West Fargo garden center owner to run for city commission citing lack of government involvement in access problem
Jodi Kallias says city government has not been cooperative in helping her find a solution to safe entry into her business.
Jodi Kallias owns the SheyWest Garden Center on the corner of 40th Avenue and Sheyenne Street in West Fargo, and she says loves her job.
"My whole heart has gone into developing this whole corner to make it my favorite place to be during the day. This does not feel like a job to me - I am fortunate to get to be here, to sit in the office that I sit in, and meet the wonderful people that I get to help. Because we're making and planning their whole backyard and their dream and their futures, and I just absolutely adore getting to help with that, and I can't believe that gets to be me."
But Kallias says for two and a half years, she’s continually butted heads with city officials about how customers and delivery drivers can safely access the business.
Right now, the SheyWest Garden Center can only be accessed by the eastbound lane of 40th Avenue. A concrete median prevents motorists from westbound access –requiring they pass the approach and make a U-turn. Kallias claims she was told before she opened her garden center that a turning lane would be installed on 40th Avenue. But it wasn’t until after the property was purchased that that request was denied.
Kallias says she repeatedly went to the City of West Fargo and asked for cooperation.
"We've brought this up continually, and I still continue to get complaints. So, I brought it up to them, and I said - I'm not happy with the access in and out of the business, it's very hard to turn in and out of here, people just make U-turns, they make up the rules, they park where they're not supposed to. I need help getting something figured out or someone will get hurt."
Kallias says the City Commission directed public works, engineering and city planning to work with her on a solution. This week, the city engineering and public works departments asked the commission to allow a feasibility study on the issue with Kallias offering to foot the bill. She says the commission voted it down.
"I thought that for sure I was just showing up for moral support of the idea - and then the commissioners voted 3 and 2 in favor to kill the request. And I was floored; I had no inkling that was coming down the pipe because the commission seemed like they wanted a solution, or they wouldn't have directed engineering and public works to work with me on one. So the last six months of us doing something came up with, oh, we're not interested in a study, we don't want you to use that lot, go away. And I'm not happy with that."
Melissa Richard is communications director for the City of West Fargo. She says Commissioner Mark Simmons met with Kallias on Tuesday of this week to talk over the situation, and felt it was a productive meeting and discussion on potential paths forward.
In the meantime, Kallias announced her intentions to run for City Commission in a post on the SheyWest Facebook page.
"I think at this point I should just run for a space on the commission and try to make a change, and promote business, and let people know that there are businesses that struggle with these things. And we're not getting the support that we need to help facilitate families being here, being our employees, and being our customers."
Kallias has also asked for public support, and is encouraging her customers and neighbors to contact city government with their concerns.