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City agrees to move forward with revitalization study

West Fargo City Commissioners voted to move forward on a Sheyenne Street/Main Avenue framework study finalizing a draft contract for services with Centro Inc., in cooperation with the Metropolitan Council of Governments, who vote today (Wednesday) on approval of the contract.

The intent of the study is to determine whether redevelopment and investment potential exists in areas adjacent to Sheyenne Street and Main Avenue in West Fargo. To accomplish this task, the scope is structured to consider and analyze critical factors including transportation and land use capacities, retail/market gaps, demographics and growth patterns, along with others.

The contract was approved at $120,525. Metro Cog would pay $96,420, while West Fargo's share would be $24,105, which is $8,000 more than was allocated for by West Fargo in the 2011 budget.

West Fargo representatives didn't know what the study would cost until the selection of Centro was made out of the seven firms vying for the study because they weren't privy to the proposed costs when the comparisons were made. The selection process differs from regular municipal bidding where the lowest bidder is usually selected. Metro Cog official Joe Nigg said that isn't the case with the rules they abide by which gauges the quality of work over the cost. "We are looking for the best consultant. The cost becomes secondary."

City Planning Director Larry Weil said that local businesses had been contacted and were receptive in donating to cover part of the additional $8,000 involved as the city's increased share. City Administrator Jim Brownlee added that the city's Visitors Committee would be approached about funding for the remaining amount from their budget.

Weil said that once the contract is finalized by both entities, a steering committee comprised of members from various city entities would be established.

Mayor Rich Mattern said he thought the whole process in selecting the contractor and determining the cost "just seems odd to me. It is kind of subjective who you say is best."

City Commissioner Duane Hanson described the process as a "convoluted" way of thinking with fellow commissioners agreeing.

City Commissioner Lou Bennett questioned the timing of the whole process, noting that it would have been nice to have some advance discussion so the more accurate numbers could have been planned for. "We just set our budget. Now we have to get involved with something that will take place Wednesday (Metro Cog approving the contract). Perhaps their timing needs to be adjusted just a bit."

After hearing about the business donations and the intent of involving the Visitors Committee to absorb the additional expense, the commission voted to move forward with the contract.

Commissioners also approved second and final reading of water and garbage rate increases that will go into effect Jan. 1.

The new ordinance will see an increase of 50-cents per thousand gallons of water for usage over 2,000 gallons for both residential and commercial users; and a $1 increase for sanitation services for a residential users only, taking the amount billed for residential from $10 to $11 per month. Commercial users will not see an increase since their fees are figured.

In other action, the commission:

-denied a variance request from Gary Hornbacher to reduce the rear yard setback from 30 feet to 10 feet for a detached accessory building, located in McMahon Estates, east of the Sheyenne River and north of 52nd Avenue East. The planning and zoning commission had denied the request at their Nov. 8 meeting on the basis that the application does not meet the criteria for granting a variance;

-reappointed Commissioner Lou Bennett to an additional one-year term on the Cass County Planning Commission. His current membership will expire Dec. 31.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the West Fargo City Commission will take place at 5:30 p.m., Monday, Nov. 29, in the Commission Chambers at West Fargo City Hall. All meetings are open to the public.