City Commission Q&A
Question 1: What prompted you to seek election to the City Commission and what do you bring to the table that makes you the best person for the position?
Peter Karl: I am seeking office because our current public officials have given no infrastructure for this city. Our taxes are currently going up because our current commissioners are offering nothing to build a good infrastructure. I have been trying to change this through state and federal grants, subsidies and annuities which will give us solid revenues and assets but our current representatives refuse to accept anything of such magnitude.
Mark Simmons: My Passion for our community is first and foremost the reason I decided to run for re-election. I very much enjoy helping people and solving problems. I bring eight years of leadership and good common sense to the table. I think my record and time in office speaks for itself.
Mike Thorstad: I enjoy my work as a Commissioner and am seeking a second term. I have learned a lot, during my tenure, about city operations, policies and procedures. My business and senior management experience has provided me with organization skills and a working knowledge of accounting, finance, human resource management, legal matters, and regulation, all of which I have found to be very valuable as a Commissioner. Working with the Commission and city staff, we have made progress in achieving better organization to keep pace with West Fargo's growth and I want to continue to be part of that process.
Question 2: What do you believe to be the true definition of a City Commissioner?
Karl: A city commissioner has the duty of making sure that their city is being run efficient and productive while insuring that the amenities for arts, science, education, entertainment and all public necessities are all up to par.
Simmons: I know the job description states that we are policy makers, but I believe I am there to represent the people. I believe the term Commissioner is someone who will look at an issue with an open mind, and take into consideration both sides of the issue, and then make a fair decision on the outcome. We can't always make everybody happy, but I have tried very hard to get on the side of the majority. To me, whether I agree or not isn't the issue, it's what's better for our Community.
Thorstad: A City Commissioner should take great pride in their community, possess a strong desire to want to make it better, and be willing to commit the time and effort required to do the job to the best of his or her abilities. A Commissioner must be willing to work with others, have good communication skills, and be accessible to the constituents. Above all, a Commissioner needs to be a good steward of the tax revenues entrusted to them.
Question 3: The city continues to grow at a rapid pace, both residentially and commercially. How will this growth play into the city's budgeting process for 2013 that will get underway shortly after Election Day?
Karl: As we have our "City on the Grow," so has our need for proper sewage along with the need for a sewage and water treatment plant because our wells are running dry due to the influx of all the new residences and businesses.Then too, with all of these new people coming into the area, we now have a greater necessity for a full time West Fargo Fire and Rescue.
Simmons: Our city's growth has been phenomenal over the past few years. I believe that we are getting closer and closer to a good mix between commercial and residential, with the improvements at Bobcat, Caterpillar, Monsanto, and many others, and now with the new Costco coming to West Fargo. As we grow, especially in the retail sector, this will allow us to maintain our current mill levy. I do not believe we will have to move too far off our current mill levy during the 2013 budget talks.
Thorstad: Though we likely will need additional staffing and equipment to continue to provide the high level of service to an ever expanding city, I believe we can still stay within the revenue stream our growth has generated and we should not have to raise the mill levy rate. Department managers have done a good job of presenting reasonable funding requests and staying within their annual budget allocations. As a Commission we need to continue to be diligent in the budget process and operate with the revenue we are receiving from the current mill levy to avoid raising the tax rate or increasing service fees, if possible.
Question 4: On that note, what is your economic forecast for the city for the next four years?
Karl: Our current West Fargo City Commission will have us go broke in the next five years if they do not follow a solid plan for infrastructure. Their current feudalistic system for taxes has no basis or ability to handle the growth potential that we should honestly be working with.
Simmons: I see our community growing even more rapidly in the next few years. With the opening of the bridge (on Ninth Street East), we have seen more commercial/retail than ever going south of the Interstate, as well as residential. I think we are in a very good position in our community, and will see great expansion on all fronts.
Thorstad: If the regional and national economies don't fall off, I believe West Fargo will see the same or perhaps an even higher level of activity in the coming years. Shortly FEMA will be issuing revised flood plain maps for Fargo which will add many existing properties plus development land to the flood plain. This will increase the cost up front to develop property and where flood insurance is required, it will be a recurring cost to the homeowner. The proposed F-M Area Diversion is at least a decade away, if not longer, so West Fargo will have a competitive advantage of having property with permanent flood protection. Schools are also very attractive to potential home buyers and we have several new ones being constructed. Both the Costco and Sanford Hospital projects should be catalysts to further investment, particularly commercial, on the city's south side. Many new jobs are also being created in our industrial areas by companies such as Caterpillar, which will bring more people to the city.
Question 5: What do you feel are the three most pressing issues facing the city that will need to be addressed in the near future?
Karl: Infrastructure will allow us to have our own buses, museums, and theatres all of which will create revenues which will allow us to lower taxes with no problem. Our initial funding comes through federal and state grants, subsidies as well as with state annuities.
Simmons: Obviously, the diversion will be a huge impact on us, but I feel that is a ways out until we actually get into those conversations about cost and who will be paying for it. I think in the next four years we really need to concentrate on infrastructure and how do we get the entire City up to date. We have a lot of old roads that need to be updated and repaired. With all the new construction going on south, I do not want to forget about the older parts of West Fargo. We are in the process of laying out some plans now and hope to get started sometime in June. I think another issue we need to be diligent about is our water supply. We have plenty of water now, but it does not replenish itself. We are working with Fargo on solutions, but I would like to see that pace picked up a little. Also, I worry about our Senior Citizens a lot. I don't know if this should be a priority for West Fargo, but it is for me. I want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to make certain they are not falling through the cracks. These are our Moms and Dad's and we need to respect and take care of them.
Thorstad: Keeping city services on pace with West Fargo's rapid growth is a challenge. Our residents have come to expect a high quality level of services and we need to be able to provide them within our fiscal means. Short and long term plans need to be developed to address the city's future needs including water and sewage treatment, facilities, staffing, technology and equipment. Operationally we need to continue to work on efficiency, organization, and improving our working relationship with other area governing entities.
Question 6: As a commissioner, resident input is key to shaping the decision making process. During your bid for election/re-election are you hearing any comments or suggestions out there that are surprising you in terms of residents wants, needs, or conversation in general? Explain.
Karl: I have spoken to quite a large number of people and they have all given me encouragement to keep fighting these bureaucrats in West Fargo City Hall. People have told me how they are fed up with what is not being done. My platform covers much of their complaints. My only hope is that they follow through with their thoughts and put me into office so we can get something done.
Simmons: Honestly, I am not hearing a lot of concerns as of late. Obviously, the property tax is a big issue. We need to work very hard to hold the line on property tax. I get that our property taxes our high, and will do everything I can to keep them as low as possible, while still maintaining our services to our community.
Thorstad: I haven't heard anything really surprising. Some residents have told me they would like to see more service-type businesses including restaurants, grocery stores and entertainment facilities. Others would like to see more amenities such as pools, pedestrian and bike trails, as well as a community center. I believe people value the quality of life that West Fargo offers. We have a close-knit community which I hope we can maintain as we continue to grow. On a personal note, a number of residents thanked me for my service to the community, which I truly appreciated.