Section of Rockford to Stay in Hennepin County

In a case that has been watched by several Minnesota cities, the Hennepin County Board hindered the City of Rockford’s effort to redraw the county line. On June 17, the Board rejected a measure that would have allowed Hennepin County residents to vote on the matter.

The 3,800-resident city straddles Crow River, which is the boundary for the two counties of Wright and Hennepin. Approximately 90% of the city is in Wright County and about 10% of its land parcels are in Hennepin County. City officials say being split between law enforcement and ambulance service jurisdictions and tax rates has caused a multitude of problems. For years, Rockford MN residents have petitioned to bring all of its land under Wright County jurisdiction.

Commissioners, who stated that they had “no opposition” to the boarder change in Rockford, did not discuss the resolution before voting it down 6-1. Previously, commissioners had said that allowing Rockford to switch would set a precedent that could prompt "a cascade of changes" to Minnesota's most populous county.

There are other Minnesota cities which have been watching Rockford's situation. St. Bonifacius began to look at whether its taxes would be lower and its services better if it were part of nearby Carver County. But there is one catch: St. Bonifacius doesn't even border Carver County. The city would need to annex land in order to make its case.

State law allows changing counties' boundaries, but the process is involved. To begin with, one-fourth of a county's residents must petition for the change. In Hennepin County, that would be 123,000 signatures.

Rockford managed to get around that in 2007, when the Legislature approved a measure for the city that takes the place of the petition. But then the approval of both county boards was required. The Wright County Board quickly approved the decision. Had the Hennepin County Board approved the resolution, the issue would have gone to the ballot, requiring majority votes in both counties.

The last time such a measure made it onto a ballot was in 2000, when Pine County residents considered splitting the county in two. That November, residents voted down the split by almost 4-1.

Rockford's efforts to change the boundary have not ceased, however. More options are being considered, including annexing the Hennepin County section of Rockford into nearby Greenfield MN. Expect to hear more about this in the future.

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