Minot Park Board Candidates June 2018 Questionnaire
Minot Park Board
Q: What are your thoughts on the Minot Park District’s current short- and long-range plans, including a new golf course, development of the former landfill land near Maysa and establishing a southeast Minot park?
Monley: I am happy with what is currently going on with the park system in Minot. I’m excited for Overlook park and the partnership with the Rotary club to make that possible. After speaking with a current board member, I am in favor of the new golf course, as it will be a replacement for Souris Valley Golf Course. I would also like to see more parks and development; however, I think that the main concern should be to really talk with the people and find out what they are interested in.
Henderson: If Souris cannot continue as an 18 hole golf course, I am in favor of a replacement. A town our size needs to have an 18 hole public golf course. The development of the former landfill is a low cost way to bring something new to our community.
Sabol: Seeing what the Park District has for the short-long term goals is very encouraging. They, the Board and Director, seem to have the community in mind for improvements. The former landfill area by MAYSA is a great opportunity for improvements. A proposed Dirt Bike trail, that could be developed with the help of the Dirt Bike enthusiasts is a great idea and would have a great impact on the community; ie: people coming in and using the commercial facilities in town, restaurants, housing and stores. Constructing a cross-country track for use by the High Schools and college would be a great improvement for the area and would put less stress on the current golf course. With the inclusion of the MAYSA Area it could double for concession, staging and even parking. Once constructed possibly regional meets could be held in Minot.
The new golf course area west of town would help draw people from not only Minot but outlying areas. The proposed area would not only include a new 18 hole golf course, but many family friendly activities. Walking trail, zip lines, bike trails, etc.
Southeast Minot does have an improved Radio City Park. I feel that more input needs to be had before something can be done. Purchasing land, that the Park District does not currently have, could be very expensive.
Schmitt: I believe the Park District has done a great job in looking ahead and seeing what is needed for the community. The Park District staff is a group of forward thinkers and they have done a great job of getting the park properties and facilities back in working order since the flood. I would be in favor of a new golf course because of the money that is being spent on maintaining SVG at this time. Each year the course floods, to some extent, and money is being spent each year to fix those issues. A new course will cost money to build; however, over the time the cost benefit will overcome what is being spent at SVG at this time. The site for the new golf course will also have biking/walking paths and family activities. I believe this whole area where the golf course will go will be a place for everyone to enjoy. I fully support the development of the former landfill by Maysa. I’ve been on this committee for the past four or five years to develop this land. This project is an example of what can be done at minimal cost and add so much to our community. The bike paths and cross country track can be done at a minimal cost and volunteers have already come forward to do a majority of the prep work. A disc golf course will also be added and this is needed in the community. This area will utilize the existing parking at Maysa and also the restroom facilities. I would support a park in SE Minot if the land is available and can be done at a reasonable cost.
Emery: I feel that the plans the Park District have are good for the community and overall quality of life. The development that includes a golf course is an example of what I believe is good long range planning. Souris Valley Golf Course is a beautiful course. However, it is part of the flood control for areas downstream. The course is designed to flood and become a holding pond. Even this year there was water over the banks on the course. It makes economical sense to build a replacement course out of the flood plain instead of spending money every year to repair the damage caused by the river leaving its banks. This would leave the present course as a nine hole or perhaps a training course. The design for the land that has been purchased on the west side of Minot will have a golf course, Zip Line, over two miles of unpaved biking and hiking trails, paved walking trails, a high and low ropes course challenge area, a pavilion, children’s play area, a number of scenic overlooks, a community orchard, community garden plots, 2.5 miles of cross country skiing, 1.4 miles of snowshoe trails, and three levels of sled/tubing runs. This will be a destination Family Outdoor Recreation Area. The development of the landfill adjacent to the Maysa Arena property has been in works for over six years and once the requirements of the EPA are met, we can move forward with a mountain bike trail system, cross country running/walking trail, and disc golf.
