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The City of Minot is moving forward with a project to relocate City Hall to the former Wells Fargo building in downtown Minot following a decision by the City Council April 20.
At their regular meeting, City Council members voted 4-3 to pursue purchasing the former Wells Fargo building. In a corresponding move, the Council also eliminated the gathering space project, and redirected the $6 million for that facility into the City Hall project ($4 million) and a Center for Technical Education ($2 million).
The City must conduct a cost-benefit analysis and get approval of a substantial amendment from Housing and Urban Development to reallocate the $6 million. John Zakian, the City’s disaster resilience program manager, told Council members he believes HUD will look favorably on the City’s substantial amendment request. The process could take 90 days, Zakian said.
Council members debated the merits of the Wells Fargo building vs. adding onto the current City Hall, a project that included an estimated price of $15.2 million. National Disaster Resilience funding would not be available to add on to City Hall in its current location, meaning the full cost of the project would be paid by the City.
Moving forward with the Wells Fargo building will significantly reduce the amount required to be paid by the City, and subsequently, the taxpayers of Minot.
The $74.3 million the City was awarded through the NDR competition included $3.75 million for relocating City Hall. The additional $4 million redirected from the gathering space project means $7.75 million of the projected cost of $12.8 million to purchase and rehabilitate the Wells Fargo building will be covered by NDR funds, leaving roughly $5 million to come from the City.
“We have funds that are available to us to make this more palatable for a move,” Council member Paul Pitner said. “So let’s be proactive in this while we have these funds available.”
City Engineer Lance Meyer presented information to the Council highlighting how City staff has outgrown the current City Hall building, as well as what square footage needs would be in a new location.
“Eventually we have to come to the realization that we are out of space. The Police Department is out of space. We need to have room to grow,” Pitner added. “We would be allowing the Police Department to expand into this building as we provide more space for our employees in the downtown area. When I buy a new home, I’m not buying the exact same square footage that I already have. I’m buying something bigger to allow my family – as it would be with this organization - to expand.”
All funds from the NDR program must be spent by Sept. 30, 2022, or be returned to the federal government.
Council members Shannon Straight, Josh Wolsky, and Stephan Podrygula all voted against the Wells Fargo plan, citing the uncertainty surrounding the local economy during the coronavirus pandemic.
Mayor Shaun Sipma, who supported the Wells Fargo plan along with Pitner, Lisa Olson, and Mark Jantzer, said utilizing the federal funding and choosing the lowest-priced option made sense.
“I don’t think we’re ever going to find a cheaper way to build,” Sipma said.
Under a preliminary plan for the Wells Fargo building, roughly 70 City employees would move into the new location, including employees at the current City Hall except for Police Department employees, information technology, public information, and others.
The City had studied both the Wells Fargo building and the former Big M building and the cost to purchase and rehabilitate both structures. The Big M building would have cost significantly more to rehabilitate.