Council sets budget priorities
Flood system maintenance to be costly
Maintenance of the flood control project being built through Minot will be costly. The Maple Diversion, once built, is estimated to alone cost more than $3 million a year to operate and maintain, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The Minot City Council began conversation about how the city might address those costs during a budget meeting last Friday.
City Manager Harold Stewart mentioned setting up a permanent revenue stream for flood infrastructure maintenance. Regarding the Maple Diversion’s $3 million, he said, “We believe we can do it cheaper than that, but it’s going to be a substantial amount of money every year, and we don’t currently have that in the budget.”
During budget tours in May, council members learned of an $8,000 increase a monthly electric bill to test the pumping stations, which is necessary to ensure they are working and will work in a flood.
“Not only do we not want the infrastructure to fail, but should we ever have a flood event in the future, we do want the partnership and the support of the Army Corps of Engineers to come help us. If they put the time and energy investment into helping us build this infrastructure and we don’t maintain it properly, they won’t be here to help us,” Stewart said.
Council member Mark Jantzer stated flood control is a commitment the city has made.
“We need to figure out a way to fund it,” he said, suggesting a plan be developed to begin with the 2024 budget.
The council voted to pursue a combination of utility bill surcharges and property tax levy.
Public Works Director Dan Jonasson said flood control operation and maintenance costs of about $500,000 a year are being absorbed into department spending. In addition, a fund needs to be created for future repairs, he said, suggesting setting aside $200,000 a year. For instance, the graffiti protection on the flood walls needs to be updated periodically.
Council member Scott Burlingame suggested looking at the sales tax for funds once the Northwest Area Water Supply project is fully funded. City Finance Director David Lakefield said the city remains about 4.5 years away from paying for NAWS.
“That’s with the current estimates,” Lakefield said.” The cost has risen dramatically in the last few years.”
Jonasson explained the hope is to have water coming from Lake Sakakawea into NAWS by the end of 2024, but other pieces remain that will delay full completion of the project until about 2029.
“It’s certainly a statewide issue,” Podrygula said of flood projects across the state. “The state is sitting with over $9 billion in one bucket of money, and as much as legislators might want to gratify their constituents, we need to work with them in a partnership to have statewide funding for this kind of thing. I don’t think Minot can afford it on their own. It benefits the entire basin, not just the county but the entire basin. It benefits the state and it benefits the nation. If Minot is incapacitated because of flood waters, our national defense suffers. So I think some sharing of responsibility is necessary here.”
The council also indicated a desire to attack some of the city’s $600 million in infrastructure needs by prioritizing projects such as replacing cast iron pipes. Council members plan to prioritize salaries and benefits to retain employees rather than consider new positions not mission essential. For instance, a new fire station will be staffed but most new positions will not be considered.
The council voted to prioritize the space needs of the police department. The option to renovate the former city hall to expand the department into that space is conservatively estimated at $20 million.