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Erik Burgess, Published February 25 2013

Moorhead passes second Bluestem lease

MOORHEAD – After numerous attempts, the City Council here passed on Monday a second lease with Fargo School District for land abutting the Bluestem Center for the Arts.

Specifics of the new lease have been debated by the council since mid-January and approval of the new agreement tabled twice.

The lease would give the district control over another 32.9 acres that abuts the south Moorhead arts venue, land that is often used for overflow parking.

The district already leases from the city the land that contains the amphitheater, which it uses to house its summertime arts program, Trollwood Performing Arts School.

“We have come a long way, and we’ve done some good work on this,” Councilwoman Heidi Durand said before the council voted 7-1 to pass the lease. “I’d just like to pat ourselves on the back.”

Councilman Mark Altenburg voted against the new lease.

Major points of contention with previous versions of the lease were that it was a multi-decade agreement and provided little room for oversight by the council. Under the revised lease that was passed Monday, the initial term is two years, followed by subsequent five-year terms.

Moorhead must also consent to any renewals of the lease, and 60 days before a renewal, the Fargo School District must provide the council with a report regarding the activities on the leased land.

City Attorney John Shockley said the agreement also goes hand in hand with the city’s other lease with the district for the 17.8-acre project site, which includes the venue’s amphitheater. If the project site lease is ever terminated, the lease on the abutting land would also be “immediately terminated,” Shockley said.

The lease will now go to the Fargo School Board for approval. Redlinger said they could discuss it as early as their next meeting, which is today.

In other Bluestem news, the council discussed an information request that it made of the Fargo School District in mid-January, which could cost the city $10,000 to carry out.

In late December, the district requested all documents and correspondence from the council relating to Bluestem. The council fired back on Jan. 14, voting 6-2 to send a similar request of the district.

But the district informed the council over the weekend that the request would include 40,000 emails and would cost 25 cents a page, plus $25 an hour for labor.

“We’re being sandbagged on this request,” Altenburg said. “Very simply, all we want is the same information they requested from us.”

Altenburg said it took the council only 10 days to complete the district’s request, and that he was concerned some of those 40,000 emails included messages about minor day-to-day venue operations, which the council specifically did not ask for.

Councilman Mark Hintermeyer first asked city staff to clarify the request in an attempt to cut down the amount of emails, but he later withdrew his request as council members continued to debate the merits of even sending the request in the first place.

“This is toxic,” Hintermeyer said as he attempted to stop the discussion.

Redlinger said funds to pay for the information request would come from the general expense budget.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518

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