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City Council considers funding for JPB

The Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board had requested that its three member entities contribute a total of $4,000 in seed money.

But City Attorney Alan Felix recommended that the JPB's Joint Powers Agreement first be revised before any monetary contribution is made.

The City Council discussed the JPB request during Monday's meeting. No action was taken.

The JPB was formed to develop one set of zoning and subdivision ordinances for the city of Bemidji, Northern Township and Bemidji Township. All three entities are represented on the JPB and its Joint Planning Commission.

In the first phase of the plan, the city and both townships developed a plan for orderly annexation. In the second phase, the city and townships developed one land-use plan, a transportation plan and one set of zoning and subdivision regulations.

The city and township boards approved the above plan, and this past spring the JPB and Joint Planning Commission began holding regular meetings.

But as the JPB has become more active, its needs have increased. It currently is considering potential office sites and hiring staff.

To do that, it needs money. But Felix told the City Council members they should not contribute funds until the Joint Powers Agreement is amended.

The current Joint Powers Agreement, a nine-page document, includes sections devoted to a budget and finances. It states that each of the three jurisdictions will be responsible for payments from their own budgets during the first year of operation to cover their own staff costs. It states that subsequent years will begin on Aug. 1 and that the government bodies will prepare a budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Regarding finances, the Joint Powers Agreement states that the JPB will determine during the first year of operation whether it needs to create its own financial policies, what those policies should be, and all three government agencies must approve those policies.

Felix said the Joint Powers Agreement was drafted under the understanding that the JPB would revise the sections addressing a budget and finances once it got going.

"You need to be working on all these issues," Felix said, adding that it may not make sense to revise the Joint Powers Agreement until after it is in operation for at least one year.

The city was considering a $2,000 contribution to the JPB. Each township was asked to consider a $1,000 contribution in seed money.

Felix said that split may not be the best formula. After a complete year, he said, the JPB might determine that the bulk of its issues come from the townships and not the city.

"It's not just a seed money issue," he said.

The JPB next meets at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 10, at Bemidji Township Town Hall.