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Coalition cost, goals irk some on council

Several Moorhead City Council members have voiced discontent with the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, saying it doesn't support the city's ideals, the city overspends on membership dues and the group's lobbyists are more liberal than they ...

Several Moorhead City Council members have voiced discontent with the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, saying it doesn't support the city's ideals, the city overspends on membership dues and the group's lobbyists are more liberal than they should be.

The lobbying group has advocated for rural Minnesota cities for more than 30 years by uniting city officials and legislators to discuss issues.

But at a Dec. 1 meeting, Moorhead City Council member Dan Bohmer said he could vote against the city's budget if it automatically renewed the coalition's $68,000 membership dues.

The conversation came up to the chagrin of Mayor Mark Voxland.

"I'm disappointed because this could have been brought up in August or September," he said Friday. "To come up at the eleventh hour and threaten to not pass the budget, it's a little disappointing."

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In 2009, the coalition will focus on preserving local government aid, and passing annexation reform and comprehensive planning for cities.

"They've got to be able to talk to both sides," said Councilman Mark Hintermeyer at the meeting.

"I don't believe they are the best bang for the buck for Moorhead dollars," he said.

There is a "real significant amount of money spent" on dues and a legislative lobbying contract, Bohmer said, adding that he would like to see a larger cost benefit for the city.

The city should reap more benefits from its membership, with the coalition working on projects that the city would like to undertake, Bohmer said.

The bill for the legislative contract with Flaherty & Hood, which provides comprehensive legal support to coalitions, individual cities, businesses and associations throughout Minnesota, could be more than $20,000 during the legislative session, Voxland said.

That price tag is in addition to the $68,000 membership dues the city pays to the organization."When we go to shop personally to buy a nail gun at a hardware store, we're going to go to a couple other stores to see which will give us the best value for our dollar," Bohmer said.

"Instead of blindly repurchasing the same nail gun every single year, let's find the right one," he said.

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But Councilman John Rowell said being in the coalition is important.

"I'm really afraid that if we were to discontinue our membership, we would be left without our principal ally in the Legislature," Rowell said. "The choices are stark."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kim Winnegge at (701) 241-5524

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