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Dave Olson, Published January 12 2010

Moorhead mayor targets red ink, flooding

Moorhead spent much of 2009 fighting the state’s red ink and the flooding waters of the Red River.

But the city is taking steps to prevent both from being problems in the future, Moorhead Mayor Mark Voxland said Monday in his State of the City address, noting that combining some government services may be one way to beat ongoing budget woes.

Speaking to a council chamber filled with audience members, Voxland said ongoing plans for interim and permanent flood protection will continue in 2010 and beyond.

On the fiscal front, he said budget problems the state faces will continue to cause uncertainty and hardship for Moorhead’s own budgeting process and he called on the council to come up with a four-year plan to guide Moorhead through a new economic environment.

“Truly, the real issue facing this city council is to create that long-range plan for Moorhead and take back control of our future,” he said.

Voxland said means setting priorities for city services and researching new funding sources and options.

Options, he said, may include consolidating services, using the private sector and “regionalizing” some services, a reference to working with other local governments to find efficiencies.

Before Monday’s council meeting, Voxland said the latter option could open up many possibilities, including combining all or parts of city and county services, ranging from human resources and assessor offices to law enforcement.

“I think anything is worth discussing, right now,” Voxland said.

Acknowledging that any move to combine government services will likely meet with resistance, Voxland said the first step is for officials from different local governments to start talking.

“I’m hoping to be a catalyst, to get some thought processes going,” Voxland said.

Also on Monday, the city council welcomed three new members who were elected in November – Mark Altenburg, Brenda Elmer and Luther Stueland.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555