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Erik Burgess, Published February 18 2014

Moorhead councilman questions Oakport annexation

MOORHEAD – One city councilman here is questioning the city’s decades-old agreement to annex Oakport Township into city limits starting next year.

The City Council on Monday will consider an “initiating resolution,” which City Manager Michael Redlinger called a necessary administrative step to let city and county offices prepare for the annexation.

The annexation was agreed to by Moorhead and Oakport in 1990. The majority of Oakport is set to be annexed Jan. 1.

But Councilman Steve Gehrtz said Tuesday he is concerned that the annexation agreement was decided so long ago that maybe opinions in Oakport have since changed.

“Is a decision made 23 years ago the right decision for today?” Gehrtz asked, adding that he didn’t have an agenda to halt the process. “I just want to give the residents of Oakport the opportunity to say ‘Hey, we have second thoughts.’ ”

Gehrtz numerous times asked city staff if it would be too late to stop the annexation if the council agreed to the initiating resolution next Monday. He used the metaphor of the boat leaving the port.

“It already left the port in 1990,” City Attorney John Shockley said, referring to the date of the original agreement.

Shockley said in order to change the annexation date, the council and Oakport would need to change the annexation agreement entirely.

Council members ultimately decided to keep the initiating resolution on the agenda for Monday, despite Gehrtz’s concerns.

Councilwoman Heidi Durand said she believed Oakport residents have had ample time to relay concerns about the annexation.

“And by delaying it, it almost implies that there’s a chance that this might not happen,” she said.

Councilman Jim Haney pointed out that if residents have issues with it, they can address the council at the start of Monday’s meeting.

Redlinger said the city is planning an informational meeting with Oakport residents in late April, but council members asked if the meeting could be held sooner. Redlinger said he’d look into scheduling it in mid- to late March instead.


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