As major work begins on Minot's downtown infrastructure, underground spaces dating back to the city's early days are increasingly becoming an unavoidable part of the projects.
The Minot City Council's Public Works and Safety Committee recommended this week that the city abandon and seal old vaults and other spaces that have outlived their purpose, whether it be an old coal chute, freight elevator or storage space. Members of the committee expressed concern over liability should one of the old spaces collapse, and that's understandable given today's litigious society. But some of the underground locations are in good shape, and are used for practical purposes by current owners. After listening to several downtown property owners, the committee did agree to consider requests for encroachment permits where underground spaces do not present a danger. We hope committee members do more than simply consider the requests.
In addition to liability issues, city officials said they are concerned about the old underground spaces encroaching on the public right of way. Well, we're just as concerned about city government continually encroaching on the rights of private property owners.
No doubt there are some spaces that should be abandoned and sealed for safety reasons, but we certainly hope the committee would not dismissively reject requests to maintain underground spaces that are in good shape, whether it be for historical reasons or because the current property owners are utilizing the spaces.