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City gives nod to new cable provider

West Fargo residents and businesses will soon have another choice for cable television, internet and digital telephone service.

West Fargo City Commissioners placed on first reading Monday night a franchise agreement request from Midcontinent Communications, based out of Sioux Falls, S.D., to provide its full compliment of services to all parts of West Fargo for both residential and business users.

The 15-year agreement is patterned after and nearly identical to the one in place for the other local cable service provider, CableOne.

Midcontinent officials appeared before the Commission last August to ask for a limited franchise agreement to continue servicing an area south of West Fargo that had been annexed into the City. The limited franchise was approved at that time.

The company presently serves 200 communities in North Dakota and South Dakota including Grand Forks, Bismarck and Minot; and has been providing service in the local communities of Horace, Mapleton, Harwood, Reiles Acres and Oxbow.

Tom Simmons, senior vice president for public policy for Midcontinent, told Commissioners Monday night the goal is to have service available in some areas by the fall of 2007, with the project to be completed by the middle of the summer in 2008, at a cost estimate of $11 million for the entire project. He said that approximately 98 percent of the lines would be buried.

"We're just so thrilled to have the opportunity, if it's so granted, to build out service in West Fargo," Simmons said. "We look forward to competing heads up with the competitor, a good cable operator and a good friend in the industry."

Nobody voiced opposition to the franchise request during the public meeting portion of the discussion but CableOne general manager Scott Geston welcomed the imminent arrival of Midcontinent to the area, before urging caution during the build process. "My only concern is they don't hit lines and cause outages. We'll do our part on locates and we hope they do theirs."

Simmons said Midcontinent officials would pay close attention to rules, adding he looked forward to working with Geston.

Second reading on the franchise agreement is expected to take place at the July 16 meeting of the Commission.

In other action, the Commission:

-approved the appointment of Leighan Aker-Monson to the West Fargo Library Board;

-okayed a request for an open air picnic shelter for the future Triumph Brethren Church in West River Addition along Sheyenne Street. Church officials want to build the shelter prior to construction of the church which is set to take place in up to seven years. The shelter will be used for activities associated with the church, including summer bible school;

-approved the rezoning from agricultural to heavy commercial/light industrial and the land use plan amendment from agricultural preservation to light industrial for Wanzek Construction so they can expand their existing office building and parking area to accommodate growth on their property located west of the city on the south side of I-94 and between the Raymond and Kindred interchanges;

-favored a conditional use permit and final plat approval for Dell Arneson to subdivide lots for light industrial development purposes on the northwest corner of West Main Avenue and 21st Street Northwest;

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the West Fargo City Commission will take place in the Commission Chambers at City Hall at 5:30 p.m., Monday, July 16. All meetings are open to the public.