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West Fargo eyes several building projects for growing number of public employees

City, police, library and school district all looking at possible building projects

West Fargo City Hall file
West Fargo's city hall and police department, 800 4th Ave. E.
David Samson/The Forum
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WEST FARGO — West Fargo has long called itself a city on the grow. Soon, taxpayers there may be asked to pay for several building projects to accommodate the growing number of public employees.

Last year, West Fargo city commissioners created an 11-member building exploratory committee comprised of commissioners Brad Olson and Mandy George, West Fargo Assistant City Administrator Dustin Scott, Assessor Nick Lee, Safety Manager Nathan Skalsky, Assistant Police Chief Pete Nielsen, Transcription Specialist Margy Larson, as well as West Fargo-based RLE architecture's Mark Thiede and Kim Manuel and St. Paul-based Wold Architects & Engineers staff Mike Klass and John McNamara.

Their mission? Consider options to build a new City Hall and police headquarters after city employees repeatedly reported the currently combined facility at 800 4th Ave. E. was running out of space despite its $10 million 2015 expansion and remodeling.

The city recently rented space above Bar Nine at the Pioneer Center, 1405 Prairie Pkwy, to house the Assessor's Office. Engineering, planning and zoning department staff will take over space at the current City Hall vacated by the Assessor's Office.

RLE was hired by the city in 2022 to study the current City Hall and police headquarters. In July, Manuel and Thiede said the building was not in bad shape but would need remodeling to accommodate additional staff. RLE gave the building's mechanical system a C grade and the electrical system a B grade, but Thiede noted the electrical system is at capacity.

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Meanwhile, the West Fargo Public Library has longed for additional space, as well. Library officials have said more space is needed, either by creating a new library or adding a second library, so it can expand services and programs to better serve West Fargo's growing population. The library leases space from West Fargo Public Schools in the Lodoen Center, 109 3rd St. E.

West Fargo Public Schools is also considering its building spaces as the district continues to grow.

A Long Range Facility Task Force, similar to ones formed prior to the district's successful bonding votes in 2015 and 2018, has formed and will soon meet again to examine district needs and determine if it should again go to voters to help fund additional buildings and schools. West Fargo Public Schools' taxpayers include residents of West Fargo, Horace, Harwood, Reiles Acres and some of western Fargo.

The West Fargo Park Board is not actively considering a new building for staff after it built Rustad Recreation Center, 601 26th Ave E., as its headquarters for $7.84 million in 2016.

City Commissioner Olson said the city's building committee is not considering anything other than space for City Hall and police headquarters at this time.

West Fargo Assistant City Administrator Scott said the committee's preferred model remains a combined police and City Hall facility.

"We may hit a wall and the price tag is too high, and then we'll have to reconsider," Scott said.

The committee has not yet settled on a proposal to bring to the full West Fargo City Commission. At its most recent meeting last week, committee members asked the consultants from RLE and Wold Architects & Engineering to return next week with potential cost estimates to build at these six potential locations:

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  • The Lodoen Center, 109 3rd St. E.
  • Decommissioned waste lagoons, near 12th Avenue Northwest.
  • The Red River Valley Fairgrounds .
  • The current Public Works center, 810 12th Ave. NW.
  • Sheyenne Street, where Sandy's Donuts and the Westgo Center is now, near 405 Main Ave. W.
  • Brookwood Estates in the 800 block of First Avenue South to Fourth Avenue South.

At the Sheyenne Street location, the city could consider building either a City Hall or police building instead of a combined facility. At the Brookwood Estates site — part of the Brookwood Mobile Home area directly north of the current city hall and police department — a plan would likely include joining the current facility and new building in some way.
"We would need a skyway or something underground there," Scott said.

The city already owns land at the waste lagoons and public works sites. The other sites being discussed would require the city to purchase land. Since the Lodoen Center site is owned by the school district, the city could discuss with school officials if a building partnership is possible.

Consultants said building at the lagoon site is likely to cost the city the most and would need the longest timeline, while the Lodoen Center site would likely cost the least and have the shortest building time.

City Commissioner George said she leaned toward the Sheyenne Street and Lodoen Center sites.

"I think that solves a lot of our downtown issues," she said. "I love the concept."

Olson said a loss of potential sales tax from the city taking over commercial space on Sheyenne Street concerned him. Olson said the Lodoen Center and Fairgrounds sites were his favored choices.

Now that the building committee has examined potential sites, its consultants will calculate potential costs. Fargo's 2018 build of a 150,000-square-foot City Hall cost about $29 million. In West Fargo's capital improvement plan, a new City Hall building is listed as a possible project for 2025.

West Fargo is currently building a new fire department headquarters at 1201 10th Ave. E. It's now estimated to cost about $18.5 million, nearly double its original estimate of $10 million. It will be paid for using capital improvement sales taxes, cash reserves and a $10 million bond.

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The building committee has not examined the cost of potentially renovating the current City Hall to add space and upgrade the utility system.

The building committee will meet next at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 26, in the Haggart Room at City Hall.

A study by the Fargo-Moorhead Metropolitan Council of Governments said West Fargo's growth has begun to slow. But, in a "high growth" scenario, West Fargo's population could grow to more than 62,000 by 2050. The city currently has about 38,600 residents.

Based on those projections, and the additions of West Fargo employees in recent years, Wold and RLE said city staff could grow by 40%, and police department staff could grow by 20% through 2032 . To accommodate those increases, City Hall would need about 28% more space, and the police department would need 50% more space than what they have today.

READ MORE FROM WEST FARGO EDITOR WENDY REUER
The goal of the newly unveiled West Fargo Fire Community Health Alliance is to "connect residents with the right services at the right time," an official said.

Readers can reach Wendy Reuer at wreuer@forumcomm.com or 701-241-5530 . Follow her on Twitter @ForumWendy .

As the West Fargo editor, Wendy Reuer covers all things West Fargo for The Forum and oversees the production of the weekly Pioneer.
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