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WF approves preliminary budget; no tax increase expected

West Fargo City Commissioners approved the preliminary budget totaling $32,373,224 for calendar year 2011 during regularly scheduled Monday night meeting action. The adoption, as it sits, holds the line on any tax increase, keeping the mill levy at 91.47, the same as the previous year's budget. The commission also scheduled a public hearing date of Monday, Sept. 20, at 5:45 p.m. to discuss and adopt the final budget and to make the annual tax levy.

Proposed expenditures in the 2011 budget include: General Fund, $7,949,970; Sanitation Fund, $2,076,997; Sewer and Water Funds, $4,228,417; Library, $690,847; Airport, $141,950; Debt Service, $14,722,043, Capital Improvements, $500,000; and Special Revenue Funds, $2,063,000.

Included in the numbers are: two utility rate hikes - a 50 cent increase per thousand gallons of water used, and a $1 increase for sanitation services, with these rates set to go into effect Jan. 1, 2011; a $612,000 allocation for contracted services with the West Fargo Fire Department; a 1 percent cost of living salary increase and a step for eligible employees; requests for new equipment totaling $626,475 - $80,000 for street equipment, $354,475 for sanitation, and $192,000 for sewer and water; and salaries for one new police officer and two sanitation workers. The commission is still waiting for final numbers to arrive at health insurance costs.

City Administrator Jim Brownlee said that a few minor changes had been made to the package before its presentation Monday night, among them, increasing the building fund minimally and adding a uniform allowance for new hires in the sanitation department.

Mayor Rich Mattern commended everyone for their contribution to the budget process. "Keeping our increase at zero and maintaining no mill levy increase was a monumental task," he said. "I'm very proud of everyone. We can show the legislature that city's can do this and we work very hard at it. Thank you everyone for the extra effort on this."

Aquifer and Well Study Proceeds

Public Works Director Barry Johnson also appeared before the commission to recommend approval of a contract with Liesch Associates Inc. to coordinate a phase one aquifer and well study as the city proceeds with plans for a water-treatment facility at some point in the future.

The Minneapolis-based firm, recently completed a city initiated study focusing on the potable water supply. Their prepared scope of work for the remainder of the project has been divided into three phases, with phase one divided into four tasks including updating the existing project data base, obtaining and evaluating existing public domain models and information, field tests at the wells, and water quality sampling at select wells.

Phase two will concentrate on Modflow effort and may include drilling test holes at various locations, while phase three will include evaluation of various well field development scenarios to maximize utilization of available groundwater sources and assessment of future conditions in the aquifer through the years 2035.

Johnson said costs for the first phase of the study which will take six to eight weeks to complete once authorization is given would be $26,810.

The board voted unanimously to proceed with the study phase.

Main Avenue Speed Limit a Concern

City Commissioner Mark Simmons also brought up for discussion the speed limit reduction from 50 miles per hour on east Main Avenue to the present 40 miles per hour limit that was adopted in May because of the deteriorated road conditions on the stretch of roadway from approximately 6th Street East to 45th Street East, presently in the process of being asphalted.

Simmons said he has received calls from residents concerned with the speed limit, questioning if it would go back up to 50 when this work is done and then back down to 40 when phase two of Main Avenue reconstruction kicks in in 2012.

North Dakota Department of Transportation officials have said they will increase the speed limit back to 50 miles per hour once the work is completed, but city officials, in particular Police Chief Arland Rasmussen, indicated they would like to see it remain at 40, for safety sake and with the imminent phase two of Main Avenue reconstruction expected to take place in 2012.

Mattern said he agreed, but added the decision is ultimately up to the state. He suggested sending a letter to NDDOT officials requesting that the speed limit remain at 40 miles per hour. The board voted 5-0 in support.

Personnel Policy Language Updated

The board also voted unanimously to adopt changes as outlined in the city's Employee Personnel Policy manual that was reviewed and favored by the city attorney, and all employees and department heads.

Brownlee said there were not a lot of substance changes, instead minor cleanup adjustments involving language and other areas, with the end result meeting all federal requirement standards.

Among the changes were those relating to disclaimer and employment-at-will policy, code of ethics, city closing policy, social media policy and grievances.

Additional agenda items

In other action, the commission;

-approved the sale of 2010 refunding improvement bonds for Sidewalk District No. 6045 in the amount of $7,130,000 and No. 6048 Special Fund totaling $525,000, at respective interest rates of 3.308 percent for a 25-year bond with UBS Financial JP Morgan, and 2.04 percent for a 10-year bond with Northland Securities, along with resolutions creating the districts;

-awarded the contract for 2010 asphalt crack resealing to Roadway Services Inc. for Fargo with their low bid of $63,050. The engineer's estimate for the work was $80,000. Johnson said the company has been involved with the city's resealing work for 15 years and is doing "a fantastic job."

-authorized a background check for JL Beers, requesting a retail liquor license to build a new establishment west of the former Kum N Go building at 810 13th Ave. E. The request was made by Global Development, LLC, for JL Beers, LLC, with Randy Thorson the applicant;

-approved second reading of Ordinance No. 868, rezoning of Eagle Run 18th Addition from planned unit development to multiple dwellings along with the land use amendment from office park to high density residential and final plat approval;

-okayed final plat approval for Burlington 6th Addition.

Due to the Labor Day holiday, there will be no commission meeting Monday, Sept. 6. The next regularly scheduled meeting will take place at 5:30 p.m., Monday, Sept. 20, in the commission chambers at West Fargo City Hall. All meetings are open to the public.