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The Minot City Council voted 5-2 at its Nov. 16 meeting to purchase the former Wells Fargo building in downtown Minot, taking a major step in moving City Hall to a new location.
The Council agreed to a purchase price of $2.608 million. The current City assessment of the property was $2.74 million. An independent appraiser listed the property’s value at $2.5 million.
Council members debated the issue at length during the three-hour meeting, with Tom Ross and Carrie Evans opposing the transaction. Both council members expressed concern that the option of adding on to the current City Hall facility wasn’t given serious consideration.
“The route we’re pursuing doesn’t make sense financially,” Evans said. “We have to do a serious and realistic needs analysis. The current space needs analysis is fantastical. At a time when we have no idea what the effects of COVID will be on our City, to go ahead with a project like this using taxpayer dollars is unethical.”
John Zakian, National Disaster Resilience program director for the City of Minot, detailed the option of purchasing the Wells Fargo building. Zakian said $7.75 million is available in NDR funds for the project, which is anticipated to cost more than $12 million for acquisition and renovations. Zakian said the NDR funds would not be available for use if the current City Hall was added on to, because the City of Minot and Housing and Urban Development agreed that the project would be located in downtown Minot when the city was awarded the federal funds in 2016.
“You cannot use NDR funds on this site because it is in the flood plain,” Zakian said, discussing the idea of adding on to the current City Hall facility.
Mayor Shaun Sipma was among the Council members who echoed that sentiment.
“I feel like I’ve hit a time warp. We have spent dozens of hours going through this process and the needs analysis. We have gone through this endlessly where these NDR funds can and cannot be spent,” Sipma said. “I could go on for hours, but I’m not going to. I’m going to support it tonight. I’m not going to let the confusion of either a misunderstanding or just disagreeing with it sway my opinion on this.”
Other members of the Council, including President Lisa Olson, suggested the City would be wrong to walk away from $7.75 million in federal funding for a project that is necessary. Several Council members discussed the growing space needs of employees at City Hall, and a desire to relocate departments such as information technology and public information into a new City Hall instead of being housed in the Minot Municipal Auditorium as they are now.
“We have had a lot of presentations on different options, and each time the decision to build here was not the most cost-efficient measure to take,” Olson said. “When you take all those discussions into consideration, plus the fact that we do have the NDR grant that I think we would be incredibly foolish to walk away from, it only makes sense to me that this is the option we choose.”