Civic Center Controversy | VideoRetha Colclasure | 1/21/2013
Expanding and renovating Bismarck`s Civic Center and implementing a quiet rail zone in downtown Bismarck. Two multi-million dollar projects, two tax increases voters rejected.
"We heard no on the tax increase, we heard no on $90 million, but the Civic Center has really not gone away," said Bismarck Mayor John Warford.
Train whistles at downtown crossings have also not gone away and Warford has plans to deal with both issues. "We listened to the vote but we`re trying to modify what we present to the citizens to make it more relevant to what we think they want."
He says keeping the Civic Center relevant means focusing on three projects for a total of about $30 million, paid for with parts of the hospitality tax already designated for the Civic Center. "It can be construed maybe to be going against the voter, but remember what was on the ballot. It was not to not do anything on the Civic Center, it was to not raise the tax."
He takes a similar view of the quiet rail vote in 2006, where voters rejected using a combination of tax increases and a special tax zone to install quiet rail at seven rail crossings. Instead, the city is planning to put quiet rail in place at three crossings.
"I look at it as a demonstration project," Warford said.
Warford says the Civic Center has become a polarizing issue in the community. Bismarck residents are split about what to do with it, and how.
"I`m of some concern that they went ahead and are trying to expand it somehow without going to the people," said Bismarck resident Gerard Schwan.
"I`m really excited about the possibility of arts and music and things that we wouldn`t have been able to get here prior to an expansion. So I think it`s very brave and bold to continue the expansion," said Bismarck resident Tanya Spilovoy.
The commissioners plan to discuss the Civic Center expansion at their meeting Tuesday night.
Warford says the commission is hearing from people on both sides of the issue. He says as mayor, he has a responsibility to continue to make the Civic Center relevant and viable and says something has to be done so the Civic Center doesn`t lose business to competing cities.