Minot Daily News, Minot, March 4, 2014
City's failed search
The extensive and ultimately fruitless search for Minot's new city manager gives us and residents cause for concern.
A short recap: Current city manager Dave Waind is retiring at the end of March. Some 36 candidates applied for the position. A search committee narrowed the list to three finalists: current Minot finance director Cindy Hemphill; Greg Sund, former Dickinson city administrator and current Ellis County, Kansas, administrator; and Kevin Degenstein, a Minot native working for an energy company in Great Falls, Montana
Late last week, the city announced via press release that Hemphill had been offered the city manager job, but turned it down, saying she could better serve the city's residents in her current job. Search committee members could not reach a consensus on the other two finalists, so the process will start over when the city re-advertises the position.
We wonder: If Hemphill had any doubts about taking the position if it was offered, why did she go through the entire process, which included extensive interviews and luncheons to introduce the finalists to the public? If her doubts surfaced at any time before she was offered the job late last week, she absolutely had a responsibility to take herself out of consideration. She did not do that.
We do agree with Minot Mayor Curt Zimbelman, who said last week that the city manager position is vital to the city's future and that Minot leaders should do whatever they can to find the right person for the job. But we also worry that the ultimate and public failure of the initial search process could make it difficult for the city to attract quality candidates when it decides to advertise the position again. We hope that isn't the case, but the current situation hasn't exactly put the city in a great light.
Bismarck Tribune, Bismarck, March 4, 2014
Fixing mail delivery in N.D. important
Despite stories about deficits at the U.S. Postal Service, delivery of letters and packages is generally good. In the world of Internet shopping, prompt and functional fulfillment of those "instant" orders needs to happen. Customers take that "rain, snow and sleet" line seriously.
Many people, even in rural areas, take getting mail in a timely fashion for granted.
The explosion of new residents in northwestern North Dakota during the last several years, with the housing shortage and escalating wages, has delivered big problems to the local post offices. It's been hard to keep workers, and as a result, mail gets backed up and prompt delivery has been a problem, in particular in the Williston and Watford City areas.
Lack of housing has made hiring additional workers a problem, the same as it has been for the Highway Patrol and every other employer in the area. Increasing wages has not been in the cards because of a national union contract.
In August, U.S. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe joined Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., on a visit to the state and saw firsthand the problems. In November, the postal authorities took action when four carriers in Williston quit without notice, moving a dozen workers from Nebraska in to pick up the slack.
There finally may be a fix. The Postal Service and National Rural Mail Carriers Association reached an agreement that allows carriers to get pay increases of up to 20 percent to help deal with retention, and bonuses for signing new employees. The idea is to make positions at the post office competitive with the local job market — keeping existing workers on the job and beefing up their ranks. That makes good sense.
But it did not come easy. The wage modification, says Donald Maston, executive committeeman for the association is, "very rare and difficult to achieve. This took a lot of effort from the union, the postal service and (North Dakota) officials."
One of lessons learned in North Dakota's "boom" has been the need to stay flexible. What works in some other economy may not work here.
The changes at the U.S. Postal Service are geared specifically to northwestern North Dakota. Let's hope they work well.
Williston Herald, Williston, March 1, 2014
Where are our representatives in discussion of special session?
Last week, Democrats in the North Dakota Legislature sent a letter to Gov. Jack Dalrymple asking the governor to call a special session to deal with some of the major issues facing Northwest North Dakota.
And there are major issues.
As this is being written, both Williston school districts are struggling to find space to educate students, struggling to find teachers, struggling to find housing for their employees and struggling to pay their employees decent wages.
At the same time, the Williston City Commission is considering creating a TIF District to help pay for downtown parking. The commission created a special tax district last week to pay for street, sewer and water improvements near University Avenue.
The city is not alone. Williams County recently finished construction on an apartment complex to house its employees. The county is also working to maintain county roads, hire enough employees and deal with issues the rapid growth has caused.
It is not an easy time to work for local governments.
So, yes, we do see the need for a special session, and we thank the North Dakota Democrats for continuing to fight us in the part of the state most impacted by the oil boom.
But we do wonder why the request is coming from House Minority Leader Kenton Onstad of Parshall, Senate Minority Leader Mac Schneider of Grand Forks and Sen. John Warner of Ryder.
In the Williston area, we are represented by four representatives and two senators.
Every one of them understands the challenges being faced in the area. Yet not one has asked the governor to consider a special session to help.
During the regular legislative session, Stan Lyson, Patrick Hatlestad and Gary Sukut from District 1 and John Andrist, Bob Skarphol and David Rust fought hard for the area. They worked together to create the Skarphol bill and fought to keep as much of it intact as possible.
We appreciate that. The increased money was much needed. But it wasn't enough.
We understand a special session is not likely, and we understand even if one were called, representatives from the eastern part of the state might not be in favor of spending more money in the west. But at least the Democrats are trying.
We would like to see the same effort from those elected to represent us.