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Published February 26 2014

Forum editorial: Oakport annexation a surprise?

Any resident of Oakport Township who isn’t aware of the long-standing annexation process with Moorhead hasn’t been paying attention or is … well, the other characterization is unkind.

Oakport and Moorhead have been working toward annexation for 20 years. It’s been in all the papers; hard to miss during that time. As anticipated from the beginning, the plan has been adjusted and modified to accommodate Oakport’s unique rural character. For the most part, residents of the township have embraced amenities promised and already partially delivered by the pending annexation.

Now, it appears, there is hesitation among a few township residents. Those few are expressing reservations – as if the process just started. It’s a curious development. The Moorhead City Council should not pander to it.

Council members through the years have worked long and effectively on the annexation. Oakport officials and residents have been fully engaged. Nothing has been unilaterally imposed or done behind closed doors. Until a few days ago, annexation was a given, not because it was forced on Oakport but rather because the people of the township have been on board since the initiation of the process. Again, it is difficult to believe that any resident of the township is suddenly unaware of what has transpired, or is surprised by it.

Furthermore, newer Oakport residents who were not there during the early years of annexation talks can’t complain they didn’t know. Every sale, every deed includes documentation and notice of the annexation timetable. It seems common sense that a buyer of an Oakport property would know something as important as a pending annexation before proceeding with a purchase. And if the annexation plan were not acceptable, there was always an obvious option: Don’t buy the house.

The Moorhead City Council has an obligation to proceed into the final chapters of an annexation process that has been underway for two decades. All along the way, the council and officials in Oakport have worked well together in order to address township concerns about preserving as much of the character of Oakport as possible. There certainly are tradeoffs because the township will be benefiting from services and utilities extended from Moorhead. All of that has been on the table for years.

While members of the council might want to listen to newly reluctant township residents at a March 27 meeting, it is unlikely anything new will be aired. The council has delayed an annexation vote until April, but the reality is this: The annexation agreed to by both communities in 1990 is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2015. That’s what should happen.

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Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.