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Commissioner questions feasibility study expenditure

West Fargo City Commissioner Brenda Warren questioned Monday night why $6,500 was expended to Colorado-based firm, HVS Golf Services, for a feasibility study for a golf course in Westport Beach, south of Interstate 94, when only $2,500 was approved by the Commission. The item came up after Warren saw a bill come through in the regular Commission packet statements.

The City's share of $2,500 for the study was approved by a 4-1 vote at the Nov. 19 meeting, with Warren casting the lone 'no' vote, saying the money could be better used for capital improvement needs. At that same meeting, developers said they would fund the study, but Commissioners agreed upon the $2,500 as a 'good faith' move. The proposed 18-hole course would be located on a 360-acre parcel north of 52nd Ave. W., donated by the developers.

City Administrator Jim Brownlee said it was his recollection that the City would pay for the study and then be reimbursed by the developer. The $6,500 payment was made up front to get the study process going. Total cost of the study is $13,000.

"I was quite shocked when I saw the bill," Warren said. "It was agreed the City would pay $2,500 and the balance would be paid by the developer. I was at the meeting and don't recall any conversation. The City of West Fargo is not in the business of loaning money to developers, and should not be. This was flagrant disregard for a West Fargo City Commission motion."

Commissioners Mark Simmons and Lou Bennett said the prepayment issue by the City had been discussed prior, with Warren repeating she did not remember any such discussion.

Commissioner Bryan Schulz suggested that Brownlee speak with the developers and get reimbursement for the $4,000.

In other action, the Commission:

• approved five-year remodeling exemptions for Stars and Strikes Bowling Alley, 434 Sheyenne St.; State Bank & Trust, West Fargo, at 409 Sheyenne St.; Nathan Opgrande, 114 2nd Ave. W.; and a residential property at 1079 Sheyenne St.

• approved second and final reading adopting the revised and updated West Fargo Comprehensive Plan which will serve to guide the physical and development aspects of the community, including municipal growth and other related municipal infrastructure improvements. The Plan also identifies strategic community issues, providing residents, businesses, landowners and elected officials a mechanism for addressing these issues. The last revision of the Plan was in 2000 with the recent changes spurred by the growth south of the City. Work on the Plan was completed by City of West Fargo staff, in cooperation with the Metropolitan Council of Governments, after yearlong emphasis and public promotion in a number of areas;

• okayed second and final reading for rezoning from planned unit development to heavy commercial/light industrial for Lot 2, Block 1 of Knutson's 2nd Addition;

• approved second and final reading for West Fargo 3rd Addition for a subdivision and rezoning from agricultural to heavy industrial. Property owner Mike Staber wants to subdivide and rezone property for development of heavy industrial uses and to establish clear title descriptions for the property located between the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad and 12th Avenue NW and along and to the west of 9th St. NW.

• acting as the Board of Adjustment, approved a variance to decrease the side yard setback for an accessory building (detached garage) from three feet to two feet at 720 Elm St.

• approved a contract with Southeast Cass Water Resource District to take over maintenance of the Sheyenne Diversion. Public Works Director Barry Johnson said that with the City's continued growth to the South, Southeast Cass officials had contacted West Fargo several months ago about taking over the maintenance. He said they have agreed to pay ¾ salary for a full-time person to handle the duties, as well as fund equipment;

• accepted the state audit of Dec. 31, 2006, after hearing an optimistic presentation from City Administrator Jim Brownlee;

• approved an organization chart and job descriptions as presented by Public Works Director Johnson, and a job description for police clerks as presented by West Fargo Police Chief Arland Rasmussen;

• appointed Commissioner Simmons to continue serving as the West Fargo representative on the Metropolitan Council of Governments;

• approved the Mass Transit agreement with Fargo that was up for annual review.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the West Fargo City Commission will take place at 5:30 p.m., Monday, Jan. 7, in the Commission Chambers at West Fargo City Hall. All meetings are open to the public.