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Posted on June 29, 2020 at 9:28 AM by Bryan Obenchain
June in Minot will always stir up a meandering mix of emotions for our community’s residents who lived here in 2011, but especially for those who called the river valley their home.
What’s the river level today? How much water is on the way? How will I save a lifetime of possessions? How will I rebuild? Should I stay in Minot? These remain relevant questions and difficult memories for many who lived in the flood zone in 2011.
But there are other reflections etched into the collective mind and soul of our community, too. Neighbors and strangers working hand-in-hand to move the contents of someone’s home to safety, then heading off with a quick wave to help the next person in need. Residents quickly getting to work cleaning and rebuilding their homes, businesses, and lives. A river valley littered with lifetimes of debris, but also full of bright yellow “I’ll Be Back” and “I’m Back” signs in defiance of the river’s failed attempt to conquer our city.
For those who lived through the 2011 Souris River flood, the emotions rarely, if ever, leave you. For some, there are reminders everywhere; an empty lot where a neighbor’s home once stood; a small sign on a utility pole marking the water level in 2011; seeing a friend or neighbor who came to your assistance; perhaps your own basement that remains unfinished. It all brings back memories and emotions. It likely always will.
As we remember the events of 2011 again this year, it’s hard to believe that nine years have passed, to think that it’s been almost a decade since dikes were breached, streets were flooded, and thousands of lives were forever changed. Other days, the events of 2011 seem like they happened only yesterday, with the unwelcome details still all-too-fresh in our minds. Who can forget the musty smell that permeated the valley for months after the water receded?
I suspect I’m like most other residents whose homes or businesses were damaged or destroyed by the raging waters of the Souris. I can still vividly hear the siren piercing the eeriness of the river valley, starkly announcing to residents that it was time to evacuate, that the battle had been lost. We were leaving home, not knowing when we would return, or what we would return to.
Yet, even as we left parts of ourselves behind that day in June 2011, there was always an unmistakable and palpable sense in Minot that we would be back. It’s hard to explain, but it was a feeling of North Dakota resistance. The Souris River may have won that day’s battle, but we would ultimately win by rebuilding our homes, our lives, and our community. And we’re doing that.
Nine years later, our city looks much different physically than it did in 2011. Regrettably, some neighborhoods have disappeared as residents relocated to safer areas of Minot. We know moving people and structures out of harm’s way is ultimately necessary. It’s often an emotionally difficult process that must continue to be undertaken with empathy, thoughtfulness, and purpose.
When you look around our city today, the evidence of progress to protect ourselves from the river’s wrath is visible and real. We’ve made significant progress on removing zombie homes in the city; there are only 13 of those structures left, and we’ll continue to address the issue until all of them are gone. We know many of those now-empty lots will be home to various components of a flood protection system that is the largest infrastructure project in Minot’s history. Flood walls will stand watch along the river banks. Existing dikes have been repaired and improved, and new ones are being constructed. Storm water pump stations are being built and other infrastructure has been upgraded with flood control in mind. You can’t always beat Mother Nature, but we intend to give her one heck of a fight if necessary.
We have endured one of the worst disasters Mother Nature could throw at us. We will, of course, never forget the river’s unfeeling attempt to destroy our community, but we will always remind ourselves that during that summer of destruction, we also witnessed some of the greatest moments in Minot’s history. A community standing together, unified in its resolve to come back better and stronger than ever before. That is what keeps us moving forward.
Sincerely, City Hall.
You can find more about what’s happening at the City of Minot at minotnd.org, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. We’d also encourage you to sign up for our monthly electronic newsletter on our website.
Posted on June 15, 2020 at 8:27 AM by Bryan Obenchain
While talk of defunding, disbanding, or reorganizing police departments continues in some parts of the country, that discussion isn’t appropriate or necessary in Minot. Let me outline why.
No one is claiming the members of the Minot Police Department are perfect; we know that’s impossible. But the members of our department consistently do their jobs with professionalism, respect, empathy, and accountability. The Minot PD readily seeks opportunities to partner with members of the community, local businesses, and educational institutions to improve the police/public relationship while working to maintain a safe community.
Historically, our Police Department has built a strong relationship with the members of our community. Past leadership and current Chief John Klug have created and cultivated a department that exists to serve and protect the residents of our city. Collectively, our Police Department is visible in the community through events like the Citizens Academy, National Night Out, Battle of the Badges, the annual Stuff a Squad toy drive, and many others. Working in conjunction with Minot Public Schools, we now have school resource officers at the high school and middle school levels, increasing our presence and visibility. Helping to educate the public about law enforcement philosophies and procedures is an ongoing endeavor.
