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Keeping gathering space alive

Council continues to explore two site options

This third site proposed for a gathering space in downtown Minot is located east of Third Street Southeast. Jill Schramm

The Minot City Council is keeping alive two potential locations for a downtown gathering space, despite the possibility that one might not be available for purchase.

The council voted Monday to seek clarification from Trinity Health on its decision not to sell its parking lot next to Broadway “at this time.” It also plans to inquire whether the owner of a third property might want to sell.

John Zakian, Minot’s National Disaster Resilience Program manager, said a closer look at the third site shows it lies outside the floodplain. The property is situated just north of the railroad tracks crossing Third Street near First Avenue Southeast and is owned by Gaylin and Nadean Schmidt.

Council member Shannon Straight said the city should move on from the Trinity site.

“They can’t proceed, and I don’t think we should read anything more into that. We’ve been told numerous times the clock’s ticking. So, let’s move on to site three,” he said.

“I think they owe us a little bit of clarification,” council member Stephan Podrygula said of Trinity. “If they’re talking about a month or two, I have no problems. If they’re talking about not knowing and being delayed in their process of finding a new campus, that’s a different matter. We can’t be sitting around forever.”

Podrygula said he believes the best site was the one near the Parker Center, which the council abandoned after being unable to negotiate property purchases.

“I personally am not sure that I could go with site three because of its remote location,” he said. “This one on Broadway, I think, could be made workable. I originally didn’t like it, but I think it could be made workable.”

Council President Mark Jantzer recounted that the gathering space was proposed because during the flood, the city’s major parks were flooded and there wasn’t a suitable gathering place.

“That’s not necessarily true anymore. There are other places, and so that gives me pause,” he said. He added he would like to believe that this third site will materialize into a gathering space.

“But I’m not terribly optimistic after what we’ve seen transpire here in the last attempts,” he said.

“I think we also want to be looking at a plan B – what we do if site three doesn’t pan out any better than the first two have,” he said. “We’re kidding ourselves if we don’t recognize that this may not pan out the way we’d hoped, and so we better have a different approach, whether that’s giving the money back or whether that’s diverting it to some other part of the proposal.”

The council approved a motion that directs Zakian to gain a clarification from Trinity, inquire of the Schmidts and bring an answer back no later than Feb. 29. The final vote was 6-1, with Josh Wolsky voting against.

Wolsky had supported taking a step back from the project and re-evaluating the criteria and re-identifying the goals.

“Prior to finding those answers I think we’re going to continue to sort of butt our heads against what we want to accomplish with this particular project,” he said. Saying it’s time to cut bait, he noted, “It’s time to take a more critical step back and evaluate the project in its entirety, how it fits inside of the NDR program, whether that’s the right vehicle or whether that’s a partner vehicle in some form or whether the project’s appropriate for the public sector at this point in any form.”

“I’d like us to fish first a little bit longer before we cut bait, but to be honest with you, I’m getting to that point too,” Podrygula said. “In good faith, we need to make the effort to look at these last two options, and if the handwriting is on the wall, we hear that very quickly, then we move to total re-evaluation. But we made a commitment to the government. We made a commitment to the citizens that we would pursue these three options.”

“This is what we said we would do,” council member Paul Pitner agreed. “Let’s do it.”

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