TOWER— Officials here held an illegal special meeting of the city’s harbor committee on Friday, July 13, in an apparent effort to bridge an impasse with town home developers over a recent city demand for a letter of credit from the developers to cover the cost of road and utility construction to the site in case the project fails to move forward.
The Timberjay has learned that the full harbor committee, comprised of Steve Altenburg, City Clerk-Treasurer Linda Keith, and Mayor Josh Carlson, was present for the meeting. SEH consultants and the principal developers were also in attendance, either in person or via teleconference.
Under the state’s Open Meeting Law, the city was required to provide advanced notice of the meeting to the public and the media, but failed to do so, which makes holding the meeting a violation of state law.
Under Minn. Stat. 13D.04, governmental bodies in Minnesota are required to provide three-days-notice of special meetings when an individual or media requests such notice in writing. The city is also required to post such meetings at city hall at least three days in advance, but no such posting was apparent as of the day before.
The Timberjay has provided a written request to the city of Tower for notice of special meetings of several city committees, including the harbor committee. The Timberjay made its most recent request by email on Feb. 9, 2018 to the city clerk, who is responsible for providing public notice. Such requests are good for at least a year, or longer if a city does not have a policy limiting them to a year. The violation is just one in a series of Open Meeting Law violations that the Timberjay has documented involving the city of Tower in the past year, including previous meetings of the harbor committee.
Details of last Friday’s meeting were not available since the Timberjay was not notified of the special meeting, but the meeting was apparently called to address the impasse over the updated development agreement.
The original town home development agreement signed by both parties did not include a requirement for a letter of credit, which is a recent demand made by the harbor committee. It’s unclear, however, whether the committee ever voted on the change since the committee has met without taking minutes for more than a year. The developers have told the city that the request poses too great a financial risk— one that they are unwilling to incur. The impasse has lingered now for months, with the developers continuing their efforts to advance the project in hopes of getting construction underway this year.