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Published June 02 2010

4 vying for 2 seats on West Fargo City Commission

Three West Fargo residents are vying for a chance to provide fresh viewpoints on the City Commission, while the lone incumbent in the race says he still has a lot to offer city government.

But voters can choose only two candidates to fill the open seats on the West Fargo commission.

Duane Breitling, Duane Hanson and Richard Lewis challenge Commissioner Lou Bennett on Tuesday’s ballot.

Commissioner Bryan Schulz, who holds the other seat up for election, is not seeking another term.

The four candidates said their top priorities revolve around the same element: Water.

Flood protection – a key issue for Fargo and Cass County – also ranks of high importance for West Fargo, even though most of the city is already protected by the Sheyenne River Diversion.

If a proposed North Dakota diversion to the Red River is built farther west than current plans show, West Fargo stands to gain much in developable land that would be protected by the diversion.

“This will ultimately affect the entire region, so it must be done correctly the first time,” said Bennett, who is seeking a third term on the commission.

Lewis said he wants to see West Fargo take on a greater leadership role in the process, especially as plans become more concrete.

“West Fargo not only needs to be a member of the work group for the North Dakota diversion – they need to be a voting member to look out for their best interests,” Lewis said.

Candidates also said infrastructure needs must be addressed in West Fargo, such as the construction of a water treatment facility.

“West Fargo is experiencing growing-pain issues,” Hanson said. “There will be pressure to keep spending in line and taxes down and yet provide the services the citizens need and expect.”

Breitling said he wants to see the completion of the Main Avenue reconstruction project and the development of more facilities south of Interstate 94, which remains largely residential.

The candidates differ, though, as to whether West Fargo can still be considered a small town.

“As the fifth-largest city in the state, the small town characterization is outgrown,” Breitling said.

Bennett, Hanson and Lewis offered a different perspective.

“You can have the ‘small town feel’ and not be small town,” Hanson said. “When our neighbors need help, we help them. We join together and get things done. To me, that is the ‘small town feel.’ ”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541