Dan Zink, Oxbow, N.D., Published September 22 2012
Letter: Variation of same old tuneMark Twain famously said: “Actions speak louder than words but not nearly as often.” Fargo’s leaders are speaking to us with their actions and their words. They say they are interested in minimizing impacts to Oxbow/
Hickson/Bakke, but they take no action to eliminate the dam and reservoir or storage component of the Red River diversion plan.
Last week, they trotted out alternative plans that are mere variations of the same old tune: Too bad, Oxbow, our plan to develop the flood plain trumps your right to exist. Words only – no true changes were even contemplated.
Having destroyed the economic value of the homes in Oxbow, the Cass County Commission denied requests to bring the taxes down to reflect Oxbow’s diminished values. When Oxbow appealed the decision to the state board of equalization, Cass County Commissioner Darrell Vanyo argued against the reduction. He represented himself as a defender of the Kindred School District, yet this same Commissioner Vanyo, chairman of the FM Diversion Authority, is driving hard to eliminate 25 percent of the Kindred School’s tax base – permanently. Again, words only.
In a rare acknowledgment of the damage they have done, Fargo leaders promised to buy out several homeowners in Oxbow with health and financial problems. “Hardship buyouts,” they called them. They then rode a wave of publicity to promote and pledge their cooperation and concern for the Oxbow resident and disabled veteran with medical issues. Words only – they have not followed through, and no buyouts have occurred.
The Diversion Authority did take action last week to buy 30 undeveloped lots in West Fargo, committing nearly three-quarters of a million dollars. Decisive action to snatch up development lots that may be needed years down the road should the diversion be approved.
Apparently buyouts cannot be expedited to accommodate medical hardships, but plenty of money is committed in record time for undeveloped West Fargo lots that might need to be acquired years from now.
The North Dakota State Board of Equalization was not swayed by Vanyo’s words. The board overturned the Cass County Commission’s decision and reduced Oxbow’s assessed property values by 20 percent.
In the coming weeks, the Diversion Authority will be asked to pay for the loss of tax revenue they have caused to the Kindred School District, the city and parks of Oxbow. Currently the loss is about $70,000 per year. Will we see words or actions?
Zink is an Oxbow city councilman, and member of the Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority.