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Northern Township requests another meeting date

BEMIDJI -- Nevermind.

The Bemidji City Council had planned to meet with representatives of Northern and Bemidji townships behind closed doors Wednesday night to discuss a mediation agreement that would release Bemidji Township from the three governments' annexation pact.

But on Tuesday, Northern Township Board chairman Mike Kelly said they have requested they instead have an open meeting at 6:30 p.m. July 17 at Northern Town Hall.

"It's our position that it should be an open meeting," Kelly said Tuesday. "It's our position that it should involve all of the elected officials that want to attend."

The Bemidji City Council voted Monday night to send Mayor Rita Albrecht, as well as councilors Ron Johnson and Nancy Erickson to that planned Wednesday meeting. Because a quorum of councilors, and presumably town board members wouldn't have been in attendance, the meeting wouldn't be subject to open meeting laws.

Kelly said the meeting was initiated by Northern Township with the request that all of the elected officials would be there. But during the scheduling process, he said, "it got changed."

Bemidji's attorney in the annexation dispute Jim Thomson said he had not heard back from city officials on whether they would be able to attend the July 17 meeting. He said he was unsure whether there would be any objection to the meeting being open.

"The township requested that the full compliment of all the boards be there so that's what I passed on to the city," Thomson said Tuesday. "As far as I know, the city doesn't object to (an open meeting), but we weren't aware of that request until first thing this morning."

Bemidji Township's attorney John Steffenhagen didn't return a call seeking comment Tuesday.

The mediation agreement between the city and Bemidji Township was signed on May 31. It allows Bemidji Township to leave the annexation and joint powers agreements that they and Northern Township adopted in 2004.

The first phase of annexation, which brought some properties from both townships into the city, was initiated in spring 2012.

While Northern Township doesn't have a say in the mediation agreement, all three governments must approve any amendments to the annexation and joint powers agreements to release Bemidji Township as a party. Northern Township hasn't made any decision whether to change those agreements.

Thomson said from the city's perspective, the pending meeting between the three governments would involve discussing how to implement the mediated settlement.

"That's one of the things we want to discuss."

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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