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5 area mayors focus on workforce needs, growth challenges at 'State of the Cities' event

Fargo, West Fargo, Moorhead, Dilworth and Horace mayors address communities' challenges at annual event.

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Dilworth Mayor Chad Olson, Moorhead Mayor Shelly Carlson, Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney, Horace Mayor Kory Peterson and West Fargo Mayor Bernie Dardis participate in a joint discussion hosted by Shannon Full and Tony Grindberg during the Chamber's State of the Cities annual event on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, at the Delta Hotels by Marriot in Fargo.
David Samson / The Forum
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FARGO — The ongoing challenges of the Fargo-Moorhead area's workforce shortage and dealing with the impacts of growth dominated the discussion Thursday, Jan. 13, when the mayors of Dilworth, Moorhead, Fargo, Horace and West Fargo gathered for a "State of the Cities" event in Fargo.

The annual get-together hosted by the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce drew more than 600 people and provided the mayors a chance to talk about the good things happening in their cities, as well as some of the difficulties area residents face.

Chad Olson, the mayor of Dilworth, spoke about the city's housing market growth as well as the need the community has to replace its aging fire station.

"We've made do and now it's time to do better," Olson said, referring to plans for replacing the city's 40-year-old fire station, funding for which Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has said will be included in his bonding proposal for the 2022 legislative session.

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Attendees gather for the Chamber's State of the Cities annual event on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, at the Delta Hotels by Marriot in Fargo.
David Samson/The Forum

Olson also noted Dilworth is getting a new Dairy Queen , something the city has been without since a previous Dairy Queen was closed and razed in 2017.

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Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney said that while 2021 required resiliency on the part of Fargo residents, the city didn't just survive, "we shined."

He noted progress made on the area's Metro Flood Diversion Authority project as well as the Red River Valley Water Supply Project , which will carry Missouri River water to the valley via a 165-mile pipeline.

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Dilworth Mayor Chad Olson, Moorhead Mayor Shelly Carlson, Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney, Horace Mayor Kory Peterson and West Fargo Mayor Bernie Dardis participate in a joint discussion hosted by Shannon Full and Tony Grindberg during the Chamber's State of the Cities annual event on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, at the Delta Hotels by Marriot in Fargo.
David Samson/The Forum

Regarding the latter, Mahoney said he would like to see a six-year building plan as opposed to a potential 10-year building plan, noting a recent dry spell underscored the necessity for the water supply project.

"Let's set this on fire," Mahoney said, adding that, overall, "the state of the city of Fargo is strong."

Moorhead Mayor Shelly Carlson checked off a list of things the city has accomplished or is close to achieving, including: two new event centers downtown, the imminent renovation of the former Fairmont Creamery/Eventide building into new housing units and the soon-to-be-completed railroad underpass at 20th Street and 21st Street along Main Avenue.

Carlson also noted the opening this past fall of the Moorhead High School Career Academy, which she said will be part of the solution to the area's workforce shortage.

West Fargo Mayor Bernie Dardis talked about that city's growth, as well as their approach to using COVID-19 stimulus dollars, which included giving every household in the city a $25 gift card that could only be redeemed at businesses in the city.

"It was a smashing success," said Dardis, whose comments also touched on the subject of mental health and addiction.

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Describing how authorities in West Fargo dealt with three instances last weekend involving people who were going to harm themselves, Dardis stated: "We need to address these issues. It's going to only get worse."

Horace Mayor Kory Peterson described the city's fast-paced growth , driven in part by new schools in the area.

But that growth brings with it challenges, he said, including home values that are out of reach for some people, including his children.

"Honestly, my kids can't move to Horace and buy a house right now, they can't afford it," Peterson said, adding he hopes an effort underway to review housing issues across the metro area will provide community leaders with ideas on how to tackle the question: "How do we work with the builders to try to make some affordable housing?"

I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

You may reach me by phone at 701-241-5555, or by email at dolson@forumcomm.com
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