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Special election sought for new West Fargo library

A joke among West Fargo library customers is they try to check out a book by the same author they returned so library staff can find a spot to put it back.


A joke among West Fargo library customers is they try to check out a book by the same author they returned so library staff can find a spot to put it back.

Head librarian Miriam Arves said the 8,000-square-foot facility is so crowded staff are constantly trying to find room to put books away.

Members of the West Fargo Library Board will ask city commissioners tonight for a special election to fund a new $4 million library.

Board members are proposing to increase West Fargo's sales tax by half a cent to fund the 26,000-square-foot building to be built near the middle school.

The additional space could accommodate more computers, a meeting room and an area to display West Fargo history.


Currently the library has one public access Internet computer. Arves has considered budgeting to purchase more computers, but there's no space for them, she said.

"It boggles my mind to think of what we could do for the citizens of West Fargo, but everything is very maxed out," Arves said.

Library Board member Lou Bennett said the library is too small to support West Fargo.

"We constantly get people coming in and asking, 'Is this it?' and it's sort of embarrassing," said Bennett, who also is a city commissioner.

An expansion also would allow the library to comply with the American with Disabilities Act, which sets standards for distance between bookshelves, Arves said.

The West Fargo library was established in 1971. It was located in a Sheyenne Street storefront, said Arves, who has worked for the library for 27 years.

The library quickly outgrew that site and in 1975 moved to where it is now, adjacent to City Hall at 401 7th St. E., she said.

In 1984 the library expanded, doubling its size.


There's not enough space at the library's current location to accommodate another expansion, Bennett said.

In 2000, West Fargo voters defeated a proposal to increase property taxes to fund a new library.

That measure failed with 51 percent of the vote. Property tax increases need 60 percent approval.

"That showed us that more than half the people in West Fargo wanted a new library," said Bennett, who was president of the Library Board in 2000.

An increase in sales tax requires 50 percent approval, he said.

Although city commissioners allowed the library item to be on the ballot, Bennett said they did so reluctantly.

"I will always believe that if the City Commission had vocally supported it, it probably would have passed," Bennett said.

West Fargo Mayor Rich Mattern said although he sees a need for a larger facility, he's concerned about additional costs of maintenance and employees that would come with a new building.


A larger library would require additional help equivalent to three full-time employees, Arves said.

If approved, the election would be Sept. 30. The half-cent sales tax would expire as soon as enough money is raised, estimated to be about nine years.

West Fargo's current sales tax is 6 cents per dollar. It had been 6.5 cents, but the half-cent tax for the jail recently expired, Mattern said.

The West Fargo City Commission meets today at 5:30 p.m. in City Hall.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590

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