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Change in gathering space funding would be a hard sell

It isn’t as if Minot’s city council and administration have had many easy efforts to win over public support for their proposals in the past few years.

Angered by taxes and what many see as failed projects such as the downtown parking ramps, or else seen as slow or unnecessary projects, the mood of the electorate is notably skeptical.

Skeptical positions, at the least, of many in regard to a downtown gathering space are also not uncommon, either because of the entire project concept or because of execution to date by the city.

Tuesday night, city council member Josh Wolsky referenced concerns about several uncertainties in a broader discussion of the future of the project – uncertainties over the project footprint, design, partners and operational aspects.

While Wolsky’s concerns are certainly valid, at least part of his proposal to address the gathering space issue would be one tough sell to the public. Wolsky presented suggestions that included potentially moving the gathering space out of the National Disaster Resilience Program and seeking other types of funds to complete it. Wolsky asserted that he was presenting “the framework of what I think is a life raft.”

Wolsky believes that unshackled from the requirements set forth by the federal government, local authorities would be better able to make the project work at the current proposed site.

Funding would be the objectionable part of the proposal. Without the Resilience Program dollars dedicated to the gathering space project, the funds would have to come from somewhere else – and that would make local taxpayers uncomfortable in the atmosphere today. There would have to be more specifics available about the funding to overcome public sentiment.

There’s no question the gathering space faces numerous challenges at the moment, including there being less than two weeks left on the council’s deadline for property acquisition and a looming federal deadline for spending the money apportioned to the project. Those are in addition to real questions about public support for the project as is, and also about the proposed location.

Even though the city council voted to table discussion of altering plans for the gathering space until after the Sept. 30 deadline for property acquisition, and despite the need for possible creative ways of addressing the project’s challenges, concepts that place the burden of funding on local taxpayers is highly unlikely to garner support.

Surely, city leaders must be aware of this.

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