May 6, 2022 at 10:17 a.m.
Lent Township Board members and Stacy City Council and their lawyers Peter Tiede and James Monge, sat around two large tables pushed together, and reviewed the text of the draft merger agreement, which was projected on a wall-space. A few residents attended— but host Stacy Mayor Mark Utecht said there would be no public comment. At such time that a final document is to be adopted a public hearing would need to take place.
The meeting appeared to decide the area of the Chisago City contested sections. Chisago City Council member Mark Anderson and City Administrator John Pechman monitored the discussion and advised on Chisago City’s desired land sections is requesting to annex.
The attorneys will craft language to express there is no opposition to pull out Lent Township sections 23, 24, 25, 26, 35 and 36 from the Stacy-Lent combination. This area is adjacent to the north of Chisago City but has long been understood to become urban. Chisago City has invested heavily in extending water and sewer to service these sections. Lent Township has also paved roads.
Chisago City also asked for Sec. 13 but Stacy Mayor Utecht opposes this being part of the merger agreement offering.
However, Lent Sup. Troy Nelson, mentioned that an Administrative Law Judge who authorizes boundary adjustments under Minnesota law, can decide Section 13 belongs in Chisago City— and Stacy and Lent would have nothing to say about it.
North Branch Mayor Jim Swenson and Administrator Renae Fry attended as well. North Branch’s urban border is shared along the north of Lent at 360th. North Branch is willing to accept 100 percent of former township road responsibility if the city receives the land area it presented.
It was explained who has approached the city for annexing into North Branch rather than going into Stacy with the rest of the township. Fry distributed maps of how North Branch envisions the boundaries being adjusted.
Fry said North Branch feels the best interests of the five petitioning property owners and their neighbors, would be served in developing a compact, well defined total area to annex out of Lent....keeping sections together and not dividing roads, etc.
She mentioned for example, North Branch is considering all parcels along and abutting 360th, from County Road 30 on the west to County Road 14 to the east. There is an island of large acreage owned by the natural gas company that has to be negotiated.
Lent Twsp. Supervisor Troy Nelson said he was “not happy” with that much at stake. Looking at what Chisago City expects and what North Branch outlined, a third of Lent Township could be carved out of the Stacy combination plan.
An unanticipated aspect to the Monday meeting, was how little of the agreement had consensus.
Items forwarded from the township citizen committee to be included were rejected.
Conditions like electing new government representatives on a ward basis or at-large, or mandating the first two election cycles be ward-based, were still being debated. Attorneys noted any new city council can eliminate wards on a four-fifths vote at any time, so concerns about representation could be moot. As the meeting moved on to the next paragraphs, it was left for now there will be an at-large mayor and two council serving two years and two serving four years and using wards (traditional Lent as one, Stacy city as the other) initially.
Mayor Utecht wanted the existing council to remain for an undetermined length of time post-merger. His opinion is that special elections lack voter turnout and in order to “create community” the combining should be as “seamless and quick” as possible. He also does not feel the expense is justifiable, but he added he wasn’t going to put up a huge argument.
The fiscal questions such as any deferral of assessment payments within a combined city was not made final in the agreement. Stacy Mayor Utecht stated he has been “asked by both sides” to order a full accounting review of both Lent and Stacy’s fiscal situation.
In the portion of the agreement regarding assets and obligations, there was a majority of city and township opinion supporting an audit of existing debt to get a better handle on what’s being brought into this merger by both the city and township. The accounting firm used by both the town and city, Oberloh and Oberloh, will be contacted to determine possible costs and this would be shared 50-50.
About the only thing mentioned in the agreement left unrevised was the Stacy Lent Fire Department.