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Minot City Council postpones searches for landfill, city manager hiring

Council saves landfill, manager hiring discussions for later

The searches for a new landfill site and for a city manager will be somewhat delayed.

The Minot City Council decided Monday to postpone hiring a consultant to investigate landfill sites until next year, while the manager search is paused only until a better job description is developed.

Council member Mark Jantzer suggested a delay in pursuing a new location for a landfill expansion due to the current economic uncertainties and the impacts expected to city finances. In deciding last year to expand the existing landfill, the council limited the degree of expansion after hearing from the public that further expansion at the existing site isn’t desirable. Instead, the city determined to begin searching for another location that it can make available for waste disposal in 15 to 20 years when the current site is exhausted.

“I wanted to put on the table that we maybe would want to consider a one-year delay of this project in the event that we need those funds for some other purpose,” Jantzer said.

“When we made the decision to look for a new landfill site, we made a commitment to the citizens, and I think we need to show good faith in following through with that,” council member Stephan Podrygula said. “On the other hand, times are not good, and they could get very bad very quickly, and I would feel more comfortable about having something in reserve.”

The city has set aside $350,000 within the sanitation department to hire a consultant. The $350,000 is a small part of the significant cost of acquiring land and building a new landfill. Public Works Director Dan Jonasson said the city could spend as much as $1.5 million just in consultant services before the multi-year project is completed.

The council voted 6-1 to postpone action on a new landfill until July 2021.

Council member Paul Pitner, who voted against it, said kicking it down the road is just the start to killing the process.

“I’d like to see us start moving this project and then advancing it so that we can get some real answers. Whether there’s another option out there or not, I don’t know, but we won’t have the answers if we don’t ask the questions,” he said.

“The circumstances now are so chaotic, are so volatile, that if we have a chance to pull back on something without hurting a project or hurting our staff or constituents or citizens, I think we should take advantage of that opportunity,” Podrygula responded.

On the matter of recruiting a city manager, the council talked about delaying up to three months before deciding to postpone only until the next meeting on July 20.

Council member Carrie Evans had asked for three months to first give thought to a city strategic plan.

“Part of the problem with not having a strategic plan is it allows for the tail to wag the dog. It allows for an individual to come into a position like a city manager position, and if there is a void – there is no mission, there is no value statement, there is no strategic plan – that person really can be assertive and fill in those gaps for us. And I, for one, do not want those gaps filled in by somebody who may be coming in from another place,” Evans said.

Mayor Shaun Sipma said the city has had a goal to develop a strategic plan, but it would be burdensome to do that in three months, particularly without a city manager to lead.

“I think it would be a monumental mistake to kick that down the road farther, without knowing whether we have qualified candidates out there,” Sipma said of the search, “or at least giving direction to our city employees that we’re serious about finding the right person for the job.”

Council member Tom Ross agreed the council needs to find a city manager to help with strategic planning.

“We need a captain of the ship right now. We can’t wait,”he said. “We need to find our qualified applicants, and we need to move forward.”

Podrygula raised concern about the existing job description for a city manager, which talks about “management and control” and physical skills such being able to kneel, crouch or crawl. He suggested developing a clear picture of the person being sought and beginning a search in October.

Acting City Manager David Lakefield said the city has projects already stretching its resources, making strategic planning difficult over the short term. He said new software still being put in place will improve data collection, enabling the city to do a better job of strategic planning.

The city reached out to seven recruiting firms for proposals for searching out applicants, finding only one interested. Human Resources Director Lisa Jundt said the city has received four applications already through local advertising. One is a current city employee.

The council agreed to add the city manager position to the July 20 council agenda for discussion purposes.

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