In local government, change is constant | News, Sports, Jobs

One of the most difficult aspects of participating in municipal government is adapting to perhaps the most constant problem facing elected officials: change.

Over the past few years, the Town of Minot has faced a multitude of cases where changes have been necessary concerning the decisions of the Municipal Council or those made by the staff of the Town of Minot. As we all know, information sometimes changes and our municipal government must be flexible enough to respond accordingly.

The ongoing discussion about creating and implementing a curbside recycling program in Minot is an excellent example. Does anyone remember how long curbside recycling has been seriously discussed in our community? The first presentation to city council was in early 2016, which led to the creation of an ad hoc committee, which led to automated sanitation trucks as a first step towards recycling, which led us where we are.

In recent years, recycling has figured prominently in the work of Assistant Director of Public Works, Jason Sorenson, at the Town of Minot. Sorenson has held public meetings, conducted surveys, appeared countless times before City Council and conducted research on the short and long term effects of recycling, the impact of such a program on life of our current landfill (and potentially a new landfill in a different location) and countless other aspects of recycling.

The process has advanced — albeit slowly — to the point where the City is ready to begin construction of a transfer facility where recyclable materials would be collected, then shipped and sold to processors. In this scenario, which was approved by City Council, the City would not sort recyclables; instead, materials would simply be collected, loaded onto trucks, and shipped elsewhere to be sorted and processed.

But now there is a potential major change. At this last Council meeting, we were presented with information about a system that would see the City collect, sort and bundle recyclables and then sell them. In this system, someone else would come to Minot and pick up the materials, rather than us trucking them to Minneapolis.

Sorenson will compile a cost analysis of the locally sorted alternative and present this information to Council members in a few weeks. Will the Council stay the course or adapt to new information? We’ll see, but the fact is that local government must be prepared to move in a new direction if it’s better for the community as a whole, even if it means choosing a different path.

Recycling is just one example of the changing nature of elected office. There were many other examples, of course. Each annual budget brings changes. The current flood protection project has seen a multitude of changes over the years, including the creation of an almost entirely new approach for Phase 5 in northeast Minot due to decisions beyond our control. Traffic patterns and volumes change over time, and we have adapted to these needs both as a community and as a city council. These changes culminated in our first roundabout, new bike lanes on part of 16th Street NW, and an upcoming road diet project on another stretch of 16th Street NW.

Local government leaders must adapt to the ever-changing needs of the people they represent. Often the decision to abandon a previous plan or idea and go in a new direction isn’t easy to make – and it shouldn’t be. But to be successful, we need to be flexible and remember that our role is to always do what’s best for the community, even if that means making big and small changes.

Sincerely, City Hall

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