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City moves forward with Information Technology position

West Fargo City Commissioners voted unanimously Monday night to approve a new city of West Fargo Information Technology (IT) Director position hiring James Anderson to assume duties July 1.

The motion also included amending the former contract with NRG, the company that had been responsible for city service in the past. They will continue in their maintenance role with the servers while Anderson will be coordinating all other responsibilities as they relate to information and communication technology, including those of the West Fargo Police Department.

Anderson was previously employed by NRG and is familiar with the needs of West Fargo City Hall and the West Fargo Police Department. He is currently employed by Eide Bailly.

City Administrator Jim Brownlee told commissioners that "as the city has grown, the needs in this area have grown," adding that he felt the time was right for creation of this position, saying it would be an advantageous one for the city.

By amending the former contract with NRG he said enough money could be saved to cover the salary of the IT position, at the same time, providing the city greater benefit for having their own person on staff as their technology "go-to" person and not have to wait when related needs arose.

Brownlee said the plan is to cover all city technology needs first with the hiring of Anderson and then later, perhaps include the West Fargo Public Library. "I can see this department expanding," he stated.

The commission also granted a five-year remodeling exemption to the Rommesmo Family Limited Partnership for a remodeling project that involved a total renovation of their West Fargo building at 702 13th Ave. E., formerly known as the old Interstate Seed Building. The company plans on moving their corporate offices into the location.

Rommesno acquired the building in 2005 for $555,000 with the 2010 assessment prior to renovation start up at $701,000. The increase in valuation contributed to the remodeling project is $317,000, which will mean a $5,875 tax savings for each of the five years of the exemption.

City Assessor Wanda Wilcox said the building was initially contructed in 1983 and there had been no updates since them. Crews began work in August of 2010 with the interior pretty much gutted and everything new inside with additional outside work on the façade. The two story complex has 6,972 square feet on each floor.

Making up The Rommesmo Companies are: Minnkota Windows, Fargo Tank & Steel Company, Mandan Steel Fabricators, Dakota Steel & Supply, Inc. Precision Stair & Steel Fabricators Company, Johnston Fargo Culvert, Inc., and Huron Culvert and Tank Company.

Acting as the board of adjustments, heard from Peter Hettwer, 1610 Maple Place, appealing a fence violation issue issued by the city as a result of a neighbor complaint that started last fall but was postponed to the present.

The Hettwer's had stained their fence 20 years ago and the neighbor to the north had complained the fence is in a deteriorating condition prompting a violation to be issued by the city building administrator Mark Housh.

Hetter told the commission he wants the fence to go back to its original cedar state and doesn't plan on restaining it, adding the neighbor to the east had no issue with it.

A solution to the problem that had been agreed to by Housh earlier was to pressure wash the fence, in doing so removing any residual stain. The neighbor to the north was asked to provide the electricity and water so cords and hoses would not have to be taken over the fence. Total cost was estimated at $1.10, but agreement couldn't be reached.

After listening to Hettwer's appeal comments for approximately ten minutes, Commissioner Mark Simmons asked what this matter was doing before the commission in the first place, saying he felt it was more of a civil matter. "Whey don't you resolve this issue and get this done," he said to Hettwer.

Commissioner Lou Bennett agreed. "We have more things than to squabble about this."

"They are just asking to do something to make this fence more appealing," Simmons added. "Can't we all just get along? Let's wash the fence and move along. If you are willing to pressure wash it, I will give you the $1.10 to speed it along."

Commissioner Duane Hanson made the motion for the pressure washing to resolve the issue. "I recommend that you go home and pressure wash your fence and when you get done that's as good as it's going to get and don't come back to us."

Commissioner Bennett provided the second.

In other action, the commission:

-approved a request from officials involved with the Growth Initiative Fund, Inc. favoring the repurposing of Cass County Funds within the fund, up to $3.7 million. In December of 2009, the Cass County Commission voted to repurpose the Cass County funds to be used for projects that align with the GFMEDC plan for the region;

-favored the appointment of Eddie Sheeley to a six-year term on the Special Assessment Committee replacing longtime member Milt Moen;

-approved second reading of Ordinance No. 894 relating to separate entrances for liquor stores.

-following a public hearing, approved the first reading of rezoning of Westport Beach 7th Addition from limited multiple dwellings to mixed one and two-family dwellings. Westport Investments wants to subdivide and rezone the 4.88 acre parcel, located south of 40th Avenue and west of 9th Street East, to develop 26 single family and/or twin homes, for the final phase of Westport Beach.

-following a public hearing, okayed first reading on the rezoning of Maple Ridge at the Preserve 2nd Addition from agricultural to single family dwellings. Section 20 Investments LLC wants to plat and zone the 22 acre parcel, located east of the Sheyenne River on the north side of 32nd Avenue East and west of 4th Street East, for single family development.

-okayed the Cass and Clay County Law Enforcement Mutual Aid Agreement between Cass County, identical to the agreement approved by the city last year. The document will now be forwarded to all other jurisdictions involved for their approval.

-heard a report from Assistant Police Chief Mike Reitan as a member of the West Fargo Senior Citizen's Center Committee, regarding the progress the Senior Citizen program has made since its inception, including a letter asking the city for consideration of $25,000 in funding for the 2012 year. Commissioners will address the item during the upcoming budget talks. They asked Reitan to provide a general budget plan for their review;

-announced they would be putting a job description out for hiring a replacement for retiring City Finance Director Sharon Schacher who is officially stepping down Sept. 30, 2011. The commission agreed to set up a committee to begin the search. Talks will also resume sometime soon regarding the need for hiring a Human Resource Director since city staff presently numbers over the 100 mark. These duties were previously coordinated by the Finance Director;

-agreed to write off, at the request of the state, the Community Development Black Grant loan, given to SnoBear Industries, LCC, which has ceased to exist. The city is not responsible for payback of the debt in any way;

-awarded contracts for various improvement districts to low bidders: Street Improvement District No. 2212, Christianson's First Addition, to Excavating Inc., Fargo, with a bid of $507,579.91; Sewer, Water, Street and Storm Improvement District No. 1227, Shadow Wood 5th Addition, to Dakota Underground Company, Fargo, with a bid of $1,667,323.39, with conditions that include giving the city attorney the authorizing to condemn the property for a necessary right of way if the need arises; Street Improvement District No. 2211, 4th Street and 26th Avenue East, to Dakota Underground Company, Fargo, with a bid of $3,749,878.85;

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the West Fargo City Commission will take place Monday, June 20, at 5:30 p.m., in the Commission Chamber at West Fargo City Hall. All meetings are open to the public.