The bell tolls for THU

At the Public Works and Safety Committee meeting Wednesday afternoon, the words “evictions” and “fines” were uttered several times as sitting members discussed the dwindling future of Federal Emergency Management Agency-provided temporary housing units in Minot.

Fifty-eight units are still being used on private property, down from around 120 at the beginning of this year. While the City Council has previously set a deadline of Oct. 1 for their use, at a special meeting on Aug. 22 it voted to waive fees and certified letter requirements for Interim Use permits that would allow residents to continue inhabiting the structures if they needed.

But applications for the permits have to be filed, and soon. So far, only about 15 have been submitted. The planning department has sent out letters requesting property owners update it on their situation, but city planner Donna Bye explained to the committee that more than 30 still have not replied.

“We’re approaching that very closely,” Bye said of the deadline. A second wave of letters may be forthcoming, but she commented that “a knock on the door would be most beneficial.”

Preparatory to a last minute influx of applications, the City Council chambers have been reserved for Sept. 25, for a 3 p.m. ad hoc committee to hear individual requests for extension. The committee approved the idea, and it will move to the Council for consideration.

Also discussed was a request by Minot Public Schools for permission to close off a portion of Southeast 11th Street, between 5th and Eastern avenues. This would only be in effect on school days, between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m., in order to give staff and faculty at Sunnyside Elementary School room to park their vehicles. The school’s lot is currently the site of modular classrooms put up to accommodate an excess of students enrolled at the school.

“They were short of parking anyway,” said the school system’s building and grounds supervisor, Randy Renfandt, who added that parking has been squeezeddown to only eight spots at the moment. He estimates the problem will persist at least for the year.

Because the closure is on a residential roadway it is not expected that traffic will be adversely affected, and homeowners will still have normal use of their driveways. Parking would likely feature diagonal spots to one side of the roadway, indicated by hashes along the curb so as not to mark up the road surface too much. School staff would be responsible for closing off and reopening the road to traffic each day, and will pay for signs and any additional demarcation it requires.

For as long as he can remember, Renfandt explained that Roosevelt Elementary School has had a similar system in place because of its playground located just across the road, chaining off access to Northeast 7th Avenue between 6th and 8th streets during school hours. Rather than a chain, Sunnyside would put up traffic cones.

Several ordinances and grant applications were consented to, and bids awarded for the coming winter’s salt and sand supplies. Three bids for 400 tons of salt and two for 4,500 tons of washed sand were received, with the lowest of each awarded to DR Transport at $24,500 and Sundre Sand & Gravel at $60,660, respectively. Monies will come from the street maintenance budget.

Rebid for the third time will be the construction of two 225-stall parking structures in downtown Minot, with the ability to build low-income apartment units above these. The previous two rounds have come in well above the estimated cost of the project, with each structure expected to cost around $4.5 million. Funding for these has been incorporated into Minot’s Community Development Block Grant action plan, contributing around $5.5 million to the project; an additional $3 million will come from the Magic Fund, with the remaining cost covered by the project’s developer. The committee acknowledged that bids will open on Friday, passing the matter on to the Council without recommendation for consideration at its Sept. 3 meeting.