Candidates offer visions for park system

From upgrading neighborhood parks to building an indoor pool, candidates seeking seats on the Minot Park Board have dreams for filling in gaps in Minot’s recreational opportunities.

Running are Randi Monley, Stephen Henderson, Richard Sabol, Mike Schmitt, Chuck Emery, Perry Olson and Steven Blasing.

Generally, the seven candidates running for the three spots in the June 12 election are satisfied with the development plans and fiscal responsibility of the current park board. They also have a few ideas of their own, based on responses to a Minot Daily News questionnaire.

“One thing that has come up over and over again when speaking to citizens is that we need an indoor pool,” Monley said. “While we have a fabulous pool at Roosevelt Park, it is only servicing the community three-four months a year. I also think we need to work on walkability and making use of the river, perhaps with kayaking or festivals.”

“I feel we need to upgrade the neighborhood parks that we have,” Henderson said. “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, a former park board member seeking to return, doesn’t support more neighborhood parks at this time or splash pads without more study. He said cost of purchasing land and the number of existing parks and schools with playgrounds make more neighborhood parks unnecessary. However, he likes the existing park board plan for a dirt bike and cross-country track at the former landfill area near Maysa Arena.

” 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,” he said.

Schmitt said he can support more bark parks and splash pads.

“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,” he said. “I think looking at the cost and partnering with some groups could make this feasible in the future.”

A current park board member seeking re-election to a second term, Emery said there’s a need for the bark park planned for east Minot and the disc golf proposed for a new park on former landfill property 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 supposed to set aside land for neighborhood parks, but there are loopholes in that requirement when more than one builder/developer is involved,” he said.

“We need to make sure new developments see space set aside for new parks as the city grows,” Olson said. “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 also would like to see another bark park.

“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,” he said. “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.”

The candidates agreed that new development needs to be balanced against the tax burden.

“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,” Monley said.

“The park district has done a good job of providing new activities in Minot and keeping taxes relatively low,” Henderson said. “I think we look for more ways to utilize the facilities that we currently have to get the most out of them.”

Sabol said during his previous term, the board tried to keep tax increases to a minimum, and he is pleased the board has been continuing in that direction.

“I think there are some projects that can be done that wouldn’t increase the tax burden,” Schmitt said. “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.”

“I believe we can get by with less tax dollars,” Emery said. “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.”

“I appreciate the fiscal discipline and look forward to a chance to help keep spending in check,” Olson said. “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.”

“As a business owner,” Blasing said, “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.”

Full responses from the candidates to the entire Minot Daily News questionnaire can be found online at minotdailynews.com by selecting the Election 2018 link. Scroll down the right-hand column on the home page for the link.

Minot will have a single polling place on June 12 in Minot Municipal Auditorium. It will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Early voting will take place Monday through Friday, June 4 to 8, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. in Rooms 106 and 108 in the Ward County Administration Building.