Individually, our officers strive to maintain and improve the existing public/police relationship during their daily interactions with members of the community as they patrol the streets of Minot. Our officers are very aware that they work in the often blinding spotlight of public service and scrutiny. They accept that responsibility, which demands they conduct themselves with often unrealistic expectations of perfection. I’m reminded of this comment by recently retired Police Chief Jason Olson when discussing public expectations of law enforcement for a story in our 2019 annual report:
“People want to be treated respectfully. They want to make sure the officer isn’t abusing their power in any way. They want to make sure they aren’t using too much force. They want officers to be well-trained. They want them to respond appropriately at all times,” Olson said. “And then I think, some of these officers are still kids. They’re not perfect, but it’s amazing how often they are perfect. They do the right thing almost all the time, which is amazing at that age.”
While they strive to conduct themselves with perfection, law enforcement officers around the country face a wide variety of challenges every day, and the members of the Minot Police Department are no different. Granted, the challenges are often on a smaller scale for the 83 sworn officers in our department than they are in cities like Minneapolis or Chicago, but the challenges in Minot remain real and dangerous. We only have to look at the recent shooting death of Grand Forks Officer Cody Holte during an incident that began with serving an eviction notice to be reminded of the dangers our officers encounter daily.
As of the morning of June 10, Minot officers had responded to 16,202 calls for service in 2020; in 2019, the Minot Police Department responded to 41,088 calls for service. Those calls can range from a traffic accident, a burglary, a domestic violence incident, or a death. But even the most routine call can turn dangerous, as evidenced by the Grand Forks incident.
As elected officials for the City of Minot and as members of this community, I and the other members of the City Council support the the Minot Police Department. The overwhelming majority of our officers conduct themselves in a professional manner while performing the difficult and often under-appreciated task of keeping our community and its residents safe. Having said that, I also want to make this clear: We support our police officers unless they demonstrate that they do not deserve our support. We do not condone improper behavior and we have no tolerance for any unnecessary use of force by members of our police department. Police officers, like every other City of Minot employee, must be accountable and responsible for their behavior, actions, and decisions on the job.
Police departments are a necessary and integral part of municipal government; without them, chaos would reign. In Minot, we recognize the dedication and sacrifices of those who choose law enforcement as a career. It truly is a way of life rather than a job. The line can often be difficult to navigate: While we support our officers as they carry out their difficult duties and routinely put their lives on the line, we also expect the highest standards of conduct from them, and we must be willing to hold individuals accountable if mistakes are made.
Anything less is unacceptable.
Posted on June 1, 2020 at 10:29 AM by Bryan Obenchain
As we continue to navigate through the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and approach the anniversary of the 2011 flood, I can’t help but look back and draw parallels between two disasters that have greatly affected and impacted our community. There are similarities - and a sharp contrast.
To reflect for a moment; by June 30, 2011, temporary levees in Minot had been built, raised, and raised again to fend off the rising Souris River. The valley was in the second mandatory evacuation. The valley and the entire city were watching, waiting, and praying. There were weeks of calm and a hope that we had staved off disaster. Then, record rain fell in the basin north of Minot that would flood and devastate the community. Despite some claims that the volume of water could be managed, it could not be. There was no managing Mother Nature’s wrath; we could only get out of her way.
In some respects, for Minot, COVID-19 has emerged on a similar path. We have been preparing. We have been sacrificing. We have been patient. Now, we are again nearing June 30. What will come next in this new battle? The difference, I hope, is that this time, the power is in our hands to have some control over our destiny, and the effects of COVID-19 on our community.
Locally and statewide, we are in something of a lull with infection numbers. We cannot understate the substantial sacrifice of businesses and the people in the community who have suffered economic loss. We cannot understate the people who have suffered through this illness. We cannot forget the friends and family \we have lost in Minot, in North Dakota, and across the nation to this disease. We can, however, do our best to make sure it wasn’t in vain.
As the state walks down the ND Smart Restart path, I hope and pray that we do not undo the sacrifices that have been made. Psychologically and economically, we need to overcome this disease. We need to reconnect with each other and regain what has been lost. Doing so, we also need to be vigilant and smart. Taking for granted that the worst is over could be a catastrophic mistake. Letting our guard down could very well realign the paths from 2011 to 2020.
What we don’t know is how many in the community are asymptomatic with COVID-19. Common sense tells us that the disease doesn’t affect those carriers. It’s those at high risk, with underlying health conditions, who come in contact with asymptomatic or symptomatic carriers that face the most serious threat. The death toll numbers in North Dakota show exactly that.
We combat this disease by practicing good hygiene, washing our hands, staying at home and away from people when we are sick, and wearing a facemask when we are in close proximity to people outside of our household. Patience and understanding cannot be understated. If someone chooses to wear a facemask, that is their choice to protect others. If a business chooses to adjust its business model to protect employees and patrons, it is a choice based on health and risk. It is also your choice not to wear a mask or not to alter your daily activities. There is no local law against people gathering in close proximity, although the state has outlined recommendations for social gatherings.