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Dave Olson, Published February 02 2011

In rare move, Moorhead mayor vetoes City Council’s decision

Moorhead Mayor Mark Voxland has taken what for him is an unprecedented step: vetoing a decision of the City Council.

He made his veto known through an e-mail sent to other council members this past weekend. The veto applies to a 7-1 decision the council made Jan. 24 giving Bruce Bekkerus a five-year property tax abatement on his business, A-1 Automotive.

Prior to the vote, Bekkerus told the council he was unhappy with how he had been dealt with by city staff and he felt he was entitled to a five-year tax abatement.

City staff maintained that the contract Bekkerus signed called for a four-year tax abatement on his business, which had moved to a new location in Moorhead after the city bought out his former property to make room for a railroad underpass yet to be built.

In his e-mail to council members, Voxland said granting Bekkerus’ request set two bad precedents.

“By this council action, all signed incentive agreements the city has now with any other parties are up for renegotiation in front of the council if the developer wants to have better conditions for their company,” Voxland wrote.

He said a business owner or developer also can now come before the council and change their arrangement at any time after a contract is signed.

“This resolution sets precedents that have many unintended consequences and needs to be, at the least, revisited and discussed,” Voxland added.

Voxland said he has threatened to veto council action in the past, but until now he never had.

He also said he does not remember former Mayor Morrie Lanning ever using his veto power. The city charter gives the mayor, who is typically not a voting member of the council unless there is a tie, the power to veto a council action.

It takes six votes of the City Council to override a veto.

Luther Stueland was the lone council member voting against giving Bekkerus the five-year tax abatement.

Bekkerus declined to comment Tuesday, stating he had not received official notice of the mayor’s veto.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555