City to propose fix for levees

River levees and a community facilities tax could both get fixes with action taken by the Minot City Council Monday.

In response to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ levee inspection, the city must develop cost estimates and a funding plan to be eligible for Corps assistance in repairing dikes. Last November, the Corps provided the first levee inspection report in seven years, which showed a range of unacceptable items. Those items included tree growth on the levees and banks, the need to replace riprap around the outlets, inadequate grass growth due to minor erosion and areas of the river bank that have started sliding into the river.

City manager David Waind assured the council that the levees, in terms of height, offer the same protection as they did before the 2011 flood. Improvements are needed for the dikes to meet the Corps’ standards, though.

“It’s not a drastic, immediate emergency,” Waind said, “but it is something they feel needs to be addressed.”

On the matter of the community facilities tax, Mayor Curt Zimbelman named a committee to review the grant awards process and recommend any changes.

“I feel that the application process is needing some improvement,” Zimbelman said. “Are we handling it the way we really sold it to the community when they voted for it?”

Voters agreed in June 2011 to re-direct a 1 percent sales tax for the Northwest Area Water Supply project to infrastructure, tax relief and community facilities.

The Community Facilities Fund has provided more than $4 million to the Minot Park District for flood repairs, fast-pitch softball fields, Hammond Park improvements and additional ice at Maysa Arena.

Other grants have included more than $5 million to Bishop Ryan High School to improve the gymnasium, Dakota Territory Air Museum for an expansion, Minot Recreation Commission to replace an ice rink, Minot Commission on Aging for improvements at the Parker Senior Center, Minot Family YMCA to build a community outdoor fitness park and North Dakota State Fair Association and Minot Curling Club to replace the ice rink floor and cooling pipes in a facility on the fairgrounds. Minot State University has received two installments toward a four-year agreement for $4 million to improve Herb Parker Stadium.

Appointed the committee to review the community facilities grant application process were Brekka Kramer, Ernest Medalen, John Van Grinsven, Dean Somerville and Jim Montgomery.

The council also voted 12-1 to proceed with architectural plans and engineering for an estimated $2.8 million fire station in the 55th Crossing development. The land has been donated and the city has Community Development Block Grant funds to cover construction and $400,000 in fire equipment.

By going ahead with construction this year, the city is committing more than $809,000 in the 2015 budget to operate the fire station and staff it with 12 fire fighters.

Council member Dean Frantsvog, who voted against proceeding with design, objected to committing funding outside of the regular budget cycle. The city finalizes its coming year’s budget in September of each year.

Fire chief CJ Craven said the city isn’t in danger of a lower fire rating, which would increase insurance premiums, although southeast Minot does not have the recommended response time. National standards are five minutes for an initial truck and eight minutes for additional equipment. Southeast Minot has long been outside the recommended response time, he said.

“In the past, it was a very narrow band of the city to the southeast. It’s gotten a lot larger,” he said. “We probably should have the fourth station up and operating right now.”

In other business, the council approved three new Verizon cell tower sites recommended by the Minot Planning Commission. It also approved a fourth site for which the planning commission hadn’t supported a variance. The variance for the monopole-style antenna structure near Gilbertson Welding & Prop Repair at 2204-20th Ave. SW was needed because of proximity to residences. The company’s decision to lower the pole height eliminated the need for a variance and the planning commission’s objection. Despite a complaint from a neighbor, the council voted 11 to 2 to approve the tower.

The meeting also was the last regular council meeting for city manager David Waind, who will be feted at a retirement event on March 28.

“My service here has been my joy. I have had the opportunity to see Minot in some exciting times,” said Waind, who has been with the city for about 35 years. “The challenges have built a better community in several regards in the last few years, and I think we are going to continue to see improvements.”