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Heidi Shaffer, Published May 18 2010

Fergus Falls OKs funding ordinance for $7M ice arena

The Fergus Falls City Council adopted an ordinance Monday night allowing the local port authority to issue taxpayer-backed bonds for a

$7 million ice arena.

Despite the approval, some residents say they will circulate a petition to repeal the ordinance because they feel the arena should be put to a public vote.

The council approved the ordinance 5-2. Council members Eric Shalstad, Jim Fish, Pat Connelly, Jay Cichosz and JoEllen Thacker approved the measure, while Randy Synstelien and Greg Stumbo voted in opposition. Councilman Tim Jensen was absent.

Thacker said she felt the council studied the impact the arena will have on the city’s youth and businesses thoroughly enough to move forward with the ordinance.

Resident Daryl Synstelien said he plans to gather the required 815 votes needed to repeal a city ordinance and hold a referendum for the arena.

However, council members also unanimously approved new wording to the ordinance Monday to clarify that it “authorizes the levy of taxes for payment of the bonds, meaning a petition will not result in a public vote.”

Synstelien said the approval of the new wording helps the council circumvent a state statute that allows the public to petition to stop an ordinance or put it to a public vote, except in the instance that the ordinance authorizes the levying of taxes.

Thacker said she feels the arena should move forward regardless of a public vote.

“A lot of people don’t take the time to study the issue and see the impact it has over the total,” she said. “They tend to vote on just how it affects them instead of really looking at what the city needs in the long run.”

Regardless of the statute, Synstelien said he will circulate the petition and hope it sways the feelings of the council.

The ordinance becomes effective 15 days after it is advertised, likely the first week of June. The city will likely start bidding for the project in July or early August, City Administrator Mark Sievert said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Heidi Shaffer at (701) 241-5511