FARGO — Candidates for the Fargo Park Board have expressed strong support for preserving the character of Island Park, for which a new swimming pool is a focus of planning.
Jacqueline Dotzenrod said the park board erred in hiring an outside planning consultant who failed to listen to local sentiment about what is important to preserve at Island Park, including the Angel of Hope statue commemorating deceased children.
“Island Park is the heart of our community,” she said.
Joe Deutsch, who is seeking his fifth term on the park’s board, said continued public involvement will be important in guiding any changes to Island Park.
“We have to get it right,” he said. “People love Island Park and the way it is” and appreciate its “quiet and peaceful” character.
Vicky Dawson, who now serves as board chair and is seeking a second term, said Island Park, along with the pool, tennis courts and other amenities, appeals to a wide range of audiences.
“All of these things mean something, all of these things are important,” she said. The park district is careful when removing trees and is keeping removal “limited at all costs.”
Aaron Hill said a large pool that can accommodate swimming competitions is important. “I think it’s also important that we also focus on arts and culture,” he said.
Jim Frueh said the location of the pool will determine which trees will need to be removed. It will be important to continue to receive public input, he said, to “focus on what the public wants”.
The contestants were asked about the Fargo Sports Complex, which will open soon in far south Fargo. Bids for the project totaled $77.6 million, and applicants were asked about the Park District’s 17% property tax increase.
The indoor sports complex, which will include a soccer field, five basketball and volleyball courts, an indoor track and community halls, has “a lot of value” to the community, Deutsch said. “I support the community impact this is going to have,” he said.
The 17% increase in taxes was a “concern,” Dotzenrod said, and predicted another increase would be needed because of the sports complex, though she noted private donations helped cover the costs.
Frueh supports the project, but worries about operating costs. “Overall, I think it’s a good thing for the city of Fargo as we grow.”
The sports complex will be an important amenity for recruiting and retaining the workforce, Hill said. “We have to show that we are doing things to invest in ourselves,” he said.
Dawson, who said he twice voted against raising taxes, said the cost of the sports complex was split evenly between private donors and taxpayers. “It was not an easy decision” to vote for the project, she said, “it provides more opportunities for children in our community, as well as adults.”
Dotzenrod, who suffered a traumatic brain injury, said accessibility, including accessibility for people with disabilities, would be his top priority. “I want to make sure our parks are accessible to everyone,” she said.
Hill’s top priority would be to form strategic partnerships to help Park District programs, and said the district cannot ignore the needs of central neighborhoods.
Dawson said it’s important to “maintain and enhance” existing parks as well as add neighborhood parks as the city grows to ensure all youth and adults have opportunities, programs and events.
Planning for a growing city’s future recreational needs is crucial, Deutsch said. “We just have to stay in front of the growth,” he said, while being careful to avoid a “doughnut effect” by neglecting areas.
Frueh said his top priority would be to complete an asset plan, listing the district’s capital improvement needs for the next five to 10 years, to help guide council decisions and help budget major expenditures. .
The field of five candidates, including two incumbents, is vying for three board seats in the June 14 election.