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West Fargo to hold special assessment forums

West Fargo plans to hold a series of public meetings in an effort to educate residents and get feedback about special assessments.

First-term commissioner Eric Gjerdevig asked the commission to hold the forums after hearing about the controversial topic from many residents during the June election cycle.

The city of Fargo recently appointed members to a special assessment task force that will examine its current special assessment policies.

"What works with one community may not be the exact solution that works for another," Gjerdevig said. "With that in mind, I came up with the idea to hold a number of community forums."

Gjerdevig said instead of forming a separate committee, he would like to hold public meetings that would begin by offering information about how special assessments work in West Fargo, followed by some time for attendees to discuss the issue in small groups. The forums would then conclude with gathering feedback from those who attend.

"It's a way to engage our residents and gather some input from them on the improvements they would like to see," he said.

Gjerdevig suggested the meetings limit the attendance to 50 residents at a time. He also suggested seeking sponsorship from local businesses to help pay for any conference space, if needed, and beverages, snacks, location and a facilitator.

During the June local elections, candidates in both cities were often asked about special assessments, from questions on the high costs to formulas that create assessments, or the use of assessments to offset city or developer costs.

The Fargo task force has been directed to look at recent changes in the way special assessments are calculated and come up with "innovative" options to improve the system. Recommendations from the task force are expected to be returned to the Fargo City Commission for review in December.

Mayor Bernie Dardis said he will represent the city of West Fargo on Fargo's committee. "West Fargo has a voice in the room but does not have a vote," he said.

The West Fargo City Commission approved a motion to direct staff to begin planning the forums, but dates were not set.

"I love the idea," Commissioner Brad Olson said. "Assessments and taxes are the main thing people complained of."

Wendy Reuer

Wendy reports for The Forum and West Fargo Pioneer, where she is also assistant editor. A University of Minnesota Morris graduate from North Dakota, Wendy started her career in television news and entertainment in Minnesota and at CBS in Television City, Calif. before working at newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota. 

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