What did you expect? It’s West Fargo.
“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely" is a 19th century quote that exemplifies West Fargo city hall. It was again in full display during the recent commission meetings when they approved the city staff’s plan to purchase five homes on Sheyenne Street $1.15 million, including $30,000 to each homeowner for “relocation expenses."
At 39% more than the total taxable valuation of all five properties, no one knows how much the properties are really worth. No appraisal was done, and city staff convinced the commission that an appraisal was too costly and might jeopardize the sweet deal.
The city will own a new graveled 42,000 square-foot, to parking lot for speculative development; total cost is $1.5 million all inclusive. With over 12,000 square feet of vacant office space already available on Sheyenne, another 30,000 square foot in the planned bank project, and the planned development south of Sheyenne Plaza, they might have competition. But staff again convinced the commission this new acquisition might in fact stimulate the other spaces to fill even faster, bringing more stores that the “committee” is seeking as they realize their “development dream” for Sheyenne.
Mayor Bernie Dardis did his best to call a halt to this abuse of power with support from Mark Simmons, but alas was outfoxed by the vixen who had her votes counted even before the December meeting.
The process was beyond sickening for a city government that preaches itself as “transparent."
The five homeowners approached city staff seeking a city buyout after failing to sell their homes for over a year. City staff however never informed the commission of this. Instead, without any authorization they chose two commissioners and held a secret negotiation meeting with the five homeowners on Oct. 30, at the VFW and agreed on a price. Not even the two commissioners attending knew what the meeting entailed until it started, and sadly, they remained to participate.
One commissioner acclaimed the great work city staff did keeping the homeowners “on topic." The proposed purchase was first brought to the commission for consideration on Dec. 21, it was approved in one meeting. No public input was ever sought, let alone allowed. The virtual meeting provided a significant breadth of confidence, free from any public comment. Staff cleverly titled the agenda item to avoid raising any question: “Five homes on Sheyenne Street."
This isn’t the first time city staff puppeteered the commission. The administrator, stating she didn’t need commission approval, authorized the unbudgeted expenditure of $145,000 in fall 2020 to install no-parking signs for street maintenance, in complete defiance of a commission vote on April 6, to not do the work. Again, with the support of one puppet commissioner (Brad Olson), it was stated they “did not purposely go around the full city commission to do this." But, they did.
It’s ironic that some of the new commissioners campaigned on a promise to clean up city hall. It appears their cleaning supplies are in short supply. The city will soon be the proud owner, and now real estate developer, of a graveled parking lot on Sheyenne. It leaves one to wonder if the newest development company in town, city hall, may also start offering some ocean-front property for sale north of town? It might be a smelly venture, but a perfect match to city hall.