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Fargo City Commission votes down task force on street racing, speeding

Commissioners Tony Gehrig and Dave Piepkorn, along with Mayor Tim Mahoney, opposed the proposal to study what other cities are doing.

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A crime scene.
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FARGO — A proposal to form a task force to address racing, speeding and noise on city streets was shot down by the City Commission on Monday night, May 16.

The measure, proposed by Commissioner Arlette Preston, a mayoral candidate, saw a 3-2 vote, with only Commissioner John Strand voting with Preston.

The defeated plan came after a town hall meeting on May 5 when about 50 residents from around the city attended to express concerns.

The biggest areas of concern were North University Drive, 19th Avenue North, 10th Street North, South University Drive, 25th Street South and 52nd Avenue South.

Preston said she proposed the task force of seven to 11 people — composed of residents, business owners, city police and traffic engineers — to become educated on the subject and to look for solutions from other cities.

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Commissioners Dave Piepkorn and Tony Gehrig led the charge opposing the task force.

Piepkorn said he thought it should be delayed until after the election with possibly three new City Commission members.

He also said "it seems now we have so many committees, we almost have more people advising the police than we do police officers."

He noted the newly formed Police Oversight & Advisory board as an example.

Gehrig, in his opposition, called on Police Chief David Zibolski to talk about what is being done already to enforce racing and speed violations.

Zibolski explained there is a temporary traffic safety unit of officers currently in operation to enforce violations. However, he mentioned that 1 out of 55 drivers pulled over for traffic violations flee and the police have a policy of for the most part not getting into a high speed chase as it can pose a safety issue in the city.

He said some of those fleeing were street racers.

Other steps being taken are proposals to ask state legislators to increase penalties for some violations, adding aerial surveillance and having officers recertified to start up the motorcycle crew as soon as this summer.

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"We're doing everything possible in the short term," he said.

In the long term, Zibolski said, they want to have a bonafide traffic unit established.

Meanwhile, Zibolski said they were having some success in finding violators.

Having a task force formed with no answers until December is too long, Gehrig suggested, and pointed to the police tactics already starting to address the issues.

"I'm not a big fan of just having one more task force so it gives the appearance that we're all doing something when we're doing nothing. We're just kicking the can down the road," Gehrig added.

Preston responded that the community recognizes that they are part of the solution. "It's not all just law enforcement," she said.

Some of the street racers are living at home, she added, referring to teenage and younger drivers.

The task force, she said, could provide a broader solution to the problem and would be short term.

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In a memo to commissioners, Preston said some of the suggested solutions from the town hall include roadway changes, providing another outlet for "scratching the itch" for speeding, stoplight changes and community involvement.

But, for now, it'll be the police tackling the issue without a task force.

An almost 50-year veteran of the newspaper business, Amundson has worked for The Forum and Forum News Service for 15 years. He started as a sport reporter in Minnesota. He is currently the city and night reporter for The Forum. bamundson@forumcomm.com 701-451-5665
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