Waterford Township has filed a lawsuit against the City of Northfield. The two communities have had an ongoing disagreement about an annexation agreement formed in 1980. Northfield Administrator Ben Martig, “on the 26th of April the City was served with a summons and complaint from Waterford Township making two claims, one for breach of contract and two, seeking a declaratory judgment”. In 1981, the two entities signed an agreement that sought special legislation that they share “revenue” in perpetuity. Northfield would pay Waterford tax reimbursement on the annexed land (formerly Sheldahl now Multek) and legislators ratified it. Waterford Attorney Mike Couri said it’s an unusual agreement, further explaining, “as part of that process both the
city and the town had to pass a resolution that says we, in essence, recognize that special legislation and, in essence, agree that it applies to us. That made the special legislation effective so not only did the legislature pass it, but in 1981 the City and town both said yes we agree this legislation should apply to us”. In 2010, after an inquiry from then Administrator Joel Walinski, City attorney Chris Hood rendered an opinion that all obligations to Waterford had been fulfilled and they didn’t need to pay them anymore. His opinion is attached to the complaint. Waterford Township Complaint I asked him to explain it. He said, “the opinion speaks for itself, you know again, since this is a litigated matter I’m not going to get into a discussion of what our arguments might be and what our legal strategy might be going into that case, that’s something that we’ll reserve for a judge”. According to Couri, Waterford Township never agreed to that. By 2010, with the agreement 29 years old, Northfield had paid nearly $74,000 to Waterford. Waterford has continued to bill Northfield since 2010. In 2014, then Mayor Dana Graham appointed Councilors Zweifel and David Ludescher to start working with Waterford to come to some form of agreement to end the dispute. In 2016, Martig and Graham were in negotiations, and were close to agreeing to pay Waterford a lump sum of $50,000 but at the last minute, according to Graham, a Waterford Supervisor would not agree . Martig said, “the most recent action the Council took was back in 2017 in late year when they took action to propose to pay, I think, the first $1,000 of mediation costs and to try and find a neutral 3rd party mediator”. Couri said the Township had been trying for months to agree on a mediator, “but the final straw, if you will, is where the City’s attorney came back and said the City will only mediate on these terms, meaning, if we have an agreement that has these terms in it. And that pretty much defeats the purpose of mediation. The City was dictating terms of what the ultimate agreement would look like before we even chose a mediator”. Hood said that Council wanted them to use the Office of Administrative Hearings but Couri said no. Hood said, “Mike had suggested a particular mediator that I didn’t believe was going to be a very good choice from the City’s standpoint primarily because I didn’t think that person would be impartial”. Waterford is asking for nearly $36,000 in money they believe owed, attorneys fees and court cost and the Joint Resolution be valid and binding. The City has 20 days from receipt to respond, that will be May 16th.
Council passes the puck to citizens for a vote
The Northfield Council will pass the puck to the citizens. They voted last night to allow staff to start preparing a ½ cent sales tax and a property tax question to the Northfield ballot this November for a 2 sheet Community Recreation Center. Six community members spoke in favor, one of them 11 year old Emily Beaham, a hockey player who balances school with sports. She said, “going to Shattuck and other places out of town for late practices is stressful and getting home as late as 10pm when I have to wake up for orchestra, band or student council the next morning is stressful. It’s also stressful to not be with my hockey team before a game because we usually only get one locker room and not all our team fits in one locker room so we have to go to locker room 8. Locker room 8 is basically just a hallway with a curtain for privacy and lots of times people walk in while we’re changing”. Three residents were opposed including Don McGee referring to other projects including the safety of the intersection at Hwy 246 and Jefferson, saying, “you’re going to have to answer the question what comes first. These are all important, they’re all good. I have no problem with building an ice arena or whatever you want to call it, but, we can’t do it all and do they get to move to the front of the line or do we address some of these issues that have been out there for 10 or 20 years”. It was unanimous from the dais to send the question to voters for the proposed $21 million facility. While driven by the Hockey Association, the argument that it would benefit the entire community was a driving force for the Council to send the question to the voters. City staff will now work to craft the questions to the voters and hammer out details. The ½ cent sales tax question will go to Dundas Council May 14th. Martig and Pownell were in studio this morning with a full recap of the meeting. That interview is online at kymnradio.net.