Area faces plenty of challenges in '07
With 2006 behind us, area decisionmakers are already pondering the year ahead. Issues facing area communities range from education funding and flood control to transportation and property tax relief. Here's a sneak peak at what lies ahead in 2007...
With 2006 behind us, area decisionmakers are already pondering the year ahead.
Issues facing area communities range from education funding and flood control to transportation and property tax relief.
Here's a sneak peak at what lies ahead in 2007 for the various entities:
Fargo city commissioners will make a difficult decision this spring when they choose a preferred alternative for the Southside Flood Control Project.
Four alternatives have been presented - ranging in cost from$45 million to $100 million - and all of them include a levee along the Wild Rice River to protect south Fargo from flooding.
Minnesota officials and residents south of Fargo have raised concerns about the project possibly worsening flooding for them.
City officials also will decide whether to add a multipurpose arena to the Fargodome to host North Dakota State University basketball and other events.
And property taxes will continue to be scrutinized as state lawmakers consider several tax-relief proposals.
Emphasizing Moorhead's needs to lawmakers in St. Paul will be the city's top priority in 2007, said Mayor Mark Voxland.
City officials are concerned about how Moorhead will fund an estimated $112.5 million in transportation projects over the next five years.
Cuts in state and federal funding have put the city in a pinch to pay for infrastructure as Moorhead continues to grow.
Improving parks, developing a wide spectrum of housing and advancing economic development are also priorities for Moorhead, Voxland said.
"Partly we'll be trapped by how the Legislature crafts their budget," he said. "We'll have to figure out how to do more with less."
Dirt work is expected to start this year on an Interstate 94 interchange at West Fargo's Ninth Street.
The overpass is scheduled to be constructed in 2008. A timetable for ramps is up in the air, said City Administrator Jim Brownlee.
"We're looking forward to getting that done," said Mayor Rich Mattern.
Also this year, West Fargo will study the possibility of building a water treatment plant, Mattern said.
The city's water supply now comes from wells, but Mattern said someday the city will need another water source, probably the Sheyenne River.
"The absolute biggest thing for Dilworth is going to happen ... and that's the construction of a Super Wal-Mart," said city planner Stan Thurlow.
Work on the 220,000-square-foot store is to start in the spring.
"It's hard to even conceive of a store that size. It's 5 acres of store under one roof," said Thurlow, who added the city's focus on residential development will continue in 2007.
"We just completed infrastructure on 74 lots in a subdivision known as Summerwood," he said.
Improving roads and bridges as well as obtaining funds to execute programs and services in Clay County is high on county officials' to-do list.
Scaled-back state and federal funding for mandated programs in the county's social services department prompted the county to raise property taxes and cut funding to programs in 2006.
The county doesn't want to see that trend continue, said Mike McCarthy, County Commission chairman.
"We need to make sure we get a funding increase."
The county also will focus on completing wage studies to ensure employees are paid comparably with surrounding counties.
Cass County leaders will be living with decisions they didn't make. From stopping property tax increases to funding and administering social services, decisions made in the upcoming North Dakota Legislature are Cass County's most immediate concern, County Commission Chairman Scott Wagner said.
"The legislative session has a profound impact on county government," he said.
Also, the county will become accustomed to a new sheriff this year. Former Fargo Police Lt. Paul Laney, who unseated seven-term Sheriff Don Rudnick, will become sheriff Tuesday.
In North Dakota, finding a chancellor for the state's university system will be a major issue.
Robert Potts resigned as chancellor in August amid frustration with the Board of Higher Education. Eddie Dunn, of Fargo, will serve in the position until June.
Also, the controversy over the University of North Dakota mascot and nickname, which are deemed hostile and abusive by the NCAA, will go to court unless settled beforehand. UND says the NCAA has been inconsistent in its handling of the Fighting Sioux moniker. A judge has urged the two sides to settle out of court.
In Minnesota, tuition increases and a proposal from Gov. Tim Pawlenty to offer two years of tuition-free college for high-achieving high school students will be major issues.
Education funding will be a big issue in the Minnesota Legislature this year. Some want school districts to receive more state aid, while others are calling for an all-day everyday kindergarten program across the state.
The state Education Department is revising its math standards to require that students take more algebra and start taking it earlier.
Locally, citizens and school board members in the Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton School District are talking about asking voters for a tax increase to go toward operational costs. The district faces a projected $400,000 deficit for this school year and is in its third year of deficit spending.
The Moorhead School District is working on a long-range plan that will map out future goals.
The district is gathering ideas from community members, staff and administrators to be rolled into a single vision. Officials hope to finalize the plan in February.
North Dakota K-12
Gov. John Hoeven has proposed $80 million in funding that would, among other things, ensure each North Dakota school district gets an equitable share of funding in the next biennium.
State lawmakers this session also will debate the length of the school year, all-day kindergarten and increasing the drop-out age requirement from 16 to 18.
Locally, planning will begin for building a new high school in 2011 in far south Fargo, and financing must be determined. Lowell Wolff, assistant to the superintendent, says the school could possibly be built without a tax increase.
Among the other issues to be ironed out: how to deal with declining enrollments at northside elementary schools.
In West Fargo, the school district will bring two new schools online this year to cope with burgeoning enrollment.
In addition, the district is laying plans to open a Welcome Center in the Lodoen Center. The center would provide basic English and math literacy training, along with acculturation to the American school system, and contacts with social services agencies.