Residents share concerns about what they believe are conflicts of interest following Fufeng project

The Grand Forks City Council voted to abandon the Fufeng project when the Air Force declared it a threat to national security due to its ties to China.

Grand Forks City Council member Rebecca Osowski speaks during the Feb. 21 council meeting.

GRAND FORKS – Two weeks after council members voted to abandon a proposal to bring a controversial corn mill to Grand Forks, residents spoke during the public-input portion of Tuesday’s City Council meeting to express mistrust and what they believe are conflicts of interest in the city’s development process.

Several residents spoke about what they say are conflicts that city leaders – including Mayor Brandon Bochenski – have with the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp., which worked to bring the Fufeng corn mill to Grand Forks. One of those residents was Dexter Perkins, who asked Bochenski to resign from either his EDC position or as mayor.

The council voted to abandon the Fufeng project when the Air Force declared it a threat to national security due to its ties to China.

“Mayor Bochenski, you’re on the EDC board of directors, but you also have great influence on city operations and you run the City Council meetings where EDC projects are discussed and voted on,” Perkins said. “This is a huge conflict of interest. We elected you to work for the citizens of Grand Forks, not the Economic Development Corporation. And I suggest if you wish to continue as mayor you must resign from the board of directors of the EDC. Or if you wish to continue on that board, resign as mayor. You can’t do both – it’s just wrong.”

Perkins also noted that the city’s Growth Fund Committee consists of two people from the EDC.


“Yet the Growth Fund Committee makes many decisions directly related to EDC activities, so having those EDC members on the committee is simply inappropriate,” Perkins said. “And if the EDC people are going to be on those committees, why not representatives of other special interest groups? Why not the Farm Bureau, Global Friends, Grand Forks County Citizens Coalition, the Audubon Society – any of the many other special interests in town that believe they want to have a better city and are working to that end.”

At the end of the meeting, several council members addressed the comments made by residents about the EDC and potential conflicts of interest. Councilwoman Rebecca Osowski said “there needs to be some clear lines drawn” between the city and the EDC, but also the EDC and other committees, such as the Growth Fund Committee.

City Council President Dana Sande recommended having Keith Lund, the president and CEO of the EDC, come to a future meeting to talk about the purpose of the EDC and its relationship with the city.

“I think it’s important to note that it seems relatively obvious that there’s a disconnect between the general public and their understanding of what the Economic Development Corporation (does) and what their charter and purposes for our community (are),” Sande said. “I think people should know this is our Economic Development Corporation. Having yourself, having a city of Grand Forks representation on the Economic Development Corporation, is purposeful because we’re supposed to be hearing in advance and understanding and helping set the tone for what the Economic Development Corporation is doing for our community.”

City Council Vice President Bret Weber said the city “has long been proud of its innovative economic development efforts” and also that EDC board members have a certain level of credibility.

“Indeed, we’re fortunate to have the subject experts that we have who are willing to donate their time and expertise for the common good at no gain for themselves,” he said.

He said that "at the height of our city’s economic development success – residential and industrial growth (of) over $1 billion in project development going on in our city – it’s ironic that a small group has successfully portrayed those efforts as either corrupt or harmful. Some investigative journalism should be engaged to take a closer look at some of the specious claims that have been heard every other week for the last year now.”

Other resident comments Tuesday reflected on the next steps moving forward. Osowski said she would like there to be weekly updates on Fufeng and also asked a number of questions regarding the annexation process along the city’s northern edge. Council member Ken Vein said he would like the council to have an after-action summary.


“It seems like any time you go through something of this significance, we should be able to take a look back and know what worked well, what didn’t work well and be able to put some type of after-action summary. …” Vein said.

Also Tuesday, council members were presented with an update on the Honor Flight, which takes veterans on an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to see war memorials and other historic landmarks. This year, Don Roberts, a local organizer for the program, hopes to take 120 veterans on the Honor Flight out of Grand Forks, which is planned for Oct. 15-17.

In other news Tuesday, council members:

  • Awarded two bids to Gowan Construction Inc., in the amount of $416,858.50 for flood fight assistance and $52,244 for filling sandbags, as well as one bid to Strata Corporation in the amount of $159,000 for crushed concrete for flood preparation.
  • Authorized the execution of a parking management contract with Interstate Parking in the amount of $147,610 to manage and operate the downtown municipal parking system.
  • Gave preliminary approval to a rezoning request for the former Macy’s location in the Columbia Mall. The site is being considered as the potential future location for Riverside Christian School , which currently is in East Grand Forks. Members of the Grand Forks Planning and Zoning Commission gave preliminary approval during their meeting on Feb. 1. A public hearing is set for March 20.
  • Council meetings now will be held in the HIVE, the city-owned building across the street, as council chambers in City Hall will be undergoing renovations.
Meghan Arbegast grew up in Security-Widefield, Colorado. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from North Dakota State University in Fargo, in 2021.

Arbegast wrote for The Spectrum, NDSU's student newspaper, for three years and was Head News Editor for two years. She was an intern with University Relations her last two semesters of college.

Arbegast covers news pertaining to the city of Grand Forks/East Grand Forks including city hall coverage.

Readers can reach Arbegast at 701-780-1267 or

Pronouns: She/Her
Languages: English
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