Anoka County History: Exploring Linwood Township

When Burns Township became the city of Nowthen, Linwood became