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Q&A with West Fargo City Commission candidates

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Question: Why are you running for election/re-election to the City Commission, and what sets you apart from other candidates?

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Lou Bennett: I feel there are many things I have been involved in through the planning stages have not been completed. My eight years of experience in the office of city commissioner, my nearly 40 years as a federal employee and my life experiences of 70 years.

Duane Breitling: I have always had an interest in government. My undergraduate major was Political Science. In the 1960s I was on the legal staff of the Legislative Research Council and worked on the revision of Title 40 of the NDCC which sets forth the laws governing the function of municipalities. My legal career included serving as an assistant WF city attorney.

Duane Hanson: I believe you should give back to the community you live in. I have come to enjoy public service. My experience on the school board will help make the learning curve less steep.

Richard Lewis: I have always followed government affairs. City government affects our everyday lives and needs our input to work efficiently. At this point in my life, I've decided to take it to the next level and become more involved in the process. In my life and career, I have used common sense, honesty and hard work to accomplish my goals. I have 33 years of experience working with the public. I know how to listen and work with others to accomplish the goals at hand.

Q: What do you perceive to be the biggest issues facing the city of West Fargo during the next four years?

Bennett: We must acquire a water purification system, either by building our own or co-building one with another city or the county. Without potable water, a city cannot survive.

Breitling: Developing a long-term solution to the water supply for the city, the completion of the Main Avenue project, and the development of County Road 17 south of I-94.

Hanson: Growth and the underlying issues that go with it such as water treatment plant, roads and streets, police and maintaining infrastructure. Meeting the challenge of providing the services people need and yet keeping spending in line.

Lewis: Continued residential and commercial growth, the proposed North Dakota Diversion, water treatment and prevention of an uncontrolled flow of water from Devils Lake. We need to continue residential growth in an orderly and efficient manner and encourage commercial growth in the city. I am in favor of the North Dakota Diversion, but opposed to a county-wide sales tax to fund it. I prefer a combination of a Fargo sales tax and special assessments to properties that benefit the most. The city has proposed using a sales tax to fund water treatment. If a county-wide sales tax is used for the North Dakota Diversion, it would hinder that funding source, leaving only special assessments for West Fargo residents, which is not a good option. The City of West Fargo has to work with the state on a solution to prevent an uncontrolled flow of water from Devils Lake. If water comes uncontrolled, it will compromise the existing Sheyenne Diversion and our ability to protect the city from flooding.

Q: If elected, what would be your primary goal for the first year?

Bennett: Push to keep the Main Avenue project on schedule, develop the West Fargo land south of the Interstate, and get adequate flood protection for the region.

Breitling: There is a need to develop service facilities south of I-94.

Hanson: My first-year goal would be to get to know city government from the inside looking out. I do not believe you can talk about and implement change without knowing the whole situation.

Lewis: That the city of West Fargo take on more of a leadership role in the metropolitan area. For example, West Fargo not only needs to be a member of the Work Group for the North Dakota Diversion, they need to be a voting member to look out for their best interests.

Q: West Fargo continues to be the city on the grow. What specific areas do you feel are going to continue to play into that growth?

Bennett: Keeping the city services growing as the city grows. Having adequate garbage collection, and quality fire and police protection. The fire portion is in the mill and the police and garbage are close behind and will be addressed this coming year.

Breitling: Job development and the location of a Red River Diversion, if such is located in North Dakota.

Hanson: We have flood protected land. That, and the fact we have a great school system, a well-run city and parks are all going to play into that growth.

Lewis: We are in a unique position to be one of the few communities that has flood control in place. I believe that will continue to be the primary reason for continued growth. We also need continued communication with the school board, park board, etc. to maintain and create opportunities for young families.

Q: The city of West Fargo appears to be in sound economic standing. With 2011 budget talks getting underway shortly after the election, what ideas will you bring to the table to help keep a mill levy increase at a minimum, if possible?

Bennett: I will push to pass a bare bones budget, by extending the use of all of our equipment and keeping purchases to a minimum. We will have to chip and pare where we can and cut every piece of fat we can find. At the budget meeting this past August, we used part of our surplus to partially pay down to keep the 2011 budget from getting completely out of hand. I believe we will see a modest increase in the mill levy for this coming budget year. But it will be less than if we had not taken a proactive approach last August.

Breitling: Budgets are in a large part driven by staffing needs. Such needs must be regularly reviewed to make certain that the most efficient use of personnel is achieved.

Hanson: I do not know if keeping mill levy at the current level is possible. As I stated in a previous question, you have to get to know city government before you can have an impact on how it is run. I will do my very best to keep spending in line. With that said, city government is here to protect the people and provide the services they need and expect and that costs money. That also doesn't mean it should be business as usual if some things can be improved upon.

Lewis: Since the city appears to be in sound economic standing, there should not be a need for a significant increase in the mill levy. I believe we can live within our means.

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