Perry Miller, Published October 13 2012
Letter: Dull thud of Fargo promisesIf you’ve ever been in a car accident you remember the events in slow motion. You see the other vehicle coming, you try to swerve or step on the brakes, but nothing happens. Then comes the dull thud of metal on metal and the breaking glass of the inevitable outcome.
We’ve been watching the Fargo-Moorhead Diversion Authority coming at us with words and plans and promises of no dull thud, but they were wrong. This past Tuesday night, the Kindred School Board voted to raise their mill levy to compensate for lost property values in Oxbow. Homeowners in the proposed upstream dam and reservoir area have lost a substantial portion of their home values, and the North Dakota Board of Tax Equalization agreed to lower their taxable values by 20 percent. That means less money for the school district to run its programs. It means the rest of the district has to make up the difference with property tax increases.
The Kindred School District includes 16 townships in three different counties: Cass, Richland and Ransom. The Richland County tax increases will include property owners in Hellendale, Barrie, Walcott, Viking, Colfax and Eagle townships. When the process started, the mayor of Fargo and chairman of the Cass County Commission promised this wouldn’t happen. They said the district would be “made whole.”
A couple of weeks ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers came out with new options for the diversion path south of Fargo. They declared their best option would remove nearly all the effects of the project from Richland and Wilkin counties. The taxation shift must not have been in their calculations. Nor was the economic dead zone they will create along Highway 46, extending into Minnesota. Agricultural and residential development doesn’t pay a lot of attention to political boundaries.
The threat to the members of the Richland Wilkin Joint Powers Authority has not gone away. The tax shift will continue as other residents within the plan’s clutches struggle for ways to deal with lost home and property values. The proposed dam walls are high enough to push water deep into Richland and Wilkin counties. We will continue to represent our members and try to convince the Diversion Authority to remove the dam and reservoir from its plans. Flood protection for Fargo doesn’t have to be a wreck for the rest of the Red River Valley.
Miller is a Richland County commissioner and chairman, Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority.