DICKINSON – During a regular City Commission meeting on Tuesday, December 20, city leaders heard an annual report from Parks & Recreation, discussed snow removal and the contract approval process.
Benjamin Rae, executive director of Dickinson Parks & Recreation, presented an annual report for the organization.
The West River Community generated approximately $1.9 million in revenue in 2022, primarily from annual memberships. That’s up from $1.55 million in 2020. But spending has also increased from $1.93 million in 2020 to $2.2 million in 2022. Rae explained that the facility’s running costs have increased by 13% over the past year and that maintenance issues have plagued the nearly 20-year-old building. The WRCC often places buckets and towels everywhere to catch water from frequently leaking pipes.
Rae thanked city leaders for their support of park projects. He has $185,000 in improvements planned for the coming year. These include a replacement playground, Heart River golf course irrigation improvements, and baseball park improvements.
Commissioner Robert Baer inquired about the possibility of Olympic-level, competition-quality swimming pools. He said Williston is the only other city in that region of the state with pools suitable for such competitions and that the growing DHS-Trinity Collaboration Team would benefit greatly from such facilities.
Given the high level of local participation in youth hockey, Mayor Scott Decker suggested that upgrades to the ice center were badly needed.
“That’s always the challenge within our limited resources of trying to determine where those priorities are and how best to utilize those dollars to meet everyone’s needs,” Rae said, adding that he appreciated Baer’s suggestion as a former swim coach .
Decker also said he sees an opportunity to offer more outdoor pools.
“We’ve had some decent summers so it’s really nice to have this outdoor facility, but there’s always room for expansion,” he said. “Most of us grew up with two outdoor pools here in the city. Yes, they are of limited use, but in this short period of summer they are greatly appreciated.”
Decker then commended city employees for their hard work amid record snowfalls and -50C wind chills. Odermann asked Public Works Superintendent Gary Zuroff about the state of morale in his department. Zuroff noted that the roads department is half-staffed with just six people, many have worked shifts of 12 to 16 hours or longer, and employees from all public works departments have lent a hand to help.
A Dickinson Public Works employee blows snow off a street on Tuesday.
Jason O’Day / The Dickinson Press
“It’s pretty early to get that much snow in this long time, so I really need to look at how we’re dividing the shifts and trying to give some of them a break,” Zuroff said. “If a storm hits they’re ready to go… For now I’d say the settings are still good but I’m worried about the rest of the winter and more storms, especially with the snow piles we’re having.”
Solid waste and recycling manager Aaron Praus spoke before the commission about five contracts for sprinkler systems on municipal properties.
Commissioner John Odermann suggested that city employees should be allowed to enter into financial contracts below a certain threshold to increase efficiency and save time, but City Manager Dustin Dassinger said this was a policy agreed by a previous commission.
“Can we set a threshold? I mean we could talk about that at a future meeting. I was just curious because $200 seems like a pretty small amount for the commission,” Odermann said.
Decker said the policy was implemented to openly inform the public of any contract awarded.
“I think it just comes down to the fact that it’s a contract,” Decker said.
All five contracts were approved unanimously.
Personnel coordinator Shelly Nameniuk said the city had hired a new director of the Dickinson Area Public Library to replace outgoing director Rita Ennen. The position will be filled by Danielle Kappel, Library Media Specialist at Dickinson Middle School. Kappel will take on the role at the end of January. Nameniuk said the library has three additional positions to fill.