be grandfathered in at current lower rate zones, with a limit of how much policies can increase on an annual basis. If you purchase a flood insurance policy after the new maps take effect, your premiums will be much higher.
We know many staff members will put in countless hours to compile the information and prepare it for the review panel. We thank them ahead of time, and we’re hopeful that the appeal will reduce the number of area residents, both inside Minot and in Ward County, who will be required to carry flood insurance. At the very least, the appeal process could buy us all more time to complete phases of flood control as we continue working to remove the entire basin from risk.