It was back in May that the City re-upped with our lobbyist in Bismarck, Shane Goettle. The two-year contract we gave him is no small sum. It’s worth $3,500 per month when the legislature is not in session and $7,500 per month when it is. Over the two-year life of the contract, the City of Minot will pay Mr. Goettle approximately $100,000.
And considering Minot’s showing at last week’s Legislative Water Topics Committee meeting, it’s fair to wonder if we wrote an effective contract or if Mr. Goettle is dropping the ball. One way or another, it’s either him or our elected leaders who are failing, possibly both.
In case you didn’t know, last week the Legislature’s Water Topics Committee was in Minot. It was a between-session meeting that gave legislators from around the state a chance to hear updates and testimony on the state’s significant water projects. Flood protection along the Souris River is one of those projects. Other topics that got time on the agenda were Devils Lake and the Fargo flood protection.
It’s an important meeting because this committee’s recommendations help shape the State Water Commission’s budget. In the 2015 Legislative session, a billion dollars were appropriated to the Water Commission. And it’s all the more important for Minot because our flood protection project has two big unanswered questions hanging over us.
First, what’s our local cost share on the project going to be with the state? Our flood protection team has delivered a basin-wide plan that has remarkably little (if any) downstream opposition. And Minot has stepped up financially too; we’re contributing our dollars to rural portions of the plan. We’ve asked for 75%-State-25%-Local, but we need to pin down the number. To quote Representative Rosco Streyle, “we need to know cost share yesterday”.
Second, we need the state to step up and appropriate its share. The first three phases are less than a year from breaking ground, and we’re still around $40 million short. The critical fourth phase — the Maple Diversion — is not yet in design; it’s estimated to cost another $100 million.
So we’re short a lot of money, and we don’t know what our local share is going to cost. And when state legislators hold a critical water topics committee in our home town, our elected leaders, our Mayor, and our $100,000 hired gun are nowhere to be seen.
Don’t get me wrong; Minot was represented. Representative Streyle sits on the committee. Representative Louser was there Wednesday morning during Minot’s portion of the agenda. And our Public Works Director Dan Jonasson, Finance Director Cindy Hemphill, and Project Manager Ryan Ackerman all gave updates to the committee.
But where were the City’s elected leaders? Where was our Mayor? Where was the prepared testimony from a few well-spoken residents who now live in fear of both rising water and rising flood insurance costs?
Elected leaders from Fargo made the trip to Minot. Devils Lake farmers were represented in spades. And the Towner area ranchers who lose hay land when the Souris River flows are higher than 500 CFS all gave personal testimony. But with the exception of two City employees and a project manager, Minot was neither seen nor heard. We were barely even in the audience.
Politics is a game, and these meetings are an important part of it. How can we expect to be successful if we’re not on the field? It’s time for #TeamMinot to get its act together. We can’t afford to be absent in Bismarck any longer, especially when Bismarck gives a chance to play on our home turf. We missed an opportunity last week to create some urgency with lawmakers; We can’t afford to miss the next one.