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Craig McEwen, Published August 21 2009

Fargo parking czar relocates

For 46 years, John Rogne has been operating his Fargo parking business out of the recently condemned U.S. Bank parking ramp at 222 5th St. N.

Rogne, who launched Parking Services in 1963 at age 20, will be moving out of the ramp’s knotty-pine parking shack Monday. He’s relocating to the city of Fargo’s Ground Transportation Center at 502 NP Ave.

City officials closed the U.S. Bank ramp Aug. 5 after being told it was structurally unsound and could collapse.

Nothing will change other than location, said Rogne, who operates 16 parking lots in Fargo, including 10 city-owned lots. The business employs 20 part-time workers.

“The city contracts with him for the operations of our parking facilities,” said Bob Stein, Fargo senior planner.

That includes two parking ramps (with the closure of the U.S. Bank ramp), a parking garage beneath the city’s Ground Transportation Center, and seven surface parking lots, Stein said.

Here’s how Rogne got started:

He began working at the U.S. Bank site, then the former Merchants National Bank parking ramp, during summer break while attending North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton from 1961-63.

His plan was to become an electrician. A broken back resulting from a car accident changed that, he said.

“One thing led to another, and 46 years later, I’m still here,” he said. “It’s been an enjoyable business. I still enjoy it.”

Especially enjoyable has been the number of people he has met over the years, Rogne said.

“I have some renters that have rented from me for well over 30 years,” he said.

Rogne started his second parking lot in 1969 at the former Herbst Department Store, 16 Broadway. That’s when downtown Fargo was humming with business activity prior to the opening of the West Acres mall in 1972, he said.

“That was probably one of the busiest shopping lots in downtown,” Rogne said. “Our business changed over the years to more office and employee parking. Now we’re getting more business and retail downtown.”

The now-closed U.S. Bank parking ramp had 160 renters. “We’re still in the process of relocating all of these people,” he said.

Rogne said he was notified at 4 p.m. Aug. 5 that all cars had to be removed from the ramp by the next morning.

“We sent them all to the Civic (Center) parking lot to start with,” he said.

Many of his parking lot attendants are retired, he said.

“The oldest attendant I have is 80. He has been working for me for 17 years,” Rogne said.

Roy Martinson has worked for Rogne for 44 years.

“I started part time when I was going to Dakota Business College and just continued on,” said Martinson, who also operated Martinson Maintenance Systems for 33 years, providing parking lot maintenance, sweeping, striping, patching and seal coating.

Readers can reach Forum Business Editor Craig McEwen at (701) 241-5502