Fargo Mayor Dr. Tim Mahoney presented the following remarks at the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce's 'State of the Cities' event on January 16, 2020:
The year of 2019 was tremendous for the City of Fargo and also for our favorite football team. Congratulations to the now eight-time national champion NDSU Bison. I always enjoy making the trip to Frisco annually and, this year, we brought our weather right along with us to south “South Fargo” in Texas.
I need to thank Troy Hall, our water utility director, because there must be something in the water in Fargo to make us the home of champions.
I also want to commend Hector International Airport and the team for getting us off the runway on time in some pretty tough weather conditions. Speaking of Hector International, I want to profoundly thank the Municipal Airport Authority and the City Commission for negotiating a new beginning earlier this week. I look forward to developing new channels of communication with the team at Hector International in this next phase of our relationship.
The progress achieved in 2019 was only the beginning. We have a clear vision going into 2020 for how to maintain ourselves as the regional leader. We are committed to building a better city, serving our people and shaping the future.
Let’s take a closer look at how we’re building a better city in Fargo. We truly value the safety of our residents, visitors and commuters, as shown in some of the City’s most recent infrastructure projects. An innovative new two-lane roundabout was installed along Main Avenue during its recent reconstruction. This roundabout allows traffic to flow faster through the arterial and eliminates the potential for many serious crashes.
Another major project completed in 2019 was 52nd Avenue South. Three RCUTs, or “Restricted Crossing U-Turns,” were installed. The new configuration eliminates several left turns onto 52nd, improving traffic flow in a safe and effective manner.
We also made a big effort to invest in our police operations to improve the safety of our city. A new police headquarters centralizes the divisions, allowing for easier internal collaboration and smarter policing. It also provides twice as much office space for our growing department. The facilities are a huge upgrade, providing a heated garage to allow patrol computers to operate without freezing and space for the multi-jurisdictional Metro Street Crimes Unit to work as a team.
We’re also making an effort to create a more effective city. We opened a major expansion to our Water Treatment Plant in 2019. It features $110 million in new construction and enhancements. We are now utilizing state-of-the-art water purification technologies to provide Fargo, West Fargo and the Cass Rural Water Users District with an incredibly high-quality product.
We also had the honor of opening a high-tech modern commission chambers in 2019. The chamber utilizes metro-leading technology to provide crystal clear audio and video for each and every public meeting The City of Fargo hosts. We’ve taken public meetings into the 21st century by broadcasting and livestreaming every public meeting in that space and utilizing 4K cameras to provide pristine sound and picture quality.
We are building a better city by making it a more interesting place. For example, the first phase of the Fargo Civic Plaza opened recently. The new plaza brought the return of the Sodbuster Sculpture to downtown Fargo. Residents and visitors now have a newly-activated space between City Hall, the Fargo Library and the Civic Center.
The FARGODOME had a 2019 to remember for its high-flying, energetic shows and unforgettable events. Stay tuned because 2020 should be one for the record books with legends like Cher and Elton John slated to hit our biggest stage. Rob Sobolik tells me he has even more huge names to announce soon. There are also some facility updates on the way to help make the region’s best venue even better.
It’s not enough to only build a great city. What truly sets us apart are the incredible people who help make Fargo a great place to live and work. A huge portion of our success is thanks to our collaborative nature. We work very well with our peers. Fargo continues to provide drinking water to West Fargo and other surrounding communities.
We also implemented a major wastewater linkage with West Fargo last year to help retire their lagoons. I look forward to continuing this great working relationship and creating new ones in the future.
It’s important to me that Fargo is a good neighbor. When Jamestown faced rare fall flooding, we stepped up by providing 40,000 reserve sandbags. We are all residents of this region and in it together.
Our collaborative spirit is also evident in how we make decisions after seeking resident input. Fargo fosters an environment where residents can make a huge difference. By sharing opinions with commissioners and also volunteering to serve on boards, committees and commissions, Fargo is a city where involvement is truly encouraged. We need you to do that; you make us better.
The community certainly became involved when we faced a potential spring flood. The response from the entire region was downright inspiring. People were generous enough to offer their time and energy to assemble 400,000 sandbags and provide more than 7,000 volunteer hours.
The staff and elected officials of Fargo don’t forget who they work for: all of you. Team Fargo is well equipped to serve all of the residents, visitors and workforce of our city. We recruit young talent and work to retain it. Millennials make up a large portion of our population and it is vital we empower and incorporate this generation into our operations. The City of Fargo takes pride in showcasing our diverse and talented team members, understanding that they are at the heart of our continued excellence.
We want to improve the quality of life for everyone we serve. A great example of this is the new Industrial Park transit service. With the help of United Way, MATBUS is now able to provide reliable transportation for up to 19,000 workers using an innovative and efficient delivery method.
We are here to clear the way for you as well. Our snow removal operations hauled over 10,000 truckloads of snow in 2019 and diligently maintain 2,100 lane miles; that’s roughly the distance from Fargo to Anchorage, Alaska.
But, we can always do better. You asked and we listened. The City is now conducting a snow removal feasibility study, examining new solutions for snow removal and we have a pending ordinance to help expedite snow plowing.
It is also important for us to protect our assets. Our new Capital Improvement Plan gives us a long-term roadmap. It will help the City update end-of-life infrastructure, avoid deferred maintenance and save taxpayers money.
We like to hold our City to a sky-high standard and this excellence caught some outside attention in 2019. The national ranking service WalletHub conducted a couple of studies about both the happiest and the best run cities in the US. WalletHub named Fargo one of the six happiest cities to live in. Fargo also ranked in the top six in the entire United States in the quality of city services. That meant we beat out the biggest cities in the nation for this award. I couldn’t be prouder of our team. Insurify also named us the “Greenest” City in the entire state. And if that weren’t enough indication that we are doing well, Zip Recuriter named Fargo the number one hottest job market.
While it’s great to reflect on the success of 2019, I am always thinking of what comes next. In 2020, this will mean many exciting developments in Fargo. We plan on making this year even better by embracing new innovations.
Fargo is the first major city to adopt approval voting. Please get out and vote; it matters. We are also hard at work on our Land Development Code Diagnostic. Fine tuning this will create a smarter, more efficient city.
Fargo is implementing a new infrastructure funding policy based on resident feedback. The new policy means residents will pay a smaller share for projects (and lower special assessments) thanks to funding approved by state legislators and the City taking on more of the cost share.
In 2020, we will also be taking a look at the heart of our city through the Core Neighborhoods Study. The study will provide a long-term vision for many of the central neighborhoods in Fargo.
It is important we always look for ways to improve the city as well. Protecting the metro is our top priority. Fargo will continue to push hard for flood-proofing our metro through the FM Area Diversion Project. Likewise, we are committed to drought-proofing our area. We don’t often think about the possibility of a drought, but Fargo will be ready when the Red River Valley Water Supply Project is fully constructed.
Phase One of the Fargo Civic Plaza was just the beginning. We are exploring the vision for Phase II and the possibilities on the table are endless. We are also looking into a modern Performing Arts Center for Fargo. With a good funding plan, we could truly have something incredible.
Fargo’s 2020 vision is clear. We will continue to build a better city, serve the people and shape the future. Fargo will remain a shining example of excellence; efficient, but compassionate; effective, but friendly.
In summary, I want to say that Fargo is the big city with an even bigger heart. Thank you to everyone who makes this metro truly special.
Without question, I can assure you that the state of our city is strong. Let’s go make 2020 the best yet. Thank you all.