2023 February 26, Sunday
Blair’s newly elected Mayor, Mindy Rump, may raise eyebrows with her candid responses to four pressing questions we asked. With the current political climate it is rare to find officials willing to openly discuss issues. In particular, Mayor Rump’s comments on the city’s water situation may leave locals intrigued and encouraged (we certainly are pleased with her specific and honest replies.)
With a willingness to discuss such critical issues openly, many will want to see what other policies Rump plans to enact during her administration. As Blair may see significant changes under its new leader, we invite our readers to submit any burning questions they may have for Mayor Rump or any local official by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BLAIRTODAY: Blair’s water treatment plant is criticized for being unsafe. A recent WOWT report highlighted something Blair residents have asked about for years. This is a common issue as the water treatment plant sends letters that explain problems that happened, but as of the letter are no longer issues. This year, the water began to smell like runoff – then like chlorine added to runoff – earlier than usual and many people are concerned. Does the Mayor’s office have concerns about this, and is there a plan to address the concerns (valid or not) of Blair residents?
MAYOR RUMP: I have personally toured Blair’s water plant multiple times and am fully confident in the ability of Blair’s Public Works personnel to provide safe water for the people of Blair. An Annual Water Quality Report is provided on the city website for anyone interested and is intended to provide important information about the city’s drinking water and the efforts made by the City of Blair water system to provide safe drinking water. Investments in monitoring and testing technology and oversight by state and federal authorities provides a multi-level system to protect the drinking water supply.
In a system that provides 20 million gallons per day, there will occasionally be breakdowns in equipment or other events that may disrupt the normal procedures of the water treatment plant. These events may require mitigation, including notifying the public. These letters are required by law and are intended to describe what happened, what was done to restore normal service, and what (if any) actions by the users are recommended. The information provided and timing of when letters are sent to the public are determined by the State of Nebraska and not the City of Blair. In a situation where water would be unsafe for any reason, the City of Blair would use multiple other means to notify the public immediately.
Since our water system is supplied directly from the Missouri river, seasonal or weather-related events (such as heavy rainfall upstream, ice/snow melt, and releases from upstream dams) creates variability in the source water supply and requires adjustments to the treatment process. This may occasionally result in changes to the taste or smell of water, but does not mean that the water is unsafe to drink.
Going forward, Blair is in the process of design for a major water treatment plant expansion that will serve to ensure a consistent water supply for residential and commercial customers. A safe and consistent water supply is a priority for myself, the city and the people of Blair.Mayor Mindy Rump, Blair, Nebraska
BLAIRTODAY: Downtown Blair is more empty than at any time in the last 30 years. Commercial real estate sitting dormant (and in some cases in disrepair) is a physical eyesore, financially-negative, and potentially in violation of codes, for the City in many ways. Does the Mayor’s office have an opinion on this, and if so, a plan to revive the “main street” commercial district in Blair?
MAYOR RUMP: Although we would love to see 100% occupancy in our downtown, a drive down Main Street still shows a mix of retail, service, health care, and restaurant businesses. Organizations such as the Danish Archives, Washington County Food Pantry and Washington County Chamber of Commerce have also chosen to locate downtown. As a business owner who has chosen to live and work downtown, I am personally familiar with the challenges and benefits of investing in Blair’s downtown, and applaud those businesses and organizations that have chosen to locate here.
In the past, the city has worked to improve the downtown corridor with sidewalk and landscape improvements, lighting upgrades, and the removal of a dilapidated building to create a public parking lot between 17th and 18th Streets. Currently, a priority for myself and the City of Blair is to begin the process of reducing truck traffic on Main Street to improve the safety and character of our downtown. Ongoing work on the south truck route and development of a north bypass project as a collaborative effort between local and state government will aid this goal. I am also prioritizing the connecting and extending of trail/bike route connections to downtown and other areas of Blair to promote pedestrian and bike access.
Building and business owners have many challenges including the overall economic condition, availability of employees, online competition, and other considerations. The nature of many downtown streets in communities across Nebraska has changed dramatically over the past few years as a result. I will always be looking for incentives and opportunities to encourage investment in Blair’s downtown.
BLAIRTODAY: The “farmer’s market” is a staple of Blair life from late spring to early fall. However, it seems to dwindle in both vendors and public patronage each year. Does the Mayor’s office have an opinion on the value of the “farmer’s market,” and if so, would the Mayor’s office consider looking at proposals to make a more permanent fixture of it?
I personally support the farmer’s market not only as a source of healthy locally grown produce, but also as an opportunity to encourage interaction, communication and fellowship. If there is anything the city can do to help, I would encourage vendors or customers to speak to their local City Council representative or present their ideas at a City Council meeting. Successful projects (including the construction of the Blair Library and Technology Center, design and development of Generations Park, improvements to the Neihardt Trail, etc.) require collaboration and usually begin with a grassroots effort. Those of us who work for the city are always willing to listen and help wherever we can.
BLAIRTODAY: If someone were to write an essay called, “Blair, Nebraska is A Great Place to Live,” what are the three biggest selling points for Blair you would include in that essay?
MAYOR RUMP: Interestingly enough, my great-great-grandfather John A. Rhoades actually wrote a book titled ‘Blair the Town Beautiful’ in 1926 that described a town renowned for ‘her magnificent shade trees, her wide and well kept streets and her number of comfortable homes’ and described Blair as ‘A Home Town with Good Schools and Churches and Good Social Environments’. Although the language may have changed in the last hundred years, I would like to think that the spirit of my home town remains the same today.
Blair is a town that appreciates its history, embraces its future, and is represented by its people.
Blair’s past is seen in some of our buildings and churches, our parks, our brick streets and some of those magnificent shade trees mentioned back in 1926. Blair’s past is also seen in the writings and histories of our local citizens and in the businesses founded and built here since Blair was founded in 1869.
Blair’s future may be represented, among other things, by the recent investments in our city and schools, the support of responsible development of our town and local industries, and investments in Blair’s streets, utilities and airport. Continuing improvements and reuse at the former Dana campus, rehabilitation and renewal of local venues at Veterans Field, Peterson and Zimmerman Fields (as a joint volunteer and city effort), development of Generations Park to provide a splash pad and other multi-generational facilities, and continuing work on the south truck route and other traffic control measures to redirect truck traffic are some examples of projects that are intended to strengthen and improve Blair in the future.
But our most important asset is our people, who consistently step up to take on challenges, improve their community, and work to make their town the best it can be for themselves, their children and future generations. Volunteers at the Jeanette Hunt Animal Shelter, Danish Archives, or Washington County Recycling Center can be found every day freely offering their talents to better the community. The generosity of our people is evident during the Washington County Gives event and in donating to build an endowment for the future with the Washington County Community Foundation. Our volunteer fire and rescue squad members, volunteer coaches in youth sports, and mentors in organizations such as Teammates should know that they represent the best of Blair.
As mayor, I encourage everyone who lives in Blair to be a citizen and not merely a resident. To me, that means finding a way to use your skills and talents to improve your community. It is easy to wait for others or complain about something that is not to our satisfaction. For a community to get better, we must listen to one another, work together, and get the job done.Mayor Mindy Rump, Blair, Nebraska
BLAIRTODAY: We appreciate the time Mayor Rump took to answer these questions and hope you will reach out to us if you have more you’d like us to ask. Email us at email@example.com.