5 things to know today: Sales tax, EPIC sale, Campus footprint, Snail mail, Wait times – InForum

1. West Fargo sales tax ballot measure faces growing citizen scrutiny

Some West Fargoans are voicing concerns about how city officials have informed citizens about a half-cent sales tax measure and others are questioning if West Fargo taxpayers are being misled about the Nov. 8 ballot question.

West Fargoans are deciding whether to approve a half-cent sales tax to fund the city’s police and fire departments. City commissioners voted in September to add the measure to the ballot. Since then, the city has circulated information through its website, in the West Fargo Focus newspaper and via appearances by public employees.

One such appearance was by the police and fire chiefs at a town hall meeting Thursday, Oct. 27, at Prairie Heights Church in West Fargo.

Since last week, several residents have sent emails to commissioners, The Forum and other officials questioning the city’s information and its distribution methods.

At last week’s meeting, Police Chief Denis Otterness spoke in uniform alongside other uniformed police officers who stood among audience members. At the start of the meeting, West Fargo Commissioner Brad Olson said Fire Chief Dan Fuller was on call that evening and could be called out at any time.

North Dakota Century Code 44-08-19 states, “No public employee may engage in political activities while on duty or in uniform.” Section 39-01-04 broadly defines “political activities” to include distributing “political literature.”

West Fargo City Attorney John Shockley addressed the legality in a memo to The Forum, city commissioners and Cass County State’s Attorney Birch Burdick. Shockley said the chiefs did not violate state law because they did not advocate a position on the measure and only provided facts about it.

Read more from The Forum’s Wendy Reuer

2. Fargo sells Main Avenue property near Red River to EPIC for $1.18 million

A rectangular building with brown, gray and white walls.

A rendering of a seven-story mixed-use building EPIC Companies plans to build at the southwest corner of the intersection of Main Avenue and Second Street in Fargo.

Contributed / City of Fargo

A piece of property near the Red River is being sold to a developer after the Fargo City Commission unanimously approved the sale at its Monday, Oct. 31, meeting.

EPIC Companies purchased the property at 234 Main Ave. for $1.18 million, according to Director of Strategic Planning and Research Jim Gilmour.

“The city doesn’t get to keep the money,” Gilmour said. Due to the existing Diversion agreement, all money made from this transaction, with the exception of administrative costs, will go to the Diversion Authority, he said.

EPIC plans to build a seven-story, mixed-use building at the southwest corner of the intersection of Main Avenue and Second Street, according to a memo Gilmour sent to commissioners. The project will continue the developer’s work on its downtown “Gateway development.”

Read more from The Forum’s Melissa Van Der Stad

3. Ambitious plan calls for MSUM to go carbon neutral, reduce campus footprint

About a dozen people stand around a table laid with a blueprint while am an in front of several posters presents to them.

Patrick Thibaudeau, JLG Architects sustainability officer, speaks to an audience of more than 50 people at Minnesota State University Moorhead on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022 about a comprehensive facilities plan.

CS Hagen / The Forum

A long range, “ambitious” comprehensive facilities plan for Minnesota State University Moorhead was unveiled Tuesday, Nov. 1, promising carbon neutrality, financial prosperity and the “technology of tomorrow.”

Patrick Thibaudeau, sustainability officer at JLG Architects, spoke about the proposed changes to a group of more than 50 people at the Comstock Memorial Union Sun Garden Lounge.

Saying it was the “right time to think big,” Thibaudeau said that according to the plan the campus will generate its own electricity and heating, reduce building areas, sell off some land, become carbon neutral and provide a positive learning environment on campus.

“What you see in front of you is a planning tool we use to envision the future,” Thibaudeau said, adding that architects tried to epitomize a “culture of connecting people to each other” and “honor the heritage of what is here, while preparing for the technology of tomorrow.”

Read more from The Forum’s CS Hagen

4. For some in North Dakota, the mail does not come through

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A resident enters the United States Post Office in Minot, North Dakota, on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022.

Michael Standaert/North Dakota News Cooperative

From the North Dakota News Cooperative via Forum News Service

Recent worker shortages and the increased workload of processing large packages have complicated the work of mail carriers who have long deftly overcome the obstacles of snow, rain, heat and the gloom of night to get mail to its destination on time.

Here in North Dakota, the outer edges of cities like Minot, Bismarck, Williston and other areas have experienced severe delays in mail deliveries recently, with citizens not seeing anything arriving in their mailboxes for days, and even weeks, at a time.

For Howard Tweeten, who lives about 4 miles north of Bismarck, the past three weeks have been a period of sporadic delivery. This has delayed bills for Tweeten, who had one come eight days after it was mailed from Bismarck, slower than if it was walked out to his home by him.

“It’s been kind of a hit or miss type of thing,” Tweeten said. “One neighbor was told we’ll be lucky if we get mail every other day or every third day.”

The rapid rise in the numbers of packages that mail carriers are tasked with processing and hauling, a rise stemming from the e-commerce boom in the past decade, now competes with the delivery of first class and bulk mail.

Labor shortages, spurred by retirements and heavy competition with other employers for workers, have undercut hiring campaigns for the US Postal Service (USPS), further straining the system.

Read more

5. Want to check voting wait times? Cass County has a dashboard for that

Stickers are available to Cass County residents who have voted early in the June 8 election. Dave Wallis / The Forum

Cass County residents can check on wait times at the polls before going out to cast their votes in the 2022 general election, which is on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

The county’s online dashboard that shows wait times is already in place for early voting and can be accessed by visiting www.casscountynd.gov/elections.

The dashboard shows the approximate time a voter will have to wait in line before receiving their ballot at polling locations in Cass County.

Read more

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