“I’m Not Going to Quit Asking Questions”: Fargo Commissioner Dave Piepkorn Critical of Cost of Refugee Resettlement

The topic of refugee resettlement cost is in the spotlight ever since City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn brought attention to it at the end of September.

Commissioner Piepkorn opened up the topic by letting the room know that the audit for Lutheran Social Services is now available to view on the city’s website.

This opened up more conversation about refugee resettlement in the Red River Valley.

One conversation some people are hoping will end soon.

“I’m not going to quit asking questions because you don’t approve,” said Commissioner Piepkorn at Monday’s meeting.

Commissioner Piepkorn is still fighting for answers when it comes to the cost of refugee resettlement in Fargo.

“Six weeks ago we were told there’s nothing to see here. Four weeks ago, we were told it was $28,000 was the cost to the city. Now we find out it’s $4 million,” he said.

Piepkorn says the latest audit shows resettlement costs of LSS are $3.9 million but Mayor Tim Mahoney says that money is given to the non–profit by the federal government.

Mayor Mahoney says the City of Fargo pays $40,000- $60,000 thousand a year for resettlement costs.

But a fellow commissioner is waiting for this topic to stop being brought up at the meetings.

The commission previously voted to pass the issue to the Human Relations Commission, who will provide a full analysis by February.

“Are they going to be criticized too?” asked Commissioner John Strand. “Are they going to be told too in the end that ‘we don’t know if we believe you’? Or ‘we don’t know if we trust your numbers’? Or your data? And I’m hoping we have the highest respect for this process.”

Although the City Commission didn’t hear from anyone from Lutheran Social Services, they did hear from a concerned member of the community.

“Don’t just come to your meetings and stir the pot without doing your homework,” said Kathy Coyle.

Coyle has lived in Fargo for 66 years and invites the public to join a group in support of social services and refugees.

“We are creating ways to bridge the gap between those and like us of white privilege,” she explained.

Piepkorn did not respond directly to Coyle.

He wants the public to know where the money is coming from and how much is being spent.

He hopes the audit will help.

“We just need to know what the numbers are and so that’s what we’re doing, thank you,” he added.

The company that audits the City of Fargo is the same one who audits Lutheran Social Services.

You can check out the City of Fargo’s budget by clicking here.

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