City’s best option probably to sell Walders St. house

Under ideal circumstances, a single-family home owned by the City of Minot would one day become a gateway to a greenspace along the river. Should the city end up with a scenic, active greenway along the river – as many envision – it would give Minot a great option for use of the home and property at 338 Walders Street.

There are no ideal circumstances today and based on analysis of funding, it seems unlikely the city would be able to do this anytime soon, and in the meantime, the property would only weigh the city down. Given financial realities, this is not the time to cling to this particular dream. The property should be sold – not in a fire sale, but instead along a timeline to maximize return. The city should be in the business of unloading property that isn’t vital to public interest, given the financial challenges faced locally and the sentiment of a public still reeling from their property tax bills at the end of 2017.

Minot Daily News is intrigued at the greenway vision, supports it in concept and looks forward to a realistic plan to re-energize Minot with an active open space along the river. Other priorities simply rank higher at this time.

In discussing the issue, Minot’s city council, sitting as Committee of the Whole, a pair of interesting perspectives that should be considered. Council members questioned the feasibility of the originally proposed use for the house. Council member Josh Wolsky also cited a number of problems with the way the property was acquired.

“The first thing that jumps out at me is we have been acquiring property after property after property down there in the flood zone with appraisals and reviewals and here we have an example that seems to have skipped that entire process. Looking back on this I am very troubled by that,” he said.

MDN calls for Wolsky to lead the call for an independent investigation into the acquisition of this home and any other properties that did not undergo appropriate process prior to purchase with public money. A fact-finding body, including community members, should be empowered to review the integrity of these deals. MDN would support a widening of this body’s mandate to include review of numerous previous city acquisitions and development deals and a forensic reconstruction of said deals. Minot’s reform-minded council and strong administration have actively been trying to un-do bad deals entered into by the city. Why not engage experts and the public in an open procedure to guarantee that those responsible for questionable agreements don’t retain the authority to do so today; and those responsible for some of Minot’s bad deals are unmasked and held accountable? The resulting good will from taxpayers would be a powerful, powerful mandate for the current government, which has few links to the past.

Meanwhile, council member Stephan Podrygula said he would like to see charitable groups have an opportunity to acquire the house, which, he said, might have usefulness as a homeless shelter. There would appear to be potential here, although recouping public dollars should remain the priority. Podrygula might act as council liaison to meet with non-profits and funding agencies to explore this possibility. It is a noble enough objective to explore.

In any event, the city cannot be in a position in which it holds on to unnecessary property at the time taxpayers have a hard time meeting the twin obligations of higher property taxes and (for some) escalating flood insurance rates. It is a visual that will strike many as unsavory.