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'City on the Grow': Another great year for West Fargo

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West Fargo Mayor Rich Mattern presented his annual "State of the City" address Monday night recognizing the year 2011 as one of ongoing change and expansion thanking fellow commissioners, department heads and city staff for their contributions in continuing to make West Fargo "a city on the grow."

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"The year resulted in a lot of positives for the community," Mattern noted, citing census statistics released last year ranking West Fargo as the fifth largest city in the state, growing by 73 percent since 2000.

Continuing the growth upsurge will be renewed building opportunities which saw a boost with 350 lots becoming available in eight subdivisions; as well as a variety of new commercial projects presently underway, including the start of the The Caterpillar remanufacturing plant's $50 million dollar upgrade and expansion which will result in an additional 250 new jobs, and the $50 million dollar expansion of the Cargill plant off Ninth Street and Twelfth Avenue North.

Mattern said another construction project West Fargo is anxiously anticipating is the start of North Dakota's first Costco store. "What is exciting about the project is that it is our first big retailer along Veterans Boulevard. Hopefully others will follow. I think that will happen more rapidly as we get closer to the start of Sanford Health's big project on the Fargo side of Veterans Boulevard."

Several exciting road projects will be in the works in 2012, some already underway, others starting in the spring. Work on upgrading and repairing the Sheyenne Diversion has been completed. Phase two of the Main Avenue reconstruction from Fifth Street to Forty-Fifth Street will commence this spring with a November completion date. Total project cost is $21 million with the cities share $4.7 million.

Addressing other city areas, Mattern said the Park District has accomplished its upgrade of the Veterans Memorial Arena; anticipates the opening of the communities first splash park in the Shadow Wood development sometime in August; will construct two activity centers this summer in Maplewood and Rendezvous Parks; and will add three outdoor ice hockey rinks.

He added the school district also continues to grow, last year surpassing 7,000 students; and recent numbers showing more than 7,500 students. "The good news," Mattern stated, "is that West Fargo voters approved a bond referendum last May for $82.5 million dollars, which I think is a major milestone in West Fargo's history."

Because of the vote, a new elementary school that will open next fall is under construction and the work on a new middle school and turning the 9th grade academy into a high school will begin this spring.

Noting the importance of continued collaboration, Mattern said city, park district and school staff meet on a regular basis to address issues and are presently discussing the possibility of building a new pool and an activity or civic center.

He also mentioned several staff additions that included the hiring of City Financial Director Tina Gustafson and Human Resource Director Carmen Schroeder following the retirement of longtime city staffer Sharon Schacher; James Anderson as IT director and Chris Web as IT Technician positions; as well as Mark Vaux, as director of economic development and community service, filling the position left open by the passing of Dorinda Anderson which Mattern described as a "tragic loss."

He noted that Paul Fracassi in the assessor's office also earned Director of Tax Equalization Certification, with all employees - assessor Wanda Wilcox, Shane Marcuson and Fracassi, now having the highest certification offered by the State of North Dakota.

Concluding comments Mattern said, "It was another great year for the city and this year promises to be even better. Again, thanks to everyone for the hard work and keeping West Fargo, a city on the grow."

Fellow city commissioners also provided remarks involving the respective portfolios they oversee, thanking members of their departments for their contributions to a successful year - Lou Bennett, police, fire and forestry; Mike Thorstad, sanitation, building inspection, library board; Duane Hanson, water and sewer, and Mark Simmons, streets.

In other action, the commission:

-approved a declaration of restrictive covenants for Costco Wholesale Corporation;

-following a public hearing, okayed a request from Rusty Goose Development for first reading for the rezoning of South Pond at the Preserve 4th Addition from Agricultural to Single Family Dwellings and rezoning from Single Family Dwellings to one and two family dwellings for a 24.25 acre parcel located east of the Sheyenne River and 4th Street East on the north side of 32nd Avenue East. Developers want to plat and zone for single family development;

-approved a request for first reading from Section 20 Investments, following a public hearing on the rezoning of Maple Ridge at the Preserve 2nd Addition from single family dwellings to one and two family dwellings and from agricultural to rural residential. Developers want to plat and zone the 35.75 acre parcel located east of the Sheyenne River on the north side of 32nd Avenue East and west of 4th Street East, for single family development;

-favored a planned unit development amendment request from Adams Development for construction of an apartment complex with underground parking on a 10.9 acre parcel at 2915 Bluestem Drive, on the west side of Veterans Boulevard, north of 32nde Avenue East. The property is zoned planned unit development and located in the Corridor

Overlay District;

-approved the engineer's report and authorized preparation of plans and specs for Drain #45 Improvements from Seventh Avenue to Twelfth Avenue East. The work will include improvements to the storm sewer, culvert and backfilling the existing drain at a total project cost of $869,000. The project will be funded through highway tax dollars and capital improvement funds. No special assessments will be involved.

-appointed Commissioner Lou Bennett to another term on the city liaison on the West Fargo Forestry Board.

-approved a low bid of $47,400 from Traut Wells, Waite Park, Minn., for rehabilitation of City Well #9, if the project is found suitable to move forward after initial testing.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the West Fargo City Commission will take place Monday, March 19, at 5:30 p.m. in the Commission Chamber at West Fargo City Hall, 800 4th Ave. E. All meetings are open to the public.

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