We asked a cross section of residents and community members in Wahpeton to grade the city. The participants used the common letter grades found in schools — A, B, C, D or F.
Each survey participant was asked to grade Wahpeton in four categories: quality of services, entertainment, housing and people.
The survey indicated respondents are pleased overall with Wahpeton’s offering, but feel obtainable improvements could be made. They are also especially fond and proud of their neighbors — the question about the quality of residents received unanimously positive responses.
Housing in Wahpeton
Grading varied for this category, but the average was higher than expected. It evened out at a B.
Respondents had plenty of suggestions. The former Central Elementary property in eastern Wahpeton received attention.
“I think housing is overpriced and there’s not enough of it,” one respondent said. “That’s especially true for people who are just starting out. I think they ought to take the school lot and subdivide it into a small housing development. Let’s have small sized, quality homes for first time homebuyers.”
Another respondent agreed, saying Wahpeton needs more entry-level housing.
“The city should look at doing something to give incentives for that kind of housing,” the respondent said.
On the other hand, one felt there needs to be more middle-range options.
“There seems to be more apartments for the elderly than just for the general public. I don’t think we have much of a middle option, either. It’s either income-based or expensive. There’s not a medium there,” she said.
Despite concerns with housing in general, respondents said they were satisfied with their own apartments and homes.
“The nice thing about housing in our area is that you’re close to the schools, the locations and places to come to and from,” said Ariel Johnson, Richland County community prevention coordinator.
Services in Wahpeton
The average grade was a B, although some said they want more variety.
One said he’d like to see specialized retail options, like more stores geared toward hunters and anglers. Another said a large home improvement store like Menards or The Home Depot would be good for the community.
Because Wahpeton is close to Breckenridge, Minnesota, it was common to hear respondents refer to locations including CHI St. Francis Health and the Breckenridge 6 Theatre. These are technically not Wahpeton amenities, so feedback on them ultimately was not weighed for contribution to the average.
A recurring comment among respondents is Wahpeton is doing well “for a town its size.” Some singled out the downtown region.
“I think we as citizens need to ensure that we continue to patronize retail businesses in town,” said Rollie Ehlert, Richland County commissioner and longtime resident. “Maybe skip an Amazon purchase once in a while, get on the sidewalk and see what they offer.”
Entertainment in Wahpeton
This category had an A-minus average grade. Respondents had positive feedback about Wahpeton’s diversity of restaurants. They also had no problem giving suggestions about what they’d like to see.
“I’d like a recreation center with a track, swimming pool and basketball courts, but that might be more of a big town thing,” said Jazmine Hill, 16, a junior at Wahpeton High School.
Places with appeal for teenagers and young adults are high on respondents’ wish lists. One woman suggested live entertainment, including comedy shows. “(It’s) something different that adults could do that isn’t just going to the bar,” she said.
People in Wahpeton
This element received the highest average grade — A. Some respondents were willing to go higher than that.
“Oh, A+++,” Hill said. “We are the best people. Come on. Wahpeton people are the best.”
Residents are personable, their neighbors said. They like pitching in. One respondent observed the Christmas decorations being put on Dakota Avenue and said he heard it didn’t take very long to find a group of volunteers.
“They’re just friendly people,” a woman said.
Wahpeton is a great place to live, Ehlert said.
“More importantly, it’s a great place to raise a family. I appreciate the fact that I was able to raise my family here. The area has a tremendous amount to offer,” he said.
Among the respondents was a young woman who’s been living in Wahpeton for a few months. Just prior to taking the News Monitor survey, she said, she met people she was hoping would go on to be very good friends.
“It’s a good place to live in. We hope to stay in town and put down our roots here,” she said.