Minot City Council denies loan request, pushes parking ramp contractor for revised schedule

Associated Press

The Minot City Council has rejected a request for a $1.2 million loan from the developers of two downtown parking ramps and instead given the prime contractor a week to submit a revised cost and construction schedule for the troubled project.

If that doesn't happen, the city could file a claim with the contractor's bonding company to get money to complete the stalled structures, according to City Finance Director Cindy Hemphill.

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"The thought was that it would be completed by October or November in 2014. As anybody can see, we still have two large holes in the ground," she said.

Two parking lots were torn up in November 2013 so that construction could begin on the ramps that are to provide 225 parking spaces, but activity stopped shortly afterward when subcontractors left after not getting paid. The project has remained stalled as Cypress Development works to get more financing for a project that officials say was grossly underbid at $10.5 million.

Cypress spokesman Dominic O'Dierno said the company originally felt the $10.5 million bid was realistic, given the initial project estimate of $9 million.

"Unfortunately, what was realized later — too late to stop the project — was the price we received was significantly below what exactly it was going to take," he said.

The city set aside about $5.5 million in federal disaster recovery money it received after the 2011 Souris River flood for the ramp projects. So far, the city and Cypress each have committed about $2 million to the project.

Cypress sought the $1.2 million in short-term financing until it could put permanent financing in place to get the project fully funded.

"Without that bridge funding, the project could turn back in on itself," O'Dierno said, calling it a "fragile situation."

Council member Kevin Connole cast the only vote to grant Cypress the $1.2 million loan.

"If we derail this project now when the developer is willing to put in another $5 to $6 million, to be that close to it and then not step up I think is not good, either," he said. "I am really concerned that we would never ever get a shot at this again."

Mayor Chuck Barney said, "we have a responsibility to serve the people of Minot and protect their interests."