Healthy Lifestyle Coalition’s Next Step?

I would like to thank two-thirds of the North Dakota voters for making sure that I don’t have to breathe smoke anymore. I am so happy that you care enough about me to allow the government to take away the rights of property owners, and not allow then to allow a “legal” activity on their property.

Since Measure 4 (2012) has passed, I will be submitting some additional initiatives to the ND Secretary of State for approval, before collecting signatures. I will be working on the details of these initiatives in the next few months, before I submit them.

There are a few basic ideas for initiatives that I have. All of them are for the “good” of the citizens of the State of North Dakota. In the future, I will work on the rest of the ideas, since all of them seem pretty important to the health of our citizens.

Here is the general idea for the first initiative that I have in mind:

1. This initiated statutory measure would prohibit all sidewalks that are located within 20 feet of any street, road, driveway, alley, or any place used by internal combustion motor vehicles. This includes all public and private owned sidewalks.

** This measure is needed, due to the fact that exhaust from internal combustion engines create carbon monoxide, which is deadly. These fumes are able to blow out of the designated roadway, into the designated walkway (sidewalks). People that choose not to drive are then continually exposed to these fumes from passing vehicles.

Though this may sound like a crazy idea, I think that it deserves some serious discussion. What do you think?

The Coming Housing Crisis – It’s Already Here

Take a look at the latest copy of the Jamestown Sun newspaper. In the most recent copy that I have, Saturday, September 29th, there is one column of apartments/mobile homes for rent. There is also about one column of houses/land for sale. Then turn the page and see that the entire next page is filled with Help Wanted advertisements.

Now, consider that next Spring, construction will begin on a new fertilizer plant, east of Jamestown. The recent article in the Jamestown Sun said that construction would begin in 2014, but I have read other articles saying that it could start sooner, and permitting and other issues would be ongoing. The construction of the plant is expected to take about four years. So, at some point within the next six to eighteen months, the population of Jamestown will grow by about 15% to 20%.

We don’t know exactly where these people will come from, or exactly when they will be coming, but one thing is certain… they will come! When you look in the newspaper and see that there are two to four times more ads for “Help Wanted” than there are places to rent or buy, you can see that the current population of Jamestown is not enough to supply the employees needed.

Currently, I personally know six different families and individuals that cannot find suitable housing in Jamestown, and are forced to live with relatives or in hotels because of how tight the housing/rental market is. One of them (maybe two) were forced into eviction from their prior rentals because the landlord/management company knew that they would be able to raise the rent for new renters.

Many different factors have contributed to the current housing crisis, but the booming economy in Western North Dakota is a huge factor. Jamestown and Valley City (among other places) are getting the “overflow” from the economy to the west of here. This is both a good place to be in, and also a huge problem.

The problems will be compounded if something is not put into action right away, though! I’m sure that most people have heard some of the horror stories coming out of Western North Dakota. $3000 per month rent for a one bedroom apartment. People living in their mini-vans or even in tents. I just heard a story from a guy, yesterday, about a lady that lives in a mobile home. Her furnace wasn’t heating as well as it should have been, so she called a serviceman out to look at it. It turned out that there were three guys living under her mobile home, and they had disconnected some of the heating ducts, so the heat would be re-routed underneath the mobile home.

Some of the other problems associated with bringing in workers from other parts of the country will (and already have) affect Jamestown. Even though our influx of population will not be quite as dramatic as it has been out west, we will see the same thing happen. Prices for goods and services will rise. Property value will increase. Initially  supply will not quite be able to keep up with demand for basics. With an extra 2000 people moving in to town, things like bread, milk, and beer will be in high demand.

The time for Jamestown to act is NOW! I have lived in Jamestown for the past sixteen years, and I have paid attention to how our City Council and various other government agencies do things. There is way too much “planning” and “studying” and “brainstorming” in anything that needs to get done. Obviously, there needs to be some planning and studying, but this coming crisis needs to be taken care of as soon as possible. There is no time to do things how they have done them in the past. Kicking the can down the road for years will not work!

Temporary housing, “man camps” or “crew camps” are not the answer! If we are truly serious about “growing Jamestown” the permanent housing market in Jamestown needs to be built up. If there are plenty of decent jobs available, but there is no place to live, people will not come. The development ordinances need to be looked at, and the regulations need to be lightened to influence building, right away. Even though there may be a higher number of vacancies once any temporary workers leave, the fact is that they will be here for up to four years. Many of them may even decide to stay.

The city government needs to look at housing as a long-term investment. The increase in long-term property tax, sales tax, water and trash will be sure to offset any type of initial investment that they put into this. When the population of the city grows by 15% to 20% that’s also an increase in the amount that the city receives.

