How and where does an information-hungry citizen learn about those seeking office in a local election? We think we’ve got the answer.
Every week until the June 13 election, City Council candidates will be asked two new questions by our online forum moderators. They answer the question in the allotted space, we publish them word for word. There’s no editorial in our coverage and no cost other than taking the time to answer for the candidates to participate.
Additionally, we’ve also given each candidate the opportunity set-up an election home page for their campaign. It puts all their forum answers in one place and provides a structured platform where they’re free to share more information about their values and priorities.
It’s a part of our mission to provide you the reader with better information about the goings on in Minot. Special thanks to our forum moderators Mr. Maxson, Ms. Karpenko, and Mr. Ackerman for volunteering their time to put together a conversation-provoking list of questions.
editor’s note: Candidate answers were submitted prior to Monday’s City Council meeting at which City Manager, Tom Barry, presented the latest information. Check out his report here. Parking discussion starts at 25:33 of the video.
What, in your opinion, should be the City’s plan regarding the downtown parking structures?
There is no easy answer to this question. We as a city need to permanently end our working relationship with the contractor and move forward. Because Federal CDBG Dollars were used in the construction of the garages we as a city are obligated to fulfill the low-income (20% of the apartments to be built) requirements attached to those funds or face paying back the Federal Government. Local partnerships and investors will likely be the best answer to getting the commercial and residential space built. There is a tremendous amount of potential for those spaces down the road with a community gathering space planned in the near future in the downtown area but before anything can move forward we have to end the septic relationship with Cypress.
Right now, it’s like trying to unscramble an egg. There don’t seem to be any great options, but here’s a start:
Apologize to the citizens of Minot, for wasting their money, time, and patience.
Put greater pressure on the developer to complete their work.
Do what we can to preserve the property from further damage (e.g., water was pouring in from the roofs when I last walked through the ramps).
Try to increase usage (e.g., on 4/25, only 18% of the spaces were in use).
See if there might be any opportunities to use the properties, with the other changes in downtown (e.g., Trinity moving out, plans for an outdoor gathering space).
Hire a good lawyer, to prepare an objective report on our options (with the developer) and, most importantly, the lessons we need to learn, so this never happens again.
We’ve had quite the mess with these structures and we need to move on. We do not have a lack of options. We could reason with the developer with hard goals and consequences if not met, or we could seek legal recourse and find a new developer. We also need to better utilize them by absorbing the structures into the garages we already operate instead of outsourcing. We also must evaluate the prices for our everyday citizens and run specials to promote downtown events and encourage spending at local businesses.
The parking structures in downtown Minot have been a very contentious issue to many people in the recent past. It seems as though there were promises made, and those promises were not kept. Nearly all of the decisions regarding the parking ramps were made previous to my time on the city council. I believe that we as a city should do our best to make lemonade out of lemons and remain positive about what the ramps can do for us. The city needs to find a way to make the best possible use of the structures and be very mindful of decisions regarding the ramps in future development. I think that they may prove to be useful tools providing parking for events around the city. It would be prudent that the city of Minot work with the park district, school district, and college to see if there are parking issues that can be addressed with the assistance of the transit system and parking ramps.
More downtown parking is good. Citizens asked for more parking downtown for decades, as noted by an Alderman Lehner led an Ad Hoc Committee several years ago. Enhanced parking and a live, work, play downtown is appealing. The construction projects unfortunately encountered delays and problems with Cypress Development and the contractors. Sadly, continuing serious management issues with the operation of the ramps by Cypress, as well as failure to make timely payments and submission of design plans, signal that the City must aggressively protect its interests and compel the developer to live up to the development agreement, or take legal action to dissolve the partnership and either take over the project, or replace Cypress with a developer who can perform. Performance, not promises are what matters.
Ms. Olson did not participate in this question and answer forum.
The City of Minot must gain control of the structures (parking receipt that reads City of Minot instead of Cypress). City run garages could absorb the three lots owned by the city and run by the Minot Parking Authority that generate around $47,000 a year. It’s a start as the city must now embrace the garages. Maybe one vacated parking authority lot could be leveraged for the National Disaster Resiliency funded gathering space. Overtime, maybe a new developer could complete the remaining HUD guarantees on the garages? Funding will remain a hard sell as acrimony and animosity abound. In the meantime, a transparent review conducted by an outside entity of these projects could begin to rebuild trust in our city to ensure this never happens again. Unfortunately, we’ll continue to pay as these structures seemed destined to be tied-up in litigation. Cypress Development recently missed submittal of permit ready plans to construct the roofs of the structures and as a result hopefully their crane will now come down and we can begin to move forward without them.
The word implosion comes to mind. Since we seem to be a crane storage area as well a bigger implosion may be necessary. Now we have to deal with the real world of signed contracts, leases and lawyers. We have to deal with the hand we have been dealt. Hind sight is 20-20. I am confident that if the city leaders who approved and signed these agreements could have seen into the future to see where we are today things would be different. Now we have to deal with facts. The city has spent about $13,000,000. so far. It is the developer’s job to put apartments over the structures that are presently there.
They have a lease with us that expires in 2022. That’s another 5 years. Our new city manager has put into place some very specific milestones that the developer has agreed to. If nothing happens I believe we need to take legal action to get out of this agreement. Having said that I cannot imagine any reality where we would pay the developer any money to get out of this deal. We must hold them accountable.
Ugh. I’m open to suggestions. That said, here are my thoughts based on what I’ve learned from the outside.
First, we have to discover what our full liability is. We justified spending federal flood recovery dollars by including the low-income housing component of the project. But it doesn’t look like those low-income housing units will be delivered anytime soon. We need to expect that the feds will come looking for their five million dollars and we need to have a plan to deal with it. No more with the head in the sand.
Second, we need to get our legal team working on a plan to remove the developer from the equation. There have to be repercussions for repeatedly failing to deliver. Hopefully, somewhere in one of our contracts, we have some teeth.
Third, we need to learn from our mistakes. I’d actually support spending a bit more money on the project in the form of an outside audit or investigation that fully documented all the mistakes that have been made. Let’s pull the rug back and figure out just how screwed up this deal is. It will suck, but I think it’s important because if we don’t learn from our mistakes publicly, we’re likely to repeat them again in the future.
Developer & Writer @TheMinot Voice, Fan of the Souris River, SavorMinot Advocate. Fortunate to be a 'former' City Council member ;)