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Karen Huber, Forum Communications, Published August 22 2012

West Fargo plans for growing population

WEST FARGO – The city is considering building a new facility here to make more room for municipal workers and police officers.

“It’s not only the Police Department, but City Hall is busting at the seams. We have individuals in closets and storage areas,” City Commissioner Mike Thorstad said.

West Fargo city commissioners on Monday gave the city administrator the go-ahead to ask a consultant to prepare cost estimates for a number of options to free up more space.

Three options for locations were presented at the Monday night meeting:

City Administrator Jim Brownlee said he expects the project to cost somewhere in the ballpark of $5 million.

Mayor Rich Mattern said he feels strongly about not separating the two entities.

“If anything, I think we should have more centralization,” he said.

Police Chief Arland Rasmussen agreed, referencing figures compiled by Assistant Chief Mike Reitan that projected West Fargo could eventually have a population of about 46,000 people.

Brownlee said the growth projection comes from city planners, who based it on a full build-out within city limits, given current zoning guidelines. He said officials expect to see the increase in about 20 years. West Fargo now has a population of about 26,000.

Right now the Police Department has 38 officers, with two more to be added next year, and a civilian staff of ten. With the projected increase, West Fargo would need twice as many officers and three times as many civilian employees.

Rasmussen said he would prefer to see the police and city offices remain together, an opinion shared by all the commissioners, who felt it would be more efficient.

“We would rather stay here. We think it is a benefit to the public,” he said.

Rasmussen proposed moving east with a three-story, attached building on the nearly one-acre lot adjacent to the current facility to accommodate the expansion. He said this would equate to about 37,000 square feet of additional space plus 14,000 square feet of additional garage space for vehicles.

“I know we probably won’t need all this room off the bat, but it would probably be cheaper to build it now and just rough it in and leave some of it to complete later,” he said.

Rasmussen said the space would allow for an evidence room as well as a collection room on the ground floor.

Thorstad agreed, saying “it just makes good economic sense to do what we can do here and share resources where we can.”

The project would be partially paid for by administrative fees accrued on the city’s municipal bonds over the past six years, Brownlee said. Right now, the city has about $1.7 million, but Brownlee said he’s expecting between $2 million and $3 million to be in the pot once more bond money becomes available in September.

Brownlee said construction would not start for at least a year.


Forum reporter Erik Burgess contributed to this report.


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