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West Fargo begins preliminary flood planning

West Fargo city officials are being proactive about the possibility of any potential spring flooding by starting to make preliminary preparations early, adding they are not expecting any problems with either the Sheyenne River or the Sheyenne Diversion that protects the community.

Another goal is to keep residents and property owners aware in advance.

Mayor Rich Mattern said he wanted to squelch rumors he'd been hearing a few weeks ago that the Sheyenne Diversion didn't work, describing the talk as "disconcerting. Things are working well and we want to be a little more proactive about getting that word out."

On that note, the commission heard Monday night that at least two public meetings will be held to brief residents and property owners about flood preparations and to answer any of their questions, one for those living south of Interstate 94, and the second for those residing north.

City Administrator Jim Brownlee said the preliminary planning involves looking at identifying potential risk areas, and securing the necessary equipment and personnel needed, including sandbags, and pumps, if water needs to be drained or there are ice jams on the river, like last year.

Public Works Director Barry Johnson told the commissioners that the staff isn't concerned about flooding, but more so the problems that could arise in protected area with interior water that melts too quickly. "Last year was a unique event. It appears this year could be similar. We are just trying to get ahead of the game and be ready to go."

He said in the Horace area, property owners will again be notified and that neighborhood captains will be established to monitor various situations.

City Engineer Kevin Bucholz assured everyone that the Sheyenne Diversion worked properly last year and the expectations are for the same this year. "There is absolutely nothing wrong structurally or with the integrity of the Diversion and its operation," he said.

The commission directed city staff to establish meeting dates and times and share that information at the next meeting on March 1.

In other action, the commission:

-authorized City Forester Yvette Gehrke to seek bids for tree planting along the east side of First Street where previous trees were cut down because of power line interference. The forestry department received a grant of $25,000 from the North Dakota Forest Service to complete the project;

-approved second reading for the rezoning of Shadow Wood 1st and 2nd Additions from special single family dwellings to one and two family dwellings;

-okayed two renaissance zone applications, the first a lease application to Pa's Pizza at 756 Center Street, for their business involving manufacturing frozen pizza for retail sale; the second, to Monsanto Company at 304 Center Street, for a five year property tax exemption and a five year income tax exemption, on a $3.5 million dollar project involving retrofitting and expanding their existing sunflower seed plant to a soybean seed plant, where canola will be treated and packaged.

-okayed a letter of support for a low income tax housing credit application for Southhill Properties, 3300 8th St. W.

-approved a replat and land use plan amendment from high density residential to office park, for Burlington 6th Addition, located south of 19th Ave. E., east of 9th St. E., and west of Burlington Drive. Developers are planning to sell a portion of the vacant property to FM Ambulance, therefore the need for the office park designation;

-favored a conditional use permit for conversion of the existing sunflower and canola seed cleaning and bagging facility to a soybean cleaning and conditioning facility and expansion at 304 Center Street.

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