The City of Mandan seems to have its priorities out of whack. In a conversation with a friend last week, he mentioned to me that Mandan had chosen to build a sports complex over a fire hall. The claim caused me to do some research that resulted in confirmation of the head-shaking truth.
In an August 30, 2015 article, the Bismarck Tribune reported that:
“City commissioners originally attached the fire hall project to a special city sales tax for the June sports complex vote, but that was dropped as evaluating the city’s infrastructure needs grew more complicated.”
After the city dropped the fire hall project from the special city sales tax proposal, it went to a vote of the people in June 2015 as a “sports complex vote” and passed. It has since been named the “Starion Sports Complex” and is scheduled for completion on September 1, 2017, with a goal of opening by September 29th.
Greg Welch, the city’s finance director, justified nixing the fire hall project by saying there was no money to staff it:
“If we can’t staff it, it doesn’t make sense that we build it.”
So, what’s the price tag on this state-of-the-art 84,000 square foot mega-sports complex? According to their own website, a total of $23.3 million– with $22 million of that being from sales tax. And who’s going to staff this?
How much was the proposed satellite fire hall that was cut from the 2016 budget? In comparison, a paltry $2.5 million. Yes, only about 11% of the cost of the Starion Sports Complex.
With just a touch of fiscal responsibility, things could have been different. In 2012 the City of Mandan gave Walmart a $403,000 property tax break over five years for a new store in Mandan. By the end of 2013, Mandan’s Central Market grocery store had closed its doors.
I n June of this year, the City of Mandan purchased the Central Market property for $1.5 million. Why? Because they have a “new vision” to “revitalize” West Main Street by refurbishing the Central Market building and by building new ones. All in the name of “a little more tax base”.
Going back to 2014, Mandan Fire Chief Steve Nardello has requested a new fire hall multiple times, but the city continues to kick the can down the road. Instead of building a fire hall in an expanding area, in order to reduce response times to emergencies, the city seems satisfied to play central planning cronyist while meeting the so-called “needs” of local sports enthusiasts.
I personally don’t believe it’s the proper function of government to build sporting complexes. Yet, as a lover of athletics myself, I can appreciate the desire for one. But to place that as the
priority over a fire hall is mind-boggling. Are those in power honestly saying that they couldn’t have at least scaled back the project enough to provide for the building and staffing of the fire hall?
Furthermore, were the city not meddling in cronyism with Walmart and the Central Market property, they would have had the money to build the fire hall already.
Choosing parks and recreation over the increased need for fire protection, to me, seems unacceptable. Prioritization and fiscal responsibility… two weaknesses of governments in need of new leadership.
2. http://bismarcktribune.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/mandan-to-use-more-targeted-business-tax-breaks-follows-state/article_b513d4c0-f3d8-11e2-93e7-0019bb2963f4.html 3. http://www.kfyrtv.com/content/news/Starion-Sports-Complex-construction-crews-make-up-for-lost-time-416877433.html