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Published August 04 2010

West Fargo resident at odds with city leaders over water treatment project

A West Fargo resident and one-time mayoral candidate doesn’t like how city officials are pursuing plans for a new water treatment facility, but city leaders said they’re concerned he might be falsely implying to other agencies that he officially represents the city on the project.

Peter Karl wants West Fargo commissioners to move faster on the project and seek grant money from the federal government, but city leaders said it’s too soon because they’re still undergoing studies and deciding the type of facility to build.

Karl has accused city leaders of not knowing what they’re doing, and during a confrontation at this week’s commission meeting, he called their explanations “a bunch of hogwash.”

In his mayoral bid this spring – in which he received 2 percent of the citywide vote – Karl said West Fargo needed to obtain grants and begin construction on the facility.

He repeated that rhetoric Monday, saying he’d met with West Fargo and Fargo officials and staff members of Sens. Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad to advocate for federal and state grants to pay for the project.

West Fargo and Fargo are considering a joint facility to serve both cities.

“I’m simply looking at how we can possibly get something going faster and how we can look at alternatives,” Karl said.

West Fargo leaders said they didn’t like that Karl had met with local, state and federal officials in a capacity that ought to be left to city staff.

“I believe the commission would instruct the staff to have those conversations, and not citizens at large wandering around saying this is what the city of West Fargo needs,” city Administrator Jim Brownlee told Karl during Monday’s public meeting. “You have not been to our meetings; you have not been in these conversations; you do not know what our plans are. I would hope that you would stop going around and representing the city of West Fargo, because you do not represent us.”

Karl said he never claimed to represent the city, but at least one official he met with said that wasn’t apparent to him.

Fargo Enterprise Director Bruce Grubb told The Forum that during his only conversation with Karl, he first thought Karl was acting officially on West Fargo’s behalf.

“It sounded like he was someone from the city, and I thought I would’ve been familiar with that name,” Grubb said, adding that by the end of that conversation, he’d realized Karl was solely a resident.

Dorgan’s and Conrad’s Fargo office directors said Karl has called many times “as a constituent,” seeking support for the project.

West Fargo commissioners tried to stress to Karl that they’re taking appropriate steps to build a water treatment facility.

“Whether you’ve told them you’re representing us or not, there is some implication that you are,” Commissioner Mike Thorstad said. “That’s not what we desire. That’s what we have staff for. We are moving forward, and we will look for grants when the time is right.”

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