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Scott Burlingame — Minot City Council Q&A

Scott Burlingame wants to bring his experiences in community engagement and organizational budgeting to the Minot City Council.

Burlingame, executive director at Independence, Inc., is one of five candidates running for three seats on the Minot City Council in the June 9 city election. His local projects have included working as part of a stakeholders group to fund Minot’s first family homeless shelter using National Disaster Resilience Program dollars through the Department of Housing and Urban Development. He also serves as chairman of the Minot Area Recovery Organization, a startup nonprofit tasked with addressing the local addiction crisis.

Burlingame says his experience in engaging with the community will aid the city in bringing the right people to the table to ensure get things get done right and save the taxpayer money. He answered the following questions from the Minot Daily News regarding city government.

Does the city need more office space, and if so, what do you feel is the best option to create more space?

I have had the opportunity to tour our City Hall, and there is no question that our city employees work area is not conducive to a modern and productive work environment. The long term effects of this will be lost productivity and increased turnover.

Past City Councils have been able to acquire roughly $4 million from the National Disaster Resilience(NDR) Fund to pay for a new City Hall, however, as with most federal moneys, that investment comes with strings attached. In this case, the City must remodel an existing building, and that building must be in a Renaissance Zone. In Minot, the Renaissance Zone is essentially the downtown area.

The current City Council voted last month to move forward with the purchase of the former Wells Fargo building as the home of the new City Council. Cost estimates for that building is around $9 million.

While our current economic situation is going to dictate extreme cost saving measures, I think passing up the $4 million of federal funding for the new City Hall would be fiscally irresponsible. Pushing the project into the indefinite future will mean a higher future bill for the taxpayers of Minot.

What is your position on the council’s decision to terminate City Manager Tom Barry? What should the city do differently in developing a city manager contract and establishing a positive work environment in the future?

I would like to express my support for the employees of the City of Minot. It is extremely disappointing an independent outside council found they were subjected to a hostile work environment. This is an embarrassment for the City of Minot and is counterproductive to efforts to make our community stronger.

We must learn every hard lesson we can from this situation and build an environment that fosters trust and productivity moving forward. This includes working to establish bottom up accountability procedures, no wrong door for employee complaints or concerns, and the implantation of 360° evaluations for all high level city employees.

I believe the City Manager should serve at the pleasure of the City Council. I will never support any public employee being given a multiyear contract or any sort of a golden parachute.

What would be your goals for the National Disaster Resilience Program as the city works to designate and spend funds by September 2022?

Knowing the current economic climate, I would like to see the City work to extend that September 2022 deadline and to modify the program to meet our current city needs.

The biggest goal of the project should always be flood control and flood control related expenses.

In regards to building a more resilient community, my top two priorities are education and housing. I fully support all efforts that increase career and technical education opportunities and to improve and modernize our existing low and moderate income housing.

The coronavirus pandemic has affected the city’s revenues by an amount estimated at more than $6 million, which would be partially offset by a council decision to delay construction of a fire station and City Hall retaining wall. How do you feel the City of Minot should respond to that potential shortfall and what do you see as areas of cost savings that could be either immediate or long term?

Unfortunately, I worry the shortfall may be way more than $6 million by the time the year is done. I agree with the efforts taken to postpone some projects. I would also support a temporary hiring freeze of city employees and I would challenge the department heads to find additional savings in their budgets.

Long term, our city must look at changing how we conduct business in order to create efficiencies and limit long term economic commitments. There are numerous best practices from around the country Minot can adapt that will ensure our city is more fiscally responsible.

What is one initiative or project you would like to see the city pursue in the next four years?

Using the NDR Funds to create a Career and Technical Center for the City of Minot is very important to increase our local economic strength. Our community has a skills gap in the areas of nursing, information technology, welding and other technical areas. We need to leverage the funding available to the City to build a collaboration with the State Board of Higher Education, Minot State, and local industry to train people to fill these important jobs.

What are your top three priorities when it comes to city spending?

a. Balancing the budget in a way that ensures there is no tax increase.

b. Flood Control

c. Infrastructure including road projects, water, and sewer.

Please describe your background and the perspectives you would bring to the city council.

Minot is not the community I was born in, but Minot is the community I call home. It is the community, I am raising my kids in, in which I have coached baseball, volunteered, and developed great friendships. Minot has been very good to me and the people whom I love. I am running because I want to give back to this city and to make it a better place to live, work, and play for everyone.

I have been employed in leadership roles within the nonprofit community for over 20 years, including the last 10 as the Executive Director of Independence, Inc. During my career, I have served on various boards, councils and commissions.

I have extensive experience in working with community stakeholders, nonprofits, the business sector, communities of faith, and representatives from different government agencies to get things done.

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