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Published July 01, 2009, 12:00 AM

Flood-weary voters voice their support of half-cent sales tax

Three months after cracks in a temporary levee forced Paul Winje’s family to flee their south Fargo home, the River Vili resident voted Tuesday for a half-percent sales tax that he hopes will fund a solution to Fargo-Moorhead’s flooding problems.

By: Mike Nowatzki, INFORUM

Three months after cracks in a temporary levee forced Paul Winje’s family to flee their south Fargo home, the River Vili resident voted Tuesday for a half-percent sales tax that he hopes will fund a solution to Fargo-Moorhead’s flooding problems.

“For me, it’s a small price to pay to get closer to that,” said Winje, a 35-year-old married father of three.

Across town, Barb Gramlow also filled in an oval in favor of the tax for future flood protection, even though her 52nd Street South home was “high and dry” last spring.

“I’m ready for them to fix it for good,” she said after voting at West Acres mall.

With flood memories fresh in their minds, 90.7 percent of Fargo voters approved the tax, which needed 60 percent approval and goes into effect Jan. 1. There were 12,705 ballots cast Tuesday.

Their reasons varied, but weariness with fighting floods emerged as a recurring theme among many.

“Two times in 12 years,” Oak Street resident Mark Evenson said, referring to epic flood battles in 1997 and this spring. “I think it’s time to do something.

“What’s it going to take, a catastrophe, before everybody decides it needs to be done?” he said.

Karen Mitchell raised both arms and pumped her fists when asked how she voted.

“For it!” she said, after she and her husband, Jim, cast ballots at El Zagal Shrine in north Fargo.

Eighth Street North resident Victor Teigen said his decision to support the sales tax was “a no-brainer.” Local taxpayers must step up with dollars if they want permanent protection, he said.

“We are the government. If we don’t do it, nobody will,” he said.

South Fargo resident Robert Veit called the sales tax “one of those bitter pills” residents don’t like to swallow, but said the city needs protection.

“I’m getting too old to throw sandbags,” the 60-year-old added.

One voter at Olivet Lutheran Church said he couldn’t support the tax without knowing what the money would be spent on. City officials are waiting for the Army Corps of Engineers to complete a study of flood control options for Fargo-Moorhead.

“I can understand why they don’t know, but until they do know and they have a plan …” said the 84-year-old man, who identified himself as “Martin.”

North Fargo resident Greg Downs said he initially was leaning against the tax, saying it seemed like an extension of the half-cent Fargodome tax that expired last Dec. 31.

“I’m just tired of the taxes,” said Downs, who ended up voting for the sales tax.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528

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