Princeton willing to talk annexation with Baldwin

Princeton City Council member Thom Walker says that after sitting in on orderly annexation talks with Baldwin Township he still has no idea what his neighbor to the south is looking for in terms of an agreement.

“To this day I don’t know what Baldwin wants, what they advocate,” Walker said.

But he’s very willing to learn. So is Princeton Mayor Jeremy Riddle.

The two Princeton lawmakers say they don’t know the path to reaching an annexation agreement with Baldwin Township, but they agree that the path will take them down 128th Street to the Baldwin Town Hall.

The Princeton City Council on Thursday, March 22 voted to resume meeting with township officials and work towards a goal of negotiating an orderly annexation agreement.

The move comes in response to a Feb. 7, 2012 letter from Baldwin Township officials stating that it was the township’s desire to resume meetings.

The letter came after a January 2012 letter from City Administrator Mark Karnowski that stated that he, Riddle and one council member wished to discontinue further meetings.

“We are very disappointed with your committee’s desire to abandon as important a negotiation as this is for our communities,” Baldwin Chairman Jay Swanson wrote.

At issue is a 30-year agreement that would shape both the boundaries of Princeton and Baldwin Township as the two communities grow into the next three decades.

On March 22 the council sat down to address the annexation issue. The city has three options in responding to Baldwin, Karnowski told the councilors: maintain the status quo and do nothing in regards to annexation, resume discussions and hold down costs by not involving attorneys at this point, or resume discussions with the aid of a facilitator.

Walker advocated for meeting with a facilitator and offered to meet at the Baldwin Town Hall on the township’s home turf.

Reggie Edwards, a facilitator who worked with Princeton and Baldwin Township on the annexation issue in 2003, has offered to facilitate discussions once again. Edwards is the former director of the Region Nine Development Commission in Mankato. Edwards resigned from the post in October after requesting a leave of absence following his September performance review.

Walker said he didn’t see an annexation agreement being reached without a facilitator. Riddle seemed to agree.

“I’m willing to try once and see if it speeds things up,” Riddle said.

Added Walker, “I definitely don’t want legal representatives there telling us what (an agreement) should look like.”

Reaching an annexation agreement doesn’t appear to be a hard concept, said Walker, who added that he must be missing something.

“No one’s saying it’s hard,” Riddle said. “The players just keep changing.”

Riddle said he has a goal of meeting before May.