Minot Park Board holds special meeting

Members of the Minot Park Board convened for a special meeting Wednesday, in part to hear from the city’s public works department about the flood protection plan currently being developed and how it might affect various park district facilities.

The long-term, multiple-stage flood project will eventually span not just along the banks of the Souris River in Minot, but from Sherwood to Westhope.

“It’s looking at the total picture,” said Dan Jonasson, director of public works in Minot, who delivered the presentation.

Due to the cost and considerable preparation involved with such a large-scale effort, in Minot itself the flood protection work would be broken down into 18 phases. Three were of interest at the meeting, with the park district wondering if, where, and how soon levee construction should alter its plans to repair trails, particularly one spanning between Jack Hoeven Baseball Complex to 16th Avenue Northwest atop the present north bank levee.

Other phases will run along Railway Avenue from Broadway to Northeast Third Street, and at Forest Road, the site of the Maple diversion channel.

Together, Jonasson estimates the two phases would cost about $26 million to implement. When fully completed, Minot’s planned flood control system should be able to bear up to 30,000 cubic feet of water per second; the city’s 2011 flooding saw flows top 26,000 cfs.

“It’s really up in the air when we can start,” Jonasson said, with a minimum of two years needed for the design process and further time for property acquisitions around the Napa Valley neighborhood. “There’s a lot of things that have to fall in place before shovels hit the ground,” he continued, from assessing the environmental impact to permitting, labor availability, the land acquisitions process, and securing funding for the different project phases. Disagreeable weather and unforeseen delays could further extend the timetable.

Jonasson’s most optimistic guess would put the beginning of work at the middle of 2016, but the north bank levee would likely not see any changes until the next year or two after, possibly even 2019.

With that in mind, park commissioners decided to give operations director Randy Burckhardt the go-ahead to prepare specifications for trail repair.

“It looks like we’re going to have enough use out of it to make it worth it,” parks director Ron Merritt said of the effort.

Wee Links Junior Golf Course would also be eventually affected, largely absorbed by the newer, larger levee system. There is an additional chance sections of the developing Centennial Park could become part of the flood print.

But the flood control plan could also yield new amenities as well. Recounting the experience of Grand Forks following its flood recovery and subsequent control wall, the city converted the riversides into a 2,200-acre greenspace. Though initially skeptical of the idea due to maintenance concerns, Jonasson has since come to admire Grand Forks’ greenway system.

In gathering feedback from the Minot public regarding a similar idea, he found people receptive, particularly among younger couples and new families. “They’d like to see those kinds of things incorporated in the flood work,” he said.

Jonasson hoped commissioners and administrators for the park district would be more closely involved with the flood control project as it moves forward in the coming years to further develop such ideas.

“The next couple of years, they’ll probably be sick of talking to me and the engineers,” he joked.

Commissioner Connie Feist spoke up in favor of the greenspace idea. “That model in Grand Forks is something to strive for,” she commented.

Also presented at the meeting were four bids submitted to design a new website for Minot Park District.

“Two of them really stuck out to us,” said Elly DesLauriers, parks’ marketing and advertising director. They decided to go with the low bid of KK Bold, an advertising firm, for a one-time fee of $15,000. There may be further costs when KK Bold helps integrate the golf course system to the new site later in the year, but is yet to be determined. Commissioners accepted the bid, up to a cost not to exceed the original $20,000 budgeted for the work.

Proposed features for the revitalized website include improving the usefulness of its trail maps, allowing users to access them in the Google Maps application. A number of transactions could soon be completed online, from reserving a shelter at Oak Park to purchasing season passes for Roosevelt Park Pool or Souris Valley Golf Course. The park site would also be better accessible from a mobile device, adding convenience.

“Redoing a website is a lot of work,” DesLauriers admitted, but keeping the information relevant and up to date would be crucial to its success. “It has to be a priority for us.” No longer bound to an office server, DesLauriers or other park administrators would be able to make updates as needed from any net-connected location.

Finally, plans drawn up by KLJ for the restoration of Roosevelt Park Zoo’s otter and penguin exhibits were put up for bid Jan. 24, with the combined project attracting only one contractor. Commissioners voted to accept a bid submitted by Rolac Contracting for $565,650, which includes a five percent contingency sum and the costs of an additional item. The bid came in higher than estimated, at $491,500.

The penguin exhibit will be restored to its original condition, and is expected to be completed by July 30. The otter exhibit will be improved from its previous design, sporting one pool and two “streams” instead of simply four pools. In addition to making the otters more visible, the redesign has also simplified maintenance of the piping system beneath. Work on that exhibit should conclude by Sept. 30.