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New JPB agreement to be considered at council meeting

The Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board is poised to begin hiring its own staff.

But in order to do that, the city of Bemidji and Northern and Bemidji townships need to begin allocating some dollars toward the JPB's operations.

Even before that happens, however, the Joint Powers Agreement needs to be revised.

The original Joint Powers Agreement did not address operational and administrative matters, nor did it address an annual budget or funding formula.

In the last two months, a JOB committee has been meeting to address those concerns. A revised Joint Powers Agreement was presented on Wednesday to the JPB, which accepted it, and now the revised document is returning to the local governments for approval. (A public hearing was held during the meeting, but no one from the public attended.)

The Bemidji City Council is scheduled to consider the revised Joint Powers Agreement during its 7 p.m. meeting Monday at City Hall.

The agreement calls for funding formula based on a 50/30/20 split, meaning that the city of Bemidji would pay 50 percent of expenses, Northern Township 30 percent and Bemidji Township 20 percent.

The revisions also include the following:

E Planning Administrator Mel Milender will have the authority to approve expenses up to $10,000. Beyond that, he will need JPB approval.

E The creation of a treasurer position that will be selected from appointed JPB members.

E A requirement of the JPB to prepare an annual budget and annual audit.

E The JPB will have the ability to hire employees and establish fees for zoning permits and services.

The city and townships earlier this year approved $4,000 in startup funds for the JPB.

But, as the JPB becomes more established, it needs more funding.

According to JPB documents, Milender began working as an employee of the JPB as of Nov. 15. He also is beginning to move into the JPB's new offices at City Hall, although that will not be complete until January 2008. On Friday, Milender and a JPB committee also began interviewing for an administrative assistant, who will not begin working for the JPB until Jan. 15, 2008.

Bemidji City Planner Curt Oakes will be paid $40 an hour for consulting work as an assist [planner for the JPB until a permanent assistant planner is hired in 2008, JPB documents state.

Additionally, attorney Troy Gilchrist from the Minneapolis law firm of Kennedy & Graven has been retained as the JPB's attorney.

Milender has developed a 2008 budget that calls for $210,000 in funding, which would be split 50/30/20, per the funding formula, if approved.

In the meantime, Bemidji Township is covering Milender's salary and other needed expenses, Milender reported at Wednesday's JPB meeting.

While the JPB approved the Joint Planning Agreement on Wednesday, there were some concerns about how the funding formula was developed.

Jim Humeniuk from Northern Township voiced some concerns with including considerations such as population, tax capacity and the makeup of the JPB as components considered for the funding formula. How important is the tax capacity to the funding formula, he asked his fellow JPB members.

Nancy Erickson from the city of Bemidji requested that the number of cases by city and townships be tracked and considered for the future.

Milender replied that he certainly would track the JPB's work, and would also keep records documenting the number of cases and from which governmental entity the case originated.

Tim Mountain from Northern Township said he expects discussion regarding the new Joint Powers Agreement.

Previously, townships had covered the cost of zoning issues through fees, he explained, and now townships are being asked to come up with "new money."

"(Zoning services) never had to be taxed for," he said. "There's going to be issues."

JPB Chair Ken Howe from Bemidji Township assured Mountain that the JPB intends to have fees cover the its expenses in the future, but added that it will take time, and funds, to get operations running initially.

"We know there's going to be interim costs," he said.

The JPB was formed to develop one set of zoning and subdivision ordinances for the city of Bemidji, Northern Township and Bemidji Township. 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 in spring 2007 the JPB and Joint Planning Commission began holding regular meetings.