Olson: One of the more exciting aspects of the Park District is the forward thinking the staff shows. I think enhanced quality of life is exactly what citizens of Minot are always looking for and the projects named here along with numerous others do exactly that. The development of the land near Maysa is a no-brainer in my book. Re-purposing this outdoor space can be done with a small price-tag yet deliver great recreation opportunities. Plus, we already have built in parking with Maysa. I am all in favor of it. The flood control plan currently rolling through Minot drastically changes SV Golf Course and not for the better. If SVGC does indeed drastically change so that it isn’t a suitable 18-hole course, we need another option and the site west of town where this course would be seems a perfect fit. I am in favor of this project, and I love that that land not only would be developed with golf in mind, but with more paths, a park and perhaps even a ropes course. As for the SE park, you bet. The more space to be enjoyed, the better. A huge opportunity exists with the greenway project with flood control. Working closely with the city to create a space everyone can enjoy year-round will be vitally important. Crossing from ND to MN in Grand Forks you can see the wonderful green space they have established. We can do the same now that the project is moving forward.
Blasing: The Park District has done a great job with their short term and long-term projects. One of my goals is to support the Park District and find ways to improve the Park District’s offerings while staying in budget. The land next to the Maysa is a great example of using our property and expanding the offerings to the public. This can be done with a limited budget.
In regards to the golf course, Souris Valley Golf course is one of the nicest public courses in the state. It is well managed and well used by a great number of people. Of course, the flood plan might cause some issues with the golf course and we will need to look at the implications and the options. The proposed site of the new golf course is an excellent site and would offer additional opportunities for residents in addition to the golf. I would be in favor of the new golf course if the flood plan does make the current Souris River golf course practical for our golfers.
As far as the southeast park, I am all in favor of establishing parks for neighborhoods and families that can be done within our budgets. And, I feel this can be done.
Q: Are there gaps in the services provided by the park district that you believe the board needs to address, such as more bark parks, disc golf, splash pads or other recreational opportunities? Should there be more neighborhood parks?
Monley: One thing that has come up over and over again when speaking to citizens is that we need an indoor pool. While we have a fabulous pool at Roosevelt Park, it is only servicing the community 3-4 months a year. I also think we need to work on walkability and making use of the river perhaps with kayaking or festivals.
Henderson: I feel we need to upgrade the neighborhood parks that we have. If space is available, I think it’s important to have basketball courts, baseball diamonds and playgrounds in our neighborhood parks that are easily accessible to our children.
I think that we could use an additional bark park in another area of town and splash pads are always a welcome addition as the kids really enjoy them. We need activities to keep young families in our community. With that said, we also need to do our best to keep taxes affordable.
Sabol: I do not feel that there should be more neighborhood parks for the following reasons: A) Cost of purchasing land in the neighborhoods would be prohibitive, land is expensive and might be better suited for housing; B) We have many parks within the city limits with a lot of amenities that can be used, from splash pads, ball fields, playgrounds and open green spaces. C) We have many schools in the neighborhoods that have playgrounds that can and are used by children in the area, if needed maybe a cooperative agreement can be worked out with the schools.
When I served on the Park Board we had a community meeting to get input on what would be needed. One was an additional Bark Park on the east side. Jefferson Park was and is an ideal location. I am glad to see that the Board is looking into this area not only for our four legged friends but an area for people to use and enjoy.
As far as Disc Golf and splash pads, there are some plans for additional Disc Golf in the area west of town. I feel a study should be done on adding an additional splash pad before we jump into construction and funding.
Schmitt: As I said above, I think the Park District has done a good job in filling the needs of the community and the staff is always looking for other ideas and projects. I would support another one, two or three bark parks as needed in Minot. As I discussed above the disc golf is going to be added with the project at Maysa. I would support more splash pads throughout Minot. I go by the Radio City splash pad and it’s busy all the time. Splash pads are a great place for kids and the fact there is no entry fee is also a benefit. I believe more neighborhoods parks should be looked into and also mandating that new construction areas include a neighborhood park. I would also go out to neighborhoods in Minot and ask those people what they want in a neighborhood park. I would be interested in looking at an indoor swimming complex. The local swim club has been very successful in the past and I think there may a need to upgrade the swimming facilities. A new facility would also bring in bigger events and possibly a state high school meet. I think looking at the cost and partnering with some groups could make this feasible in the future.
