This should be a great opportunity for the honest citizens to throw out the graft and “good old boys” that have been running the township for way too long. Remember the police department? How about the building inspector / zoning clown? Remember what used to go on at the Sunset and the local watering holes that was largely ignored? I do….

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Welcome to Rice Lake, Minnesota’s newest city
By John Myers on Aug 21, 2015 at 7:02 p.m.

An administrative law judge has cleared the way for Rice Lake Township to become Minnesota’s newest incorporated city.

In an order dated Aug. 20, Judge Barbara Case ruled the township just north of Duluth “has established the relevant factors by a preponderance of the evidence and therefore Rice Lake Township’s petition for incorporation is granted.”
The judge set an election date of Oct. 13 for residents to pick a mayor and four city councilors to replace the current township board of supervisors. Information on the filing period and process for the positions will be published and posted in the next few days.

The new city government will take over immediately after the election is certified.

The new mayor will essentially be an at large city councilor who will run meetings but have few other major powers under the newly adopted system.

John Werner, a town supervisor, lifelong resident and supporter of incorporation, said the move was needed to retain Rice Lake’s identity.

“The main reason (to incorporate) was to remove the threat of annexation’’ by Duluth, Werner said. “It was simply no longer an option to remain a township. But the people clearly wanted to remain Rice Lake. So now we are the city of Rice Lake.”

Werner said he plans to file and run for the mayor’s position.

Anyone wishing to appeal the order must file in state district court within 30 days.

The incorporation effort began in June 2014 when the town board passed a resolution to petition the state to become a city, in part because Duluth officials had earlier suggested Duluth should annex part of the township. A public hearing was held last November, with strong support for incorporation. Rice Lake formally applied for city status in January.

In the meantime, the township and city of Duluth worked out an agreement for about 240 acres of the township, including the Jean Duluth athletic complex, to become part of Duluth. That officially happened May 30, clearing the way for the township’s final push for incorporation.

The township, which is located along Duluth’s northern border, was founded in 1870. It’s been growing fast in recent decades as a bedroom community for its southern neighbor — a place where homeowners can live in a more rural setting with larger lots.

The judge noted that with a population of more than 4,000 people in 2013 and expected growth of between 19 and 30 percent by 2040, city status is appropriate for Rice Lake. It’s expected to be the fastest-growing municipality in the Twin Ports.

After incorporating, Rice Lake will jump immediately into the largest 20th percentile of Minnesota cities by population.

“The Town of Rice Lake is pleased with Judge Case’s ruling ordering the incorporation of the township as Minnesota’s newest city,” the township government posted on its website Friday. “Rice Lake Township has grown over the years to the point where city government is necessary for its continued growth and prosperity.”

The new city includes about 32 square miles.

Case determined that city status should not affect residents’ property tax bills, noting the township already is “suburban in character” and functioning much like a city.

“It administers its own zoning and subdivision regulations and conducts its own planning. It furnishes most of the services of a city, including sanitary sewer and municipal water, fire protection, street improvement and maintenance, administrative services, and parks and recreation services,” the order notes.

Incorporation will help stabilize Rice Lake’s finances by removing the uncertainty of the annual budget approval process for the township each March by residents rather than the elected board.

“It is also worth acknowledging the township’s admirable sense of community which was pronounced throughout the public hearing,” Case concluded in her order. “Although the southern portion of the township is more developed, while the northern portion continues to be largely rural, the township’s residents have indicated their desire to remain a unified Rice Lake throughout these proceedings. This dynamic further supports incorporation of Rice Lake Township in its entirety.”

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