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Roadmap to success: Mayor recaps city priorities

"Dickinson's elected leaders address priorities" A series of interviews highlighting city officials, commissioners and the Mayor on priorities for Dickinson as we enter the third and fourth quarters. What's on the radar? What are they concerned about? What do they plan to propose in the final quarters? What are their constituents asking them? Etc. This fifth part will highlight responses from Mayor Scott Decker.

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Mayor Scott Decker, pictured, has been serving the City of Dickinson since 2014, when he was elected into the Dickinson City Commission. Decker became mayor and president of the commission in 2016. (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press)

After hearing from three city commissioners and the city administrator, we come to the final article of the five-part Roadmap to Success series where we speak to Mayor Scott Decker, who weighs in on crime, infrastructure, budget and more.

This is the second series in response to the Voices of Dickinson series launched in May, where The Press gathered input from more than 300 residents from in-street interviews, in-person and online polling data.

From serving 21 years in the U.S. Army and in the North Dakota Army National Guard to working in the Bakken oilfield, Decker knows how critical decisions can be. Elected into the Dickinson City Commission in 2014 and the mayor in 2016, Decker — also a native of Dickinson — has continued to be proactive in making sure the city is focused on bringing quality of life projects to fruition, especially with infrastructure.

“We'd like to always see more dollars spent, but at the same time we have to be mindful of our budget,” Decker said. “Another challenge too is getting competitive bids and getting enough people to be interested in the project; so we have gradually upped every year how much we spend on roads.”

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Mayor Scott Decker, at a previous Dickinson City Commission, addresses commission members. (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press)

In the third article of the Voices of Dickinson series focusing on infrastructure, residents were asked if the city adequately maintains its local streets, sidewalks, utilities, bridges and public buildings and 49% said “disagree,” 36% said “agree,” 11% said “disagree” and 4% said “strongly agree.” The biggest challenge with infrastructure is keeping up with general maintenance, Decker noted. Since becoming a part of the commission, Decker said that he has seen that service improve over the years as that amount of funding increases on an annual basis.

When it comes to water and sewer infrastructure, the city monitors that continuously as well as addressing how the older infrastructure in the city can be updated such as wastewater pump houses, Decker continued. Currently, the city has an engineering firm analyzing Sims Street — which is the next bigger water/sewer infrastructure.

In the Voices of Dickinson series, 44% responded that they “agree” that the current level of internet connectivity in the Dickinson community is sufficient. Decker added that the city does not own that utility and that is a separate entity.

“We're involved in the permitting of the towers and we try to facilitate that as much as possible. (So) as long as it's not putting up towers in neighborhoods… (because) not everybody wants a big cell tower in their backyard,” Decker said, noting that city officials will go through the planning and zoning process to verify that location.

With professional law enforcement staff, Decker said that the services the Stark County Sheriff’s Office and Dickinson Police Department provide keep that overall safeness in Dickinson thriving.

“I don't think we have a lot of people are worried about sending their children to an activity in town… With what just happened in Fargo (with) that young lady, those random acts of violence just don't happen here, and we'd never want them to. I feel horrible for that family and that community down there in Fargo (of) what happened,” he said. “We have challenges as every community does, but we address those, move on, try to analyze and see what we can do better as a community. I know our police department is very active in the school systems and they're very active in the community, providing different programs so that they build a rapport with the citizens and are trusted. I think Chief Dassinger and his staff do a wonderful job.”

Though Decker remarked that the health system in Dickinson is world class, a behavioral health facility is in dire need in southwest North Dakota. The Dickinson Police Department is one of the major departments in town that has seen the implications of those behavioral health calls and the additional weight it puts on officers. With a facility that would potentially house individuals with either mental health or provide addiction counseling, it could alleviate some of that burden on public services.

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“We have been working with legislators and other government entities to try to get something to Dickinson over the years that I've been on the commission. It is a process though. So we'll continue to work with those individuals and hopefully we can bring a facility to town,” Decker added.

Moving into the third and fourth quarters, Decker would like to finish up the final construction documents on the Dickinson Town Square and the new City Hall, along with seeing how the city can help facilitate the beginning stages of the new sports complex and the Southwest CTE Academy. Decker also noted the importance of also creating a training site for police, fire and public works services that will boost Dickinson’s overall regional presence.

Jackie Jahfetson is a former reporter for The Dickinson Press.
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