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Published November 16 2010

West Fargo looks to revitalize downtown core

West Fargo commissioners are moving forward with plans to analyze the future viability of the city’s downtown area – but it will cost more than they’ve budgeted for.

Commissioners approved on Monday night a contract to join the Fargo-Moorhead Metropolitan Council of Governments in studying the reinvestment potential for Sheyenne Street, Main Avenue and the immediate surrounding area.

While the city’s population boomed in the past decade, much of the development and commercial investment was along 13th Avenue South, Ninth Street East and areas south of Interstate 94.

Activity in the city’s older core remained relatively stagnant, and officials want to know how they can revitalize the area.

Commissioners awarded the $120,525 contract to Centro Inc. out of seven consultants that vied to oversee the study. Metro COG’s policy board will vote Wednesday whether to approve the contract, too.

Under the contract, Metro COG would pay $96,420, while West Fargo’s share would be $24,105 – about $8,000 more than the city planned for in its annual budget.

West Fargo officials ­didn’t know the study would cost so much until after Centro Inc. was selected above the rest, because they weren’t allowed to see the proposed costs when comparing consultants.

Typically for contracts, municipal governments are required under law to select the lowest responsible bidder. But Metro COG operates under rules prescribed by the Minnesota and North Dakota transportation departments and the Federal Highway Administration – which value quality over cost.

“We want the best consultant, not necessarily the lowest price,” said Joe Nigg, Metro COG community development planner.

West Fargo Commissioner Duane Hanson called the approach “convoluted,” and his colleagues agreed.

“It’s subjective of who you said is the best, but it is what it is, and I realize you’re under constraints on how you do that,” Mayor Rich Mattern said.

City Administrator Jim Brownlee said the extra $8,000 cost could likely be paid for through business donations and the city’s Visitors Committee budget.

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