State of the community continues to flourish
The City of West Fargo experienced another good year in 2007 and officials are looking ahead to a repeat in 2008 and the continuation of West Fargo's earned reputation of 'City on the Grow.'
These words from West Fargo Mayor Rich Mattern, as he delivered his annual state of the City message during Monday nights Commission meeting, commending city employees and fellow city commissioners for their role.
He said the City was able to maintain its growth in 2007, with 318 new dwelling units constructed, including single family, twin home and multiple family units, compared to 305 units in 2006. Residential, commercial, public and other permits were valued at $71.2 million last year.
Mattern added that the 2008 City budget approved in October was passed without a tax rate increase because of the City's determination in keeping property taxes in check. He said decisions like this aren't always easy because of the continued growth, using the city's road system as an example. "In 2002, we had approximately 153 miles of roadway in West Fargo. In 2007, we had nearly doubled that to 291 miles. So you can see the growth in our city has been phenomenal and that is why budget decisions can be so difficult.'
Mattern also cited a number of accomplishments during the year, including: the opening of two new schools - Aurora Elementary in Eagle Run and the 9th Grade Academy; the Public Works Department moving into its new facilities on 12th Avenue North; the Renaissance Zone continuing to show success as six new projects were approved last year, which when complete will generate an additional property tax valuation of more than $900,000; and the opening of several new businesses, among them Trail King and E. W. Wylie.
Mattern noted that there was a slight setback on work on the 9th Street interchange project due to embankment dirt sliding away, but added the good news is that the project will be fully completed in 2009, including the ramps, which were originally projected for 2012. "I believe, this will have a huge economic impact," he said. Phase one of the three phase Main Avenue reconstruction project is also slated to begin in 2009.
In the area of assessing, Mattern noted that the City presently has 9,200 parcels of land, a 4 percent increase over the 8,879 parcels last year. "Last year we also updated our comprehensive plan as a result of all the growth and development in our community during the past few years," Mattern added. "We identified emerging issues and redefined our community's vision."
Mattern also talked about the City's water supply, describing it as a major issue. "We know that a water treatment plant is in our future. Preliminary work has started on getting ready for that day and work will continue on it this year. Discussions also will continue on how to get a steady stream of water to the Valley during periods of drought."
Mattern concluded by reaffirming that "2007 was another great year for the City of West Fargo. I have no doubt that, working together, 2008 also will be a great year."
West Fargo City Commissioners also provided brief summaries of activities regarding their portfolios.
Commissioner Lou Bennett, who holds the sanitation, library and forestry portfolios, said West Fargo crews hauled 17,258 tons of municipal solid waste to the landfill during the year.
He noted that plans are to improve these numbers by years end through the inception of a new recycling campaign which is intended to be implemented in conjunction with clean-up week the beginning of May.
Bennett said involvement in the forestry area is growing by leaps and bounds, with focus at some point in the near future on looking at a separate forestry department for the community.
As for the Library, Bennett said the new facility "is getting all kinds of use. I wonder where all these people met before we opened the Library. There is rarely a night that goes by that the meeting room is not being used."
Commissioner Brenda Warren, who holds the sewer and water portfolio, said that the continued growth of the City meant an increase in the use of water, with the City pumping a recordbreaking number of 713 million gallons in 2007, with 4.7 million gallons pumped alone on the peak day of July 9.
She said even though these numbers seem high, they are not indicative of excessive usage, with population figures of 24,184 yielding an average usage of 80 gallons a day.
Accomplishments during the year included the realization of a new well and a 1.5 million gallon water tower in the Eagle Run area.
For upcoming endeavors, Warren also mentioned the need for a water treatment facility as long as other infrastructure improvements and the replacement of sewer and water mains as part of the Main Avenue project.
Commissioner Mark Simmons, in charge of fire and police department areas, said both areas have been busy and challenged. A new fire engine has been ordered and will be arriving in September for the Fire Department, which now has three full-time officers and a crew of 41 volunteers. Land was also acquired in 2007 for a new fire and police station south of town near Eagle Run which is projected to be realized in 2010.
The Police Department presently has 46 employees, including 33 officers and 13 civilian as well as four volunteers. Simmons said the decision to join the Red River Regional Dispatch Center was a major happening this last year and a plan which is expected to be finally completed in the next couple of weeks. He said there were 14,218 police calls during the year, which exceeded the prior year by approximately 900; and 4,317 citations, down from 4,873 in 2006. On a sad note, he mentioned the passing of Captain David Bruckner, a 37 year veteran of the Department.
City Administrator Jim Brownlee presented street information in the absence of City Commissioner Bryan Schulz. He said the City street crews are currently responsible for 291 miles of roads, 110 miles of sidewalks, and 14.7 miles of 10-foot bike paths. He cited the completion of the microsurfacing of 17th and 13th Avenues as accomplishments this last year; and mentioned ongoing work on the 9th Street Interchange and Main Avenue reconstruction as important future undertakings.
In other action, the Commission voted 3-1 on stricter ballot wording for the smoking ban question that will be used on the June 10 election ballot, with Commissioner Warren opposing the motion.
The approved question will ask voters if smoking should be banned in bars, all parts of trucks stops, and all public places rented to private parties.
If approved by voters, the ordinance would go into effect on 8 a.m., July 1, 2008, or the time an ordinance with the same restrictions goes into effect in the City of Fargo, whichever date is later.
Fargo city officials have also talked about placing a stricter smoking ban on the June ballot.
Warren said she opposed the wording of the question, tying the outcome of the West Fargo vote into whether or not Fargo passes a ban. "I would label this as the ultimate betrayal to our residents. We're saying we want to know what your feelings are, but then maybe it's not going to count. I just can't vote on this."
Mattern responded by saying the issue on the ballot was what had been agreed upon earlier through previous discussion by the Commission.
City Attorney Brian Neugebauer said he had prepared the wording as instructed by the Commission with the connection to Fargo, saying if West Fargo's passes and Fargo's fails, West Fargo wouldn't be required to proceed.
Warren moved that the item not be placed on the June ballot. "If we have to wait for Fargo, let's wait."
Simmons made the motion to place the wording on the ballot, with the 3-1 count ensuing.
Since the West Fargo June election vote will be an advisory one, first reading on the ordinance wording must take place before the election, and if it passes, second reading after the election, so it can go into effect July 1.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the West Fargo City Commission will take place Monday, March 17, at 5:30 p.m. in the Commission Chambers at West Fargo City Hall. All meetings are open to the public.