“My job is at stake,” Wahpeton Public Works Director Dennis Miranowski said Monday, July 8.
Miranowski spoke before Mayor Steve Dale, a majority of the Wahpeton City Council, city employees and residents. A restructuring of the public works department, last proposed by Mayor Dale in April, would eliminate the director position and create both city engineer and public works operations manager positions.
No action was taken by the Wahpeton Finance, Personnel and Economic Development Committee. The intent is for discussion to continue, with action coming from the full council.
“There’s four people sitting in this room that — we’re getting tired,” Miranowski said. “It’s affecting our lives at home with our spouses. It’s not easy.”
Because of this, Miranowski asked that a conclusion be reached as soon as possible.
Several people attending spoke in support of Miranowski.
“I think it’s a witch hunt,” said Therese Gast, Wahpeton.
Mayor Dale noted the potential for emotional comments, which have occurred in previous similar meetings.
“I feel I’ve been met at times with a kind of a ‘surround and ground’ mentality,” he said. “Lobbying of council members occurs and people are called in to pressure the elected into making decisions based on emotion and not necessarily what’s right for residents.”
Wahpeton has spent plenty of time on smaller issues, Dale continued. A larger issue deserves plenty of time.
Reorganizations have been frequently proposed or implemented since Mayor Dale was appointed in 2017. Opponents have questioned if the intended efficiency was as necessary as the mayor said.
Roger Jensen was a member of the eliminated Wahpeton City Enhancement Organization. In April, Dale said the group was “a train wreck” when it was eliminated. That didn’t sit well with Jensen, who recalled planning for Wahpeton’s gateway entrances project.
“Then there were monuments and there was the CEO committee,” Jensen said. “They did priorities and the monuments didn’t even make the priority list. So what do we do? We get rid of the CEO and the monuments get built, because it got moved to a different committee.”
Councilmen like Don Bajumpaa and Brett Lambrecht, Jensen said, were punished by Mayor Dale. Bajumpaa, 4th Ward, ran opposite Dale in 2018. Lambrecht, 3rd Ward, previously said he was removed from a committee chairman position for disagreeing with Dale.
“I believe he has not got the information or the “bullets” to fire Dennis outright, so this is thinly veiled,” Jensen said. “Change the job description, cut the salary, I won’t have to fire him because he’ll quit.”
Mayor Dale did not respond to Jensen’s accusations.
Additional discussion is scheduled during a 12 p.m. Tuesday, July 9 meeting of the Wahpeton Public Works and Safety Committee. Like the finance committee meeting, it will be held in the community room, Wahpeton City Hall.
Three out of the public works committee’s four members were present for the finance committee meeting. Councilwoman-at-large Tiana Bohn, the public works committee chair, was absent.
The next city council meeting is at 5 p.m. Monday, July 15 at City Hall, 1900 Fourth St. N. in Wahpeton.