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Annexation: City Council plans discussion to move forward

The 60-day timeframe set for re-examination of annexation boundaries expires today.

What happens next will be discussed during the Bemidji City Council meeting at 7 p.m. Monday in City Hall.

"It's all hypothetical," said John Chattin, city manager.

Northern Township fulfilled the goal of meeting with the city to discuss annexation plans.

But Bemidji Township has not.

"They've been incommunicado," Chattin said.

Bemidji Township has hired a Twin Cities-based attorney who has requested the city direct to him all annexation-related inquires. But neither the attorney nor Bemidji Township responded to a letter sent three weeks ago from City Attorney Al Felix seeking direction about the township's intentions.

"Bemidji (Township) has not responded to our letter. We obviously have not met as a subcommittee," Felix said. "We've been more than willing."

Bemidji Township Supervisor Jan Heuer said there is no news on its end. Bemidji Township is meeting April 12 with its attorney, John Steffenhagen with Hellmuth & Johnson in Edina, Minn.

"We want to do what's best in the interest of the township and in good faith with the city," she said. "It's good business practice before you make any big decisions in your personal life or in your business life to consult with an attorney."

Steffenhagen did not return a phone call seeking comment.

The city of Bemidji and Bemidji and Northern Townships signed in 2004 an orderly annexation agreement that dictated three phases of annexation. The city council considered enacting the first phase this year, but delayed that decision as Bemidji Township requested the annexation plan be reviewed.

In a joint meeting held Feb. 1 in Northern Township, the three governments unanimously agreed to form two subcommittees - one per township - that would meet separately with the city.

A 60-day timeline was given for that work.

The Northern Township subcommittee met amiably Feb. 23, during which the township presented an alternative annexation plan that would involve two phases. Supervisors said they also would support the original agreement.

If a change is made to the orderly annexation agreement, all three entities must approve it.

Chattin, in a memo to the council, suggests that the city should move forward with Northern Township annexation and hold off on Bemidji Township "until such action does not have an adverse fiscal impact to the city."

Chattin writes that he does not believe another joint meeting of the three governments would be productive.

But what the council will decide is unknown.

Councilors Ron Johnson and Kevin Waldhausen, who both have supported annexation, said they looked forward to the discussion.

"I would assume that the next topic of discussion will be whether we move forward with phase one," Waldhausen said.

Johnson said he did not believe that extending the timeframe for potential meetings is likely.

"We set this up so this couldn't happen," Johnson said, alluding to the original agreement. "We sacrificed a lot for seven years because we trusted that the agreement was something that would happen."