Emery: There are needs for additional facilities. A Bark Park on the east side of Minot is something the board has looked at for the park land at Jefferson School. Hopefully, soon there will be disc golf at the land adjacent to Maysa Arena. We need to continue to move forward with upgrading a couple of neighborhood parks, namely Riverside and Polaris. To add more neighborhood parks, the land and equipment would need to be acquired so there also needs to be a balance on the economical side. Housing developments are suppose to set aside land for neighborhood parks, but there are loopholes in that requirement when more that one builder/developer is involved.
Olson: We have a good number of neighborhood parks in established neighborhoods. We need to make sure new developments see space set aside for new parks as the city grows. Disc golf could see another course with the development of the former landfill site, which is positive. A city our size with one bark park isn’t sufficient. That is a very popular spot, and another one would be well utilized. I’m all in favor of that. Splash pads are great entertainment and I love that there isn’t a cost now for the kids at the two we have. If we can build another perhaps on North Hill somewhere I would be in favor of that all the way.
Blasing: As a ‘dog lover,’ I believe it would be nice to have another dog park for our four-legged friends. There might be ways to incorporate a dog park with other recreational sites to save costs. Nevertheless, a dog park on the north end of Minot would be great for the residents.
Splash pads are a great recreational opportunity for families and most can be done without spending a lot of money. We should look for opportunities to have a few more splash parks in Minot.
Q: Do you feel the Maysa needs an additional sheet of ice?
Monley: I think that the Park Board needs to really utilize the resources we have like the All Seasons Arena before adding on to the Maysa Arena. However, I am willing to consider the extra sheet if facts prove it is necessary and the the community demonstrates its desire for an extra sheet.
Henderson: I would need to see additional numbers including current ice utilization before making this decision.
Sabol: I do not feel at the current time that Minot needs an additional ice rink at Maysa. We do not have enough land to construct such a rink. We still have access to the All Seasons Arena for ice practice, even if it might not be the most convenient area. Practice is out there and all tournaments are at the Maysa Arena.
Schmitt: At this time I don’t believe an additional sheet of ice is needed at Maysa. If the ASA is no longer be utilized then a long term plan may have to be looked at. This question is not easily answered yes or no. You have to look at the numbers of the Minot Hockey Boosters and Figure Skaters. If those numbers continue to grow and also other programs like sled hockey then maybe another rink will be needed. If another rink is needed in the future it should be built with money from other entities and not entirely by the Park District. If land is available at this time for future expansion I think the Park District needs to look into it.
Emery: With the addition of the Pepsi Rink, I do not believe at this time the use justifies entering into that discussion. Having been involved with Youth Hockey program, I believe the program as well as the Figure Skating program will continue to grow. With successful Minotauros, Minot State Men and Women Hockey, and Girls/Boys High School Hockey programs, the youth want to be on the ice, which may make a fourth sheet at Maysa Arena a potential need in the future. Presently with the All Season Arena ice in for 97 days in November to February, the users do not fill these four rinks. When the need exists, then it should be looked at.
Olson: The addition of the Pepsi Rink was a good one for Maysa. I think we don’t need a fourth sheet yet, but it may become needed in the future. With that in mind, I am totally in favor of looking into acquiring the land that would be needed to add on. If that opportunity were to present itself, it should be seriously considered. Minot does hockey well in fact it is something that sets us apart I feel from other communities. We can’t lose that.
Blasing: The most current addition to Maysa was the Pepsi Rink. WOW! What a great venue for Minot. The new rink has brought a tremendous amount of hockey to Minot that we never had before. This brings in extra revenue for the city, hotels, shopping, restaurants, etc. As Minot continues to grow, we may need to look at new sites but for right now, I feel we are fine.
Maysa and the addition of the Pepsi Rink is a perfect example of what can happen when the city, business community and Park District work together to help improve our city. Everyone benefits and we should be so proud of the rink it is one of the nicest rinks in the upper midwest.
Q: Which park services or facilities do you use most and what are your perceptions of how well those services are being delivered?
