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Downtown Fargo parking crunch could affect Ten Commandments monument

FARGO - The Ten Commandments monument that has been in front of City Hall for more than five decades might be moved temporarily. That is, if it doesn't undo the city's hard-fought legal battles to keep it there. City staff broached the topic Mond...

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A Fargo Public Library patron walks past the Ten Commandments monument, which was given to the city of Fargo in 1958, in this file photo. Michael Vosburg/ Forum Photo Editor
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FARGO – The Ten Commandments monument that has been in front of City Hall for more than five decades might be moved temporarily.

That is, if it doesn’t undo the city’s hard-fought legal battles to keep it there.

City staff broached the topic Monday night before the City Commission as part of a discussion on the coming parking crunch when construction of the new City Hall building begins this year on top of what’s now a 450-stall parking lot.

City Administrator Pat Zavoral said the plaza in front of City Hall could be turned into a temporary 70-stall parking lot. Another 10 to 20 stalls could be gained if the Ten Commandments monument and the Civic Center sign is moved, he said.

The monument would be put on display inside the Civic Center attached to the existing City Hall and brought back when construction is done, he said.

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City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn said he worries that moving it even temporarily would weaken the city’s legal position.

The Ten Commandments has been the target of litigation by the Red River Freethinkers, who say it’s a religious monument that doesn’t belong on public property. After a judge ruled against the group, it wanted to install its own monument extolling the separation of church and state in front of City Hall.

During all this, the City Commission adopted a law that forbade the removal of any marker or monument that has been on city property for more than 40 years. The judge cited this law in dismissing the suit in 2013. An appeals court declined to require a trial in August.

Piepkorn asked for City Attorney Erik Johnson’s opinion Monday night, but Johnson said he would need more time.

The commission didn’t make a decision on the Ten Commandments but it did take a separate step to solve the parking problem with a shuttle bus from downtown Fargo to the Moorhead Center Mall, where there is usually plenty of parking.

The commission voted to have two commissioners join a task force studying the shuttle bus as requested by the Moorhead City Council.

The shuttle bus has not been without controversy, with some Moorhead council members complaining that Fargo was taking advantage of Moorhead; mall businesses actually seem to support the idea.

On Monday night, after news that Piepkorn wanted the shuttle bus to go between downtown Fargo and a parking lot within the city of Fargo, Moorhead council members said they were just asking questions.

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“We have all kinds of issues and questions that come to the city council, and our normal pattern would be to ask a lot of questions, to inquire, to find out all the facts before we make a decision on something,” said Councilman Mike Hulett.

One of the commissioners on the task force will be Piepkorn and the other will be Mike Williams, who proposed the shuttle bus idea.

 

Readers can reach Forum reporters Tu-Uyen Tran at (701) 241-5417 and Adrian Glass-Moore at (701) 241-5599

 

Related Topics: MOORHEAD
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