I had the opportunity to attend the Buffalo-Red River Watershed District (BRRWD) meeting in Barnesville, MN Monday evening.
The drive along MN Clay 2 was a route traveled many times before, however, Monday it was particularly surreal…, given a topic on the BRRWD agenda.
The BRRWD indicated a review of the Fiscal Year 2015 Diversion Authority budget. This has been a topic of considerable turmoil for the board since January 2015.
It was my first visit to the BRRWD facility. A very nice looking venue, filled to capacity of every chair in the room.
First off…, I have to commend anyone serving on the BRRWD board, or any water board that has to sit through water related issues ad nauseam.
That being said, Chairperson, Gerald Van Amburg seriously needs a copy of Robert Rules of Order. Myself, having left the meeting at hour 2.5, many of the issues discussed could have been much shorter had Mr. Van Amburg adhered to his duties, rather than attempting to keep topics alive on the floor well beyond any useful discussion had passed.
In a nutshell, a chairman, under Roberts Rules of Order, is:
“to assist in the expediting of business in every way compatible with the rights of the members, as by allowing brief remarks when undebatable motions are pending, if he thinks it advisable; to restrain the members when engaged in debate, within the rules of order; to enforce on all occasions the observance of order and decorum among the members, deciding all questions of order (subject to an appeal to the assembly by any two members) unless when in doubt he prefers to submit the question for the decision of the assembly”
However, a motion presented went on and on for over 30 minutes, wherein BRRWD legal council Tami Norgard, seemed to dole out conflicting information and a wildly absurd suggestion that there have been “discussions” of dissolving the existing six member Diversion Authority JPA (Joint Power Authority), only to reform without the BRRWD at the table.
What!!! Who exactly is Tami Norgard representing…? Buffalo Red River Watershed District and Minnesota laws or the Fargo Diversion Authority and development interests?
Even more disconcerting is BRRWD legal councils lack of contesting the possibility of having the board removed from the JPA.
Does it strike any one else as being “odd” that if any entity at large does not unanimously comply with Fargo Diversion Authority goals, that it could be the basis for removal? Conform or be cast out…, is that really the only option? Perhaps that is why other MN entities voted to support the FY2015 budget in an attempt to preserve their “seat at the table”…? The most sinister underlying dilemma is the fettered environment that is created under a black cloud of “if your not with us, you’re against us” thinking – and the lack of representation it fosters for constituents that do not support the Fargo Diversion Authority agenda.
I don’t question the need for legal council, especially when dealing with complex issues, such as water. However, the intentional steering of issues by legal council Norgard and suggesting motions to the board was ostensibly curious…!…?
Anyone wishing to hear the meeting can request a copy via the BRRWD, as the public meetings are recorded for future reference.
Getting back to Chairperson, Gerald Van Amburg. In a simple, galvanizing, self incriminating statement, he referred to controversy over the budget and potential outcome as “siding with the opposition”, rather than being the voice of reason for Minnesota interests and constituents.
Interesting choice of words…, “OPPOSITION”…, opposition to what? A grossly overstated project with a price tag that has not moved in 5+ years? A project that Gerald Van Amburg wants…? A project that demands Minnesotans relinquish their property rights and equity to a Fargo North Dakota development project disguised as “flood control”…, that conveniently doubles Fargo’s geographical footprint?
Even more tragic is the fact that any continued budget discussion occurred at all, given that the motion in January did not pass, ended in a tie because the chairman voted – creating the tie, then tried to vote again to break the tie. Under Robert Rules of Order, and BRRWD district bylaws, the party bringing the motion needs to obtain a majority vote, which did not occur, which should have made the prevailing party the “DO NOT PASS” vote.
FAST FORWARD TO Monday, March 23rd, 2015
BRRWD member received three modified budgets for consideration around 5pm. With little less than 2 hours, BRRWD district members were expected to review all three budgets, in the ranges of $80 million, $130 million and $170 million, before the 7pm meeting start.
Aside from the glaringly obvious disconnect of preparing a “special revised” budget, different from the one that 5 other JPA members boards rubber stamped, the BRRWD is expected to do exactly what?
Legal council Tami Norgard did nothing more than muddy the waters with “what if” scenarios, which appeared to be an attempt to sway members toward a pro-diversion decision. If it truly is to come down to the finer points of law…, one would think that contacting the MN DNR or MN Attorney General for an opinion based upon Minnesota law, one could clear up wanton speculations, legal inferences and interpretations being made by pro-diversion project entities.
Nearly 45 mins “droned on” over a motion to table or postpone a decision on the budget pending the Minnesota DNR Preliminary EIS.
Legal council Tami Norgard repeatedly returned to “her” position that postponing a decision would appear “arbitrary” suggesting the budget contains money to needed to complete the MN EIS. Even though the MN EIS funding was approved in August 2014 (read more…), AND is a priority to the project and should have been liquidated with Fiscal Year 2014 budget carry over. Even more questionable is the Fargo Diversion Authority encumbering $78.6 million of debt since Oct 1st, 2014 to Feb 28th, 2015 when NOT “ALL MEMBERS” have approved the FY2015 budget and doing so is in violation of the charter JPA.
After watching a rather slow moving train wreck of a meeting, the Buffalo Red River Watershed District unanimously approved to “ONLY” pay the Minnesota DNR portion of the budget and left the balance of the FY2015 $210.8 million dollar budget as a “NO” pending time to consider and discuss the Minnesota DNR findings within the forthcoming Environmental Impact Statement, due later 2015.