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Joint City Council-UND Student Senate meeting discussed downtown, recycling

A quorum of city council members, including Mayor Brandon Bochenski and City Administrator Todd Feland, met with about 20 student senators over pizza in the small ballroom of the Memorial Union on Wednesday evening, March 23.

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Kaelan Reedy, UND student body president, standing, speaks with City Council member Bret Weber, left, and Ethan McGregor and Kaleb Wittke
Adam Kurtz / Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS — Members of the Grand Forks City Council and UND Student Senate met in-person for the first time since before the coronavirus pandemic to discuss ways they can continue to build on the award-winning relationship between the two entities.

A quorum of City Council members, including Mayor Brandon Bochenski and City Administrator Todd Feland, met with about 20 student senators over pizza in the Memorial Union on Wednesday evening, March 23. Conversation topics ranged from the familiar — linking UND with downtown Grand Forks — to the novel — how recycling can be improved on campus.

For Bochenski, it was his first time meeting with student senators outside of a computer screen.

“I think I’ll get a lot more out of it in person,” Bochenski said. “It’s great to see good participation all over the city with the university, so I think we’ll have a great conversation.”

READ MORE UND COVERAGE HERE

Joint meetings between the City Council and Student Senate have been held for years. At times they have taken place in the law school building, and at other times in council chambers. Wednesday’s meeting was an informal affair, with city officials and leaders sitting at round tables with the senators, with one council member at each table.

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Much like the set-up, the agenda was similarly informal. It was a list of questions about whether UND students enjoy living in Grand Forks, transportation around town, attending events and student engagement in the community.

Attending the meeting were council members Dana Sande, Danny Weigel, Bret Weber, Katie Dachtler and Jeannie Mock.

“How can the city be better?” asked Feland. “It's the question we ask every year. One thousand years from now, we'll ask the same question. How can we work better together?”

Senators responded by talking about bringing more event options to Grand Forks, either at the Alerus Center or by reviving street music festivals.

“We were just thinking of doing that and then COVID happened,” Dachtler said.

Dawson Dutchak, student body vice president, floated the idea of creating punch cards or bingo cards for downtown businesses, as a back-to-school promotion for the city.

But getting downtown means transportation options for students who live on campus and don’t have cars. A shuttle to and from events or different bus options could provide those means. For students old enough to go to bars, a late night bus could provide a means to get safely back to campus, though Bochenski, while open to the idea, said there are significant challenges in hiring drivers — the city has had to provide drivers for Grand Forks Public Schools.

“It's something that I think can be looked at and it's going to be a challenge logistically, but it's something that I think could (be of) benefit,” he said.

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And more events don’t exactly mean more events with alcohol. Morgan Mastrud, chief of staff for the Student Senate, said people are familiar with what downtown has to offer, but it would be beneficial to have more indoor events there that don’t always revolve around drinking.

At another table, Weigel and a group of senators discussed recycling — the challenges of getting people to do it properly, and alleviating peoples’ concerns that bin contents actually get recycled.

Tiana Staudinger, co-chief of staff, said recyclable items end up getting taken to the landfill when the contents of bins get contaminated with food or other garbage.

“People don't know those things,” Staudinger said.

Senators said they would like to discuss with the city the possibility of having another large drop off location on campus, and more education about how to use it properly in order to make sure items go through the recycling process.

Parking and ticketing were also discussed, as was possibly clarifying when lots are free to use, as a way of making the campus more inviting for people in the community. UND enforces parking on campus on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., though on hockey nights parking in lots near the Ralph Engelstad Arena is also enforced. Some lots near housing are also regularly monitored.

“I don't think the general citizenry of our community feel very welcome on campus because of the parking situation here,” Sande said.

Adam Kurtz is the community editor for the Grand Forks Herald. He covers higher education and other topics in Grand Forks County and the city.

Kurtz joined the Herald in July 2019. He covered business and county government topics before covering higher education and some military topics.

Tips and story ideas are welcome. Get in touch with him at akurtz@gfherald.com, or DM at @ByAdamKurtz.

Desk: 701-780-1110
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