Erik Burgess, Published October 29 2012
Residents urge Moorhead officials to improve city streetsMOORHEAD – Residents at a town hall forum here Monday night said the city – with aging streets in disrepair and abandoned buildings on main corridors – looks dilapidated and unkempt.
Those who spoke at the town hall held in the council chambers asked the City Council to take a more serious look at bettering Moorhead’s roads and main business corridors.
“I’ve been a homeowner for 47 years, lived in Moorhead for 52 years. Our streets are probably the worst they’ve ever been,” resident Duane Lund said.
“We’ve patched streets on this town until there’s patch on patch on patch,” Lund added. “There’s nothing left to patch.”
Lund also mentioned aging water main systems, saying if additional assessments or taxes are needed to be paid to fix the problem, he’d be OK with it.
Mayor Mark Voxland said tightening budgets have reduced the city’s ability to keep up with street maintenance.
Adding to concerns about aging streets, resident Soo Asheim asked the council to impose heavier fines on private property owners who choose to leave abandoned properties on major corridors for long periods of time.
“It looks like a slum area,” Asheim said of the downtown corridors.
But Voxland and a few council members said abandoned properties are often privately owned, and as long as taxes are being paid, there’s not much the city can do.
Councilman Mark Hintermeyer said as of now a $400 fee can be assessed to the owner to inspect any seemingly abandoned properties.
“I think we need to look at increasing that fee,” Councilwoman Nancy Otto said. “St. Paul has quite a hefty fee for vacant buildings.”
Concerns about aging, underdeveloped corridors point to a bigger issue in Moorhead, said Councilman Mark Altenburg. He said the city has some plans to begin redeveloping areas along those corridors, but a bigger vision is needed to get the job done.
“I remember back in the ’70s. I remember when Fargo collapsed, and I remember how long it took to rebuild downtown Fargo,” Altenburg said. “We need to figure that out in Moorhead.”
He said it’s important to look at long-range plans of five to 10 years out, not just short-term fixes.
The town hall was held, Voxland said, not to get specific line-item concerns for the city’s 2013 budget, but to get more big-picture ideas on how to better run the city in the future.
After only one resident got up to speak in the first few minutes of the event, Voxland joked that it might be “one of the shortest town hall meetings that the city of Moorhead has ever had.”
It lasted around 45 minutes, and about 20 people attended.
Asheim attributed the low turnout to the late-announced Heidi Heitkamp rally with guest speaker former President Bill Clinton being held at the same time in Fargo, saying she knew of people who went to the rally instead of the town hall.
“We need to take care of things in this town, too,” she said. “It’s frustrating.”
Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518