Monley: My family and I love Oak Park, Roosevelt Park, the zoo, the pool, the splash pads. We have started going to hockey games and really enjoy those. I love all of the happenings in the parks like Arts in the Parks, movies, and workout classes. I’m happy that there are draws to bring people into these great facilities. I think that the services are being delivered extremely well, but I know that staffing and turnover can be an issue, so I will be making supporting the employees a priority.
Henderson: We visit the zoo regularly and utilize bike/walking paths. With two children in hockey, we spend a lot of time at the Maysa arena and also utilize Jack Hoeven Park as our son is a part of Magic City Youth Baseball. These are all great things for our community which improve quality of life and also bring visitors to Minot.
Sabol: I am a big proponent of the Roosevelt Zoo, the best zoo in North Dakota. With the new construction that will be happening at the zoo for the 100 year anniversary, the zoo will be a tremendous showcase. The Aviary building, the original zoo building, will have its anniversary also.
Schmitt: My family has used many of the facilities the parks, zoo, bark park, golf course to include wee links and paths. My family has been involved with hockey and we have used the Maysa since it was built and up to this day. The Park District has done a great job maintaining the facilities and properties. Ron Merritt and his staff have done a great job in making sure all Park District properties are up to standard. I know that many people from out of town that visit Maysa are in awe of the place. I’ve had numerous people tell me that the new Pepsi arena is one of the nicest rinks in the Midwest and it was done right.
Emery: I frequently use Oak Park, Roosevelt Park Zoo, Golf Course and Maysa Arena. The services are delivered in an Outstanding manner. The citizens of Minot should be proud of the employees who maintain all park facilities. They take pride in their work and provide facilities and services that are fantastic.
Olson: Growing up in Minot, I learned to play baseball at Green Valley Park, then competed at Corbett Field. I loved visiting the Roosevelt Park Zoo and was always up for a bike ride through Roosevelt and Oak Parks. Now, with three kids, I enjoy using these same spots where I had so much fun growing up, with them. We have a responsive Park District that strives to bring forth projects that the community will use. I think the delivery has been great, and it would be an honor to be a part of that process moving forward.
Blasing: Over the years, I have had the pleasure to use almost all the park services with my family and son Derek. And, I continue to be impressed with the facilities and the staff who work in the venues. As residents, we should be very proud of all Park services and the great team of people who work for the Park District.
Q: Are you satisfied with the park district’s spending level? If there is a need to tighten the budget, what would guide your decisions?
Monley: I feel satisfied with the spending level. Recently there seems to have been a lot going out for big projects, which is why I am a interested to hear about how much the golf course project would cost. I think the best thing to do now is to maintain and work projects in segments, so we don’t get ourselves into a large debt. I just really want to make sure that the Park Board is transparent in sharing what is being spent and why with the taxpayers.
Henderson: The Park District has done a good job of providing new activities in Minot and keeping taxes relatively low. I think we look for more ways to utilize the facilities that we currently have to get the most out of them.
Sabol: As a former Park Board member one of things we tried to maintain was to keep the tax increases to a minimum if we raised them at all. I am pleased to see the Park District continues to keep increases at a minimum. The board needs to have communication with the city if increases are needed. As everybody knows prices continue to rise, even for building materials and such.
Schmitt: The Park District has done a very good job on keeping the costs down on the projects they have done. Taxes have gone up in Minot in the last few years but the Park District’s mills have stayed level. I think there are some projects that can be done that wouldn’t increase the tax burden, such as some I’ve talked about above. If the Park District is going to look at a ‘high cost’ project it needs to explore all avenues of funding to include state and federal. If a new swimming facility were to be built the groups that benefit most need to pay for a portion of the costs. I do not endorse the raising of taxes, however if something would be beneficial to the community and sensible I would be in favor of looking into it.
Emery: The Park District’s portion of our property tax is about 10.6 percent. This past tax season, the increase for the Park District tax was 2.8 percent or 1.6 percent of the increase we all saw. The Park Board has done very well with the monies entrusted to it during the time I have been on the board. That being said, I believe we can get by with less tax dollars. I have asked that the 2019 budget is a zero increase in the taxes to the citizens of Minot. I believe that can be accomplished without detracting from any services or facilities. What ultimately has guided my decisions in the budget process is what is best first for the citizens of Minot and weighing that for what are the needs and desires of our partners and finally what our users are asking for.
Olson: Tax bills went up for pretty much everyone, but it was refreshing to see that the Park District budget remained relatively level. In fact, tax dollars collected actually dropped slightly (while the mill level did increase due to decreased valuations). I appreciate the fiscal discipline and look forward to a chance to help keep spending in check. Should tightening be needed, I would use the citizens as a guide. Facilities that are used most should be maintained, and those not used as much, could be a spot to save some dollars. Hopefully, it wouldn’t get to that point.
Blasing: As a business owner, I am always looking for ways to cut expenses and increase efficiencies. But, we also want to keep pace with all the progressive cities in North Dakota and make sure we are offering the best recreational opportunities to families. I am a big believer in always looking for ways to improve our quality of life in Minot. By improving our quality of life in Minot, we retain more residents, attract more new families and ultimately grow the tax base, which usually provides an opportunity for tax relief. Therefore, we need to manage our budgets, look for ways to reduce expenses that can be done through greater efficiencies and look for opportunities to grow our park district offerings.
Q. What knowledge and background would you bring to the position?
Monley: Recent demographic studies show that Minot is getting younger, and it is important to have younger families having a say in their communities. That is the perspective I would bring to the Park Board. I think that my collaborative spirit will aid me. I spearheaded the Build Minot project with the Minot Public Library and feel that I have gained insight into our community members and their wants; this project really helped me to understand the value of getting community feedback. I really think that the Park Board is not as transparent with the citizens of Minot about what projects they are working on as they could be. I also think that the Park Board needs to work in conjunction with the City in a better way. I also have board experience, as I have been on the Minot Area Council of the Arts executive board for a combined 8 years.
Henderson: I believe my construction background would be beneficial for this position. With new projects in the works, we need to be able to look for ways to save money. Looking for potential problems before they arise can help save money in the end.
Sabol: Being involved with many city organizations from Golden Kiwanis, church, volunteering and yes some city government I feel that I can bring a knowledge of the budgeting process and local needs. As a former Agricultural Instructor for 30 years, I served on numerous local, state and national committees; along with this I also served as state President of the North Dakota Agricultural Teachers and the State Vocational Association. As mentioned before as a former Park Board member I can bring the knowledge and working to the board.
Schmitt: I was raised in Minot and have raised my family in this community. I’ve been involved with community activities and projects in the past. I was on the board and past president of the Minot Hockey Boosters. Also I was on the North Dakota Officials Board through the North Dakota Activities Association. I was involved with the building of the original Maysa and the Pepsi arena addition. I’m currently helping out with the old landfill project by Maysa arena. I’m interested in being involved with community projects and feel I have a good grasp on how to get things done and what the people of Minot would like.
Emery: I have 14 years experience as the general manager of Maysa Arena and four years of experience as a commissioner for the Minot Park District. Having been an employee I have recognized some ways to better utilize resources and enhance income streams. The experience in developing the budget for Maysa Arena for 14 years and involvement in the budget process from the board perspective is valuable in going forward with a number of projects in the short term and long term. I have held many leadership positions in varied organizations. As a board director for North Star Community Credit Union, Minot Youth for Christ and US Ice Rink Association, I am involved in many budgetary processes, prioritizing personnel actions and developing strategic plans for these varied organizations. This experience will continue to assist in leading and overseeing the Minot Park District.
Olson: I have never run for public office, but have sat on numerous boards. United Way, MAGIC Fund, Minot Area Community Foundation to name some. I feel I work well with others and can help deliver a great plan moving forward for one of our communities biggest assets our Parks Department. Mr. Merritt and his staff do great work, and it would be an honor to be chosen to help oversee our Park District.
Blasing: I have a sincere interest in working with the city, park district and the people of Minot to constantly improve our quality of life while staying in budget. As a business owner, I can help the district in budgeting, spending plans and expense control. In addition, I am not moving and my family is not moving from Minot. Therefore, I will do every thing possible to keep taxes low while still improving our city so more people want to stay and more people want to move to the nicest city in North Dakota!