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Wendy Reuer, Published October 15 2010

Residents seek more options for flood tax

Is there another way?

Concerns of the 25 or so Cass County residents who attended Thursday night’s public forum on the half-cent sales tax measure kept returning to that basic question.

Many voiced their opinion, asking whether passing the Nov. 2 measure to allow a half-cent sales tax is the best way to pay for the North Dakota flood diversion project.

The half-cent sales tax would fund the local share of an estimated $325 million. The Army Corps of Engineers has estimated the total cost of the project to be $1.46 billion.

The life of the tax would span 20 years.

For some, it didn’t seem fair.

“West Fargo did it on their own. Why can’t Fargo?” said West Fargo resident Don Worcester. “Why does the whole county have to get involved? It’s not fair.”

Worcester was referring to West Fargo’s special-assessment-funded diversion of the Sheyenne River.

Many of Thursday night’s comments circled back to asking why Fargo cannot also pick up the tab using special assessments or other means.

Cass County Commissioner Scott Wagner fired back, saying, “Flooding doesn’t just happen in Fargo.”

Wagner, along with Cass County Commissioner Darrell Vanyo, West Fargo Mayor Rich Mattern, Sen. Tom Fischer, County Engineer Keith Berndt, County Auditor Michael Montplaisir and Fargo City Commissioner Brad Wimmer, appeared before residents Thursday; most of the men wore blue ribbons to signify their support of the measure.

They said even areas that have not experienced flooding are still affected.

Although Fargo’s population is about 102,000, more than 90,000 jobs are located within the city. In times of flooding, those jobs are jeopardized.

Opposition to the tax has claimed the resolution is too vague. It could allow the county to dip into the money for other reasons.

Montplaisir said the resolution is written in a way to cover all possible situations of flood mitigation financing down the road.

“No one is going to take and use these funds for anything other than flood mitigation projects,” Vanyo added.

Still, not everyone was convinced a funding mechanism is needed before the project is guaranteed to go forward.

“A ‘no’ vote does not delay this project. Period,” said rural Cass County resident David Gust.

The upcoming meetings, all scheduled for 7 p.m., are as follows:

  • Tuesday, Bennett Elementary School, multipurpose room, 2000 58th Ave. S., Fargo.

  • Oct. 21, Cheney Middle School, theater, 825 17th Ave. E., West Fargo.

  • Oct. 25, Spirit of Life Center, St. Leo’s Church, 211 Langer Ave., Casselton, N.D.

    Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530