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The Minot City Council spent considerable time at the Jan. 6 meeting discussing the potential of moving City Hall to another location, then tabled a decision until a more in-depth review of two buildings under consideration could be completed.
Council members offered mixed views of both downtown structures under consideration, the former Wells Fargo building and the office building commonly known as the Big M building. Ultimately, council members directed City Engineer Lance Meyer to secure an architectural firm and a contractor to conduct an analysis of both buildings and secure cost estimates of remodeling both buildings.
Council members Josh Wolsky, Shannon Straight, and Paul Pitner expressed concern about not having enough detailed information on either building. In addition, the three wanted to spend more time ironing out differences in expectations of what would be included in a new City Hall.
They also had other questions, including if the current City Council chambers would continue to be used for council and other meetings, or would a new City Hall include a new council chambers? Is there an opportunity to work with community partners such as Minot Public Schools, Minot Area Development Corp., or the Souris Basin Planning Council to bring any of those services into a new City Hall building?
Minot was awarded $3.75 million toward relocating City Hall as part of the $74.3 million National Disaster Resilience Contest, but the remaining necessary funding would come from the City. Straight wondered about the optics of spending City funds on this project while at the same time asking the State of North Dakota for funding for the Mouse River Enhanced Flood Protection Project, and whether state legislators might frown upon such spending.
Mayor Shaun Sipma and City Manager Tom Barry spent considerable time meeting with state lawmakers during the 2019 Legislature. Barry said he believes lawmakers know Minot and other flood-damaged communities like Fargo have needs other than flood protection funding.
“This city is not just a flood control district,” Barry said. “We have other obligations in our mission to provide services to our community. I would like to believe that our legislators understand that we are a community of many needs, not just one.”
The mayor also questioned the ramifications of returning millions in federal funding rather than using those funds to help complete a project that all council members agree needs to be addressed. Alderman Stephan Podrygula said returning federal funds would not be a good idea.
“I think it would be absolutely foolish to give away almost $4 million,” he said. “Someone has given us almost $4 million through the Disaster Resilience grant, and I think it would be very, very foolish not to spend that.”
The $74.3 million from NDR must be spent by Sept. 30, 2022, or it must be returned to the federal government.