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Helmut Schmidt, Published January 20 2012

Buyouts, special assessments among constituents’ concerns

MOORHEAD – Home buyouts, high special assessment costs and City Council infighting were concerns of constituents in the fall election that the three new and one returning council members shared during a retreat Friday at the Hjemkomst Center.

The feedback would give council insights into community concerns, Mayor Mark Voxland said.

They may also help shape the city’s future.

Today, the council starts a planning process to lay out how they’d like the city to look by 2020.

“What are the types of things you’d like Moorhead to become?” Voxland asked.

In his door-to-door campaign, Mike Hulett said people living along the river in Ward 3 felt “left in limbo” over home buyouts. Some felt buyouts took too long; others had salvage questions or wondered about the difference in home valuations.

He said constituents also wanted more homes and businesses built. People feel there are too many obstacles for builders and Realtors “to fill those empty lots,” Hulett said.

And other residents didn’t like the council’s “bitter exchanges” on issues such as flood recovery, the annual budget, and drug paraphernalia laws, Hulett said.

For Heidi Durand, whose Ward 2 encompasses the downtown, development was a big issue.

“What is the plan for downtown?” was a common question, she said.

Other residents wanted more done to make landowners accountable for the condition of their properties to stop blight.

Some of her constituents said the city should consider building a new recreation, community or arts center, she said.

For Ward 4 residents, high special assessment costs were a concern, Steve Gehrtz said.

He said residents, business­people and developers want more customer service from city workers to walk them through regulatory issues.

He, too, also heard concerns from residents about houses being rented, then allowed to deteriorate.

Nancy Otto, a returning incumbent in Ward 1, said north-siders wondered why they should pay for home buyouts.

Streets also needed maintenance and repairs, she said. And some residents worried special assessments for different projects could pile up.

She also said the city should remind residents that home rehabilitation funds are available. In some areas, “you can tell they’re financially stretched,” she said.

Voxland urged the council to “keep this stuff in mind for discussions because we’re stuck with each other for a couple of years.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583