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City agrees to explore possible senior center

West Fargo City Commissioners agreed Monday night it would be a good idea to form an exploratory committee to study the need, support, and resources available for a senior citizen center in the city.

Commissioner Mike Thorstad requested the move, explaining that when he first ran for his city post he had a lot of residents ask about the possibility. "Sixty communities in North Dakota have them," he said."We do not. I think we should form an exploratory committee to find answers to questions regarding one. I think it is something we have to get information on and decide if we want to move forward."

The questions Thorstad posed on the commission agenda included: Is there a need for a senior center in West Fargo? What types of services should the center offer? Where should a center be located and what should its hours be? What are staffing requirements? How would it be funded? Are grants available? How much expense would fall back on the city? Could it be coordinated with other senior centers, organizations, parks, schools? If the decision is made to proceed, what is the proposed timetable?

Longtime West Fargo citizen and businessman Frank Lenzmeier was present at the meeting to tout the endeavor and reiterate the need for such a center, asking the commission for a commitment of monetary support in order for the plan to move forward.

Lenzmeier has done extensive research on the matter and has determined a need based on maximization of other senior services in the community and the fact more housing has been built to accommodate a larger senior population in the community. He said he has also received a commitment for delivery of meals to such a center as well as a part-time staffing promise.

Commission members stated there were no allocations in the 2010 budget for such an effort, but starting May 1, new budget considerations will be taken and that would be an appropriate time to request a funding amount for such a center.

Thorstad told Lenzmeier he would be happy to work with him on getting a committee established to discuss such an undertaking. "I'm hoping we can get something to happen," Thorstad said.

No formal action was taken, but the commission voiced approval for formation of this ad hoc committee to determine the feasibility and need.

Anyone wishing to be a part of this planning group is encouraged to contact Thorstad at 701-388-4907 or Lenzmeier at 701-388-5064.

Commissioners also approved a planned unit development amendment for Dakota Boys Ranch so they can move forward with plans to construct a new 14,700 square foot building, consisting of office and retail space, on the corner of 6th Street East and 13th Avenue East at 619 13th Ave.

The business will be located in the corridor overlay district, which requires a larger setback, therefore, the need for the PUD. The parking lot will be positioned on the north and east sides of the building. All mechanical, garbage and donation drop areas will be screened by a fence from neighboring residential properties.

Commissioners said their biggest concern would be items lying around outside that would cause issues for the neighboring property owners.

Lisa Olson, vice president of retail operations for Dakota Boys Ranch, assured the commission that their staff would do everything possible to prevent this. She said security cameras will be in place and there will be signage to alert people to stipulations with hours. She said the donation site will be on the north side and that staff will be "committed to making sure everything is cleaned up everyday" to the best of their ability.

City Commissioner Mark Simmons told Olson "we are very happy to have you coming to our city," before making the motion to approve the PUD request. The board voted 4-0 to do so.

In other action, the commission:

-gave their approval to a budget amendment so two pieces of public works equipment can be purchased, one for mowing and the other a sweeper;

-approved first reading of traffic ordinance No. 856 relating to traffic ordinances, which involved changing some of the wording to better reflect current situations. The changes involved the penalties for driving without liability insurance, speed limitations in school zones, and setting the minimum fee for violation in construction zones at $80;

-okayed second reading and gave final plat approval to rezoning of Eaglewood 1st Addition from agricultural to single family dwelling and planned unit development.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the West Fargo City Commission will take place at 5:30 p.m., Monday, Feb.1, in the commission chamber at West Fargo City Hall, 800 4th Ave. E. all meetings are open to the public.