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City of Bemidji, township disagreement headed to hearing

BEMIDJI - Following a fruitless meeting between city and township officials Wednesday morning, the state Office of Administrative Hearings will now decide the next steps for annexation.

John Chattin, city manager, said Thursday that the Board of Adjustment - which approves or disapproves annexation plans - is scheduled to meet May 7, at which time a judge will consider approving the city's plans to enact the first phase of annexation in Bemidji and Northern townships.

Bemidji Township has contested the "enforceability and implementation" of an orderly annexation agreement that its representatives signed along with the city and Northern Township in 2004.

In a letter to the state, Bemidji Township has stated that it believes a dispute exists that should prompt a dispute-resolution clause in the agreement. That process includes at least one joint meeting and possible mediation.

Al Felix, city attorney, said the city rejects the idea, saying a dispute does not exist simply because Bemidji Township now does not want its properties annexed.

"We don't believe that it's a dispute that triggers paragraph 15 of the agreement," he said. "They simply don't want to be annexed."

A meeting was held this week in which city and township officials met to discuss annexation. Taking part in meeting were Bemidji Township Supervisors Jan Heuer and Pete Fredrickson; Bemidji Township attorney, John J. Steffenhagen with Hellmuth & Johnson; Northern Township Supervisor Mike Kelly; Bemidji city Councilors Rita Albrecht and Roger Hellquist; and Chattin and Felix.

No resolutions were developed by the end of the roughly 90-minute meeting, Chattin reported.

Another meeting is unlikely, he said.

Chattin and Felix both said the city now awaits a decision from the upcoming May 7 meeting of the Office of Administrative Hearing.

Felix said the judge presiding over the matter will take into account all documents filed before making a decision.

"We would certainly anticipate that they will (decide that day)," he said.