The temperature in the Perkett gym at Tuesday’s flood protection design open house was hot — literally. Figuratively, the atmosphere hung with anger, apathy, and desperation. If you caught the Minot Voice coverage yesterday, you got the matter-of-fact version of the night. The engineering teams that are moving our long-term flood protection forward needed to present their design progress and open it for comment. Our coverage reflected that pragmatic need.
But that’s what the engineering team needs. The citizens of Minot and those living through the aftermath of the 2011 flood as represented by those in attendance Tuesday clearly have other needs. The questions about 2011 have yet to be answered to their satisfaction. Decisions about recovery spending are becoming more questionable with time, not less so.
Now, the flood of 2011 happened; it was terrible. For some, it will be a defining moment in their lives. But the City of Minot and our community must move forward. Decisions must be made, and those decisions will benefit some and harm others. Such is progress.
And as we make those decisions, the least we can do for those catching the short end of the stick is be there to listen and give them an opportunity to say their piece.
So thank you to Ryan Ackerman (Minot, Ackerman Estvold Engineering), Jason Westbrock (Bismarck, Barr Engineering), and Dave Ashley (Voltaire, Chairman, Souris River Joint Board) for standing at the front of the room, taking the heat, listening to citizens, and patiently answering questions. Minot is lucky to have a locally owned engineering firm participating in the design of this project. And the basin-wide approach being advanced by the Souris River Joint Board is clearly the right decision. It’s hard for flooded Minot residents to hear, but a plan that saves Minot and floods everyone else downstream is not an acceptable solution.
To City of Minot employees, your attendance was noted and appreciated. Meetings like this are an obvious responsibility, but listening to negative comments on issues you’ve invested countless hours towards can’t be easy.
And that leads us to our City of Minot elected officials. Three out of fourteen aldermen felt compelled to attend Tuesday’s meeting; Mayor Barney wasn’t there either. And just so you know, the designs showed the homes that will need to be voluntarily bought out or short of that, taken by eminent domain. So at a meeting where people saw the official plans for who gets to go and who gets to stay, we had three out of fifteen elected officials in attendance. That’s simply not acceptable.
For Aldermen Shomento, Olson, and Jantzer — your attendance was noted. But next time, do us one better — stand at the front of the room in support of the people leading Minot through this process. It’s a small gesture, but the leadership trait it symbolizes is an important one for our community right now.
Title image: Phase 3 of Minot’s long-term flood protection plan which is on pace for construction in 2017-2018. Many homes in this neighborhood will need to be bought out or taken through eminent domain to make Minot’s flood protection a reality.