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Fargo, West Fargo, Moorhead differ on releasing road, snow-removal updates

During the height of the weekend storm on Friday evening, the city of Fargo shut down a major access point to 19th Avenue North by dumping a huge pile of snow on the roadway.

During the height of the weekend storm on Friday evening, the city of Fargo shut down a major access point to 19th Avenue North by dumping a huge pile of snow on the roadway.

Similar steps were taken elsewhere around the city when police notified street workers that drivers were getting stuck.

Fargo issued a no-travel advisory on Thursday, but no subsequent, full-scale news releases were issued for actions like the street closings.

That raised a question: What policies do area cities have for keeping drivers updated on street conditions?



Ben Dow, Fargo's director of operations, said it is standard procedure for the city to get the word out about travel advisories and road closings.

But with the most recent storm occurring over a holiday weekend, communication suffered, he said.

Dow said he contacted as many radio stations as he could Friday regarding street closings, and he gave dispatchers information in case members of the public called.

News releases weren't sent to every media outlet that would normally receive them, however.

Dow said that was because office staff was off duty and he was out and about dealing with street cleaning.

"I just never got back in the office," he said.

West Fargo

In West Fargo, Assistant Police Chief Mike Reitan issued news releases Thursday morning and Friday afternoon updating the public on what was being done to clear snow.


The reports also stated that many roads were blocked by heavy snow and stalled vehicles, and only "essential" travel was advised.

Issuing travel advisories is tricky because it means balancing public safety and public convenience, Reitan said.

"The easy thing would be to have nobody driving around," he said.

"In the real world," he added, "people feel compelled to be out in the snow. And we have businesses we have to be concerned about."

Reitan said West Fargo uses social websites such as Twitter and Facebook to help keep the public in the loop, but he said staff members who normally handle that were asked to stay home out of concern for their safety.

West Fargo City Commissioner Mark Simmons, who holds the street portfolio, said he is proud of how city workers handled snow removal and other issues this past weekend, but he said there may be ways the city can improve communication with the public.

Simmons said a city phone number took so many calls this weekend the voice-mail feature became full.

Setting up call forwarding would be one way to answer questions the public might have, he said.


"A lot of people just want to vent," he said.


The city of Moorhead does not routinely issue travel advisories, or statements regarding street conditions during storms.

The exception is when a snow emergency is declared and vehicles must be removed from streets to allow for snow removal, said City Manager Michael Redlinger.

When it comes to stating whether or not people should be on the road, Redlinger said the city leaves it to the Clay County Sheriff's Department to issue warnings.

"When he (Sheriff Bill Bergquist) advises no travel in Clay County, that includes Moorhead. That is the way we have treated it from a law enforcement perspective," Redlinger said.

He added that if members of the media contact Moorhead police regarding street conditions, officers will provide information.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555

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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