Bringing City Hall to your neighborhood

One of my goals as mayor is to create opportunities for members of our community to interact with the City of Minot, including myself, City Council members, City Manager Tom Barry, department heads, and other employees. Too often municipal governments are painted as nameless, faceless entities, when in fact they are made up of hundreds of hard-working employees, including your family members, your friends, and your neighbors. We’ll be holding several town hall meetings with the chance to meet some of the faces behind the City of Minot and provide an opportunity to exchange ideas and information.

I also want to make these opportunities as convenient as possible for residents to attend by holding the town hall meetings in locations throughout the community, rather than at City Hall or another City government location. That’s why we’ve scheduled a town hall event for Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Perkett Elementary School, located at 2000 5th Ave. SW.

Certainly there are topics we want to cover at this week’s meeting, but we also want to hear from those in attendance, so there’s an open discussion period, too.

Among the issues we’re preparing to discuss is the 2019 North Dakota Legislature, and some of the legislation that will affect Minot moving forward.

Lawmakers spent 76 days in session, and approved a record $14.7 billion overall budget, with about $4.8 billion in general fund spending for 2019-21.

Within the approved budget, there was some very good news for Minot. Senate Bill 2020 included $82.5 million in funding for the Mouse River Enhanced Flood Protection Project. In addition, the Northwest Area Water Supply project was allocated approximately $100 million to continue work on completing the system to bring reliable water to communities throughout northwest North Dakota.

House Bill 1066, affectionately named Operation Prairie Dog, was passed and signed into law by Gov. Doug Burgum. The bill will distribute funds throughout the state for city, county, township, and airport infrastructure projects beginning in the summer of 2021. I don’t need to tell you that Minot has some serious ongoing infrastructure needs, so this bill has great potential to positively impact our community. In addition, HB1066 also tweaked the formula used to provide funds to hub cities in western North Dakota, including Minot. The changes mean Minot is projected to receive $5.3 million annually to help offset the costs associated with growth from the energy industry. Previously, the City had received approximately $3.55 million annually under the hub city formula.

One major disappointment was the failure of Senate Bill 2275, which would have created a low interest loan fund that cities could have tapped for infrastructure projects. Again, with flood control, NAWS, and other major infrastructure projects scheduled in the upcoming years in Minot, we would have benefited greatly from this opportunity by essentially having access to a low interest funding source for much of our flood protection project. But with SB2275’s failure, we could pay an additional $100+ million in interest during the life of our bonding for these projects. SB2275’s rejection was a lost opportunity for Minot, and for other entities in North Dakota.

There is much progress to discuss about the flood control project. Perhaps the biggest recent news was that the $87 million Maple Diversion project received a major boost in April when Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, signed the Chief’s Report to advance the project. The next step is to obtain authorization for the project from Congress, and then work with state and federal partners to secure funding. But the Corps’ approval was a critical step toward this phase of the overall flood control project becoming a reality.

Another reality facing many Minot residents is federal flood insurance mandates. Yes, we were successful in lobbying the Federal Emergency Management Agency to revise the preliminary maps with updated guidance and science that resulted in a delay until at least 2020, but take a look at the calendar: It’s already May of 2019. That means 2020 isn’t far away, and neither are the flood insurance mandates that could affect 3,200 properties in Minot and another 800 properties in the two-mile extraterritorial zone. This town hall meeting will serve as a good reminder to those potentially affected by the mandates to take action sooner rather than later.

We’re certainly prepared to discuss these topics and a lot more on Wednesday, but we encourage residents to share with us their thoughts on issues they find important. That’s one of the purposes of a town hall: To listen to the concerns of our community members. But a town hall meeting doesn’t work if we’re the only ones talking; we need and want interaction with members of the public. We welcome this opportunity to share facts and updates on what’s happening in our city, and we hope you take advantage of this town hall meeting.

See you Wednesday.

Sincerely, City Hall

You can find more about what’s happening at the City of Minot at minotnd.org, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. We’d also encourage you to sign up for our monthly electronic newsletter on our website.

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