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Erik Burgess, Published April 14 2014

Moorhead council OKs Oakport annexation resolution

MOORHEAD – With little debate, Moorhead city leaders approved an administrative step Monday night that helps move along the long-awaited annexation of a swath of Oakport Township.

Still, council members said some questions remain about how the city should treat things like in-town bow hunting once part of Oakport is annexed into Moorhead on Jan. 1.

The council unanimously passed the so-called “initiating resolution” after delaying a vote in February when Councilman Steve Gehrtz asked if the 25-year-old annexation plan still made sense for the two communities today.

Council members decided to wait until after a March 27 informational open house before voting on the resolution, which would allow the county auditor to begin reconfiguring Oakport tax zones prior to the Jan. 1 annexation date.

On Monday, Gehrtz said his intent was to “take a pause” and listen to Oakport residents. Several council members said they thought the brief timeout worked.

“I do want to thank the council for (having) this public meeting prior to the vote tonight,” Councilwoman Nancy Otto said. “I think that really helped answer citizen questions, and I think it was just a very good order to do things in.”

Other council members agreed, saying the open house allowed Oakport residents to get important questions answered.

Some concerns about the annexation still remain, Otto said.

“I think we do need to have a discussion about hunting, whether or not we should allow bow hunting up there in certain areas,” she said, “and I think we would certainly want citizen input on that.”

She said the council should also look at the city’s streetlight policy, and how it will affect Oakport homeowners.

“The communication doesn’t stop tonight with this resolution,” said Councilwoman Brenda Elmer.

The annexation was agreed to and finalized in 1990, at a time when Oakport had serious contamination issues with its rural wells and septic systems. Moorhead agreed to invest in the township in exchange for its annexation 25 years later.

Voting against the initiating resolution wouldn’t have stopped the annexation. To do that, Oakport, Moorhead and state officials would have to draft and approve a new agreement.

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