Holiday Dazzle Parade

With the lack of snow and cold weather, this year, it seems really difficult to get into the “holiday spirit”. We’re used to least a foot of snow on the ground and temperatures hovering around zero for weeks straight, at this time of the year.

There’s a chance to inject a little bit of that spirit into our lives, tonight, though. The annual Holiday Dazzle on Main Parade starts at 7:00pm, tonight, Friday, November 25th! The parade will run from South to North on First Ave., ending just before the railroad tracks. Trophies will be given out to floats for Best Dazzle, Most Original Theme, Most Outstanding Amateur Float, Most Outstanding Civic or Non-profit float, and The Mayor’s Choice Award. The trophies will be given out at the After Parade Party at Shady’s inside the Gladstone Inn & Suites.

There will be refreshments and entertainment by the Jamestown Choralaires.

We’ll see you all there!

Does This Make Sense?

So much for creating more efficiency in the postal service. In order to reach a savings of only $11,873 per year, the USPS has decided to get rid of the Jamestown postmark and double the delivery time to the south and west. Mail something to your next door neighbor and it will travel about 200 miles before getting there.

I can understand the need to cut costs. The USPS has been borrowing money to stay afloat, already. Considering that this change will only save less that $12,000 per year, is it really worth it, though?

The story states that there has been a 50% drop in first-class mail in the past 10 years and the volume of mail will continue to drop over the next decade. What the story does not say is how the USPS has been inundated with deliveries that it handles for UPS/FedEx. Through “special deals” with other shipping services, the USPS has essentially become an arm of the other delivery companies.

When more and more people are ordering items online, services like UPS are used more frequently than ever. The UPS deal with the USPS allows them to drop items off at local post offices for “last mile” delivery at a deeply discounted rate. UPS ends up making more money (because they charge more) and they also save a bundle, since they don’t have to do as much driving (especially in rural areas).

This creates more work for USPS workers while they make less money per delivered item. The business model simply does not work. The changes that are coming for Jamestown’s post office in January is a big step backwards, and the savings that it creates is very small

From the Jamestown Sun:

JAMESTOWN, N.D. – Jamestown’s mail-processing operations will be relocated to Fargo by January 2012, the U.S. Postal Service announced Tuesday.

“It’s partially cost saving. It’s also part of what we’re doing overall with our network with less volume to bring into our system,” said Pete Nowacki, regional spokesperson for USPS.

The move of processing operations out of Jamestown to Fargo will save USPS $11,873 annually. Jamestown is one of 252 plant consolidation studies nationwide as a way to respond to a decrease in mail volume.

At the Fargo facility, Jamestown mail will be processed with newer and better technology and equipment before it reaches its location, Nowacki said.

The decision comes after a USPS study that began March 18.

Nationally there has been a 20 percent decline in mail volume since 2007. First-class single-piece mail has been reduced by 50 percent over the past 10 years, Nowacki said.

“Mail volumes are going to drop for the next 10 years so we’re changing our network and facilities to reflect that,” he said.

The consolidation could result in some Jamestown employees being relocated in accordance with the USPS employees’ collective bargaining rights. Nowacki was unsure of the number.

“It depends on openings and how the agreement is applied,” he said.

There are currently 15 clerks and two maintenance employees at the Jamestown Post Office.

New with the change will be overnight delivery from Jamestown to northwestern Minnesota and Grand Forks. However, delivery from Jamestown to Bismarck and Aberdeen will take two days.

Mail in town will keep getting overnight delivery, even though that piece of mail travels from Jamestown to Fargo and then back to Jamestown.

There will be no change to delivery or retail sale options locally.

But with the consolidation of mail processing in Jamestown to Fargo the city of Jamestown will lose its postmark, unless senders request it at the post-office window.

With local mail traveling so far before it makes it to its location in Jamestown, weather concerns USPS. But Nowacki said it’s nothing that USPS isn’t comfortable with and that mail is delivered in winter conditions all the time.

“We understand that we’re going to have weather difficulties and does it shut us down sometimes, yes, it can,” Nowacki said.

More Hotel Rooms Would Be A Good Thing

It’s definitely been a busy summer, and it shows, by the amount of stuff that I’ve written, here. In the previous post, I talked about a travel conference that was held in Fargo, in April. Since then, a lot has happened… especially the travelling.

For the past three months, all of the hotels in Jamestown have been completely full almost every night. There have been a few “slow” nights, but I would guess that 95% of the time, they have all been full. Some of the reason is due to events happening in town, but most of the reason is because everything to the west of Jamestown has been full, as well.

It seems like every night, there are a large amount of people that had expected to stop in Dickinson or Bismarck but had to keep moving east because there was nothing available over there.

This is great for the hotels in town, but very bad for the people that are traveling. More rooms in town might mean a slight drop for individual hotels (that may not completely fill), but would be a great thing for the many people that end up sleeping in their cars, or worse, continue driving when completely tired.