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Commissioners debate event center feasibility study

Dickinson City Commissioners disputed the need for an event center feasibility study at their regular meeting Tuesday. Consulting firm Convention, Sports and Leisure, based in Minneapolis, was selected to conduct the study at a cost of roughly $3...

Dickinson Area Animal Coalition co-chair Beth Hurt explains to Dickinson City Commissioners on Tuesday about the group's efforts to address the city's companion-animal issues. (Brandon L. Summers / The Dickinson Press)
Dickinson Area Animal Coalition co-chair Beth Hurt explains to Dickinson City Commissioners on Tuesday about the group's efforts to address the city's companion-animal issues. (Brandon L. Summers / The Dickinson Press)

Dickinson City Commissioners disputed the need for an event center feasibility study at their regular meeting Tuesday.

Consulting firm Convention, Sports and Leisure, based in Minneapolis, was selected to conduct the study at a cost of roughly $34,500.

A requests-for-proposals was sent out in January, City Administrator Joe Gaa explained.

"They would tell us if we have the market for an event center, and some of the additional capacity and amenities needed," he said. "That would be in this first phase."

Seven proposals were received and reviewed by the city. Four finalists visited last month to give presentations.

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Commissioner Carson Steiner voiced concerns about spending money on a study after the defeat of a measure by voters in May for a new high school.

"I'm wondering if we're not making the same problem here, with this," he said. "Once they come back with this study, if we like it, we're going to go to the public and ask for a half-cent sales tax."

Mayor Scott Decker emphasized the project would only be completed through donors.

Funds would need to be drawn for operations and maintenance of the facility, though, Steiner remarked.

"I'm OK with that for an event center," he said. "But I think the only way to get something like that approved in this town, at this time, is to propose a half-cent sales tax."

Commissioner Sarah Trustem noted that the purpose of the study was to see if community support for such a project does exist.

"Going to the public and proposing any sort of sales tax on a project we don't even know is possible is putting the cart before the horse," she said. "I understand the hesitation that comes with feasibility studies, however, I think in this case, before we can even consider moving forward, we need to understand if this project is even doable in our area."

Commissioner Nicole Wolla said an event center would benefit the region.

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"It would be for all the smaller communities, too and that's what the study would identify, as well," she said. "We can narrow down what type of event center we would have."

Commissioner Jason Fridrich suggested the study could be used to help foster support for such a project.

"You're going to get a 'no' from the public a lot faster without having any of your background work done than if you go out and spend the money," he said.

Decker called an event center an essential piece to the city's quality-of-life puzzle.

"It may not be right for right now," he said. "But it might be something we put on the shelf and in two to three years, and when the census comes back and we look at the population of southwest North Dakota, it might be the right time."

Convention, Sports and Leisure was approved as the consultant, with Steiner the sole dissenting vote.

In other business:

Commissioners applauded the efforts of Dickinson Area Animal Coalition.

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Formed in 2017, DAAC is comprised of representatives from local rescues, shelter volunteers and community members with a vested interest in companion animal issues.

The coalition includes members from Raise the Woof, Oreo's Animal Rescue, Second Chances, and Bakken Paws, plus professionals from State Avenue Vet Clinic and West Dakota Vet Clinic, both in Dickinson.

"By pooling our resources and experience, we feel we can make a more significant impact on the community," Beth Hurt, coalition co-chair, said.

Since launching, the group has wanted to partner with the city on issues including the overpopulation of strays, irresponsible pet ownership and the rescuing and re-homing of unwanted animals.

DAAC began working with the Dickinson Police Department's animal control division this year.

"This partnership has been very positive," Hurt said. "We have some great projects in the works."

The group wants to take a proactive approach on animal issues, Hurt said.

Public education on responsible pet ownership and increased awareness of laws and policies already in place can make a difference.

"Any of the rescues can tell you there's no shortage of unwanted animals," she said, "and the impound facilities can verify those numbers."

Commissioners also approved a request by Dickinson Public Library to change its part-time interlibrary loan position to full-time.

"Our intention with that is, our interlibrary loan service could be improved, and this person could help with some of our cataloguing backlog," Library Director Rita Ennen said.

Because the position has been vacant since the part-time staff member retired, the change would have a zero dollar impact on the library's 2019 budget, Ennen added.

The position will be posted internally before being opened to the public.

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