Good to see Parks, Rec merger talks progress

When fair-minded people set a goal for themselves and are willing to work together to bring about change, progress can be pretty quick.

Witness how quickly merger talks between Minot Parks and the Minot Recreation Commission continue to move forward.

It wasn’t that long ago that it was an idea. Supported by many in town and numerous local leaders, including Mayor Shaun Sipma, that idea coalesced into a plan and now with the parties working together, some of the major obstacles have been overcome or are in the process of being overcome.

At a meeting of the Parks and Recreation Ad Hoc Committee last week, City Manager Tom Barry discussed remaining challenges, steps already taken and what next steps were in the process. As it turns out, some of what seemed like they would be the greatest challenges are being addressed in a timely and efficient manner. Among the items listed by Barry were the transfer of recreation employees to the Park District, adjusting of city mills and budgetary concerns, a joint powers agreement and leases for city facilities.

Ron Merritt, parks director, subsequently addressed the committee and informed them that progress had been made on both the mill levy and pension issues, two items that were earlier identified as possible sticking points with the potential to add substantial delay to the project.

Yes, there are still points to work out. Yes, some in the community still have questions, particularly about financial impact. But negotiators have made quick work of many issues.

The group expected the issue of the transfer in funding from the city to Parks and Recreation to be addressed in the next session of the state Legislature. Noting that possibility, Sipma said he would like the timetable for consolidation, or “go date,” to “be at the end of the legislative session” which would be in late April of next year. It was the consensus of the group that, if everything appears to be going as planned, some elements of the transition process could begin prior to any finalization.

Progress has been good despite questions remaining to be addressed. Members of the public can express their opinions. A public input meeting is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 10 at 6 p.m. at the Roosevelt Park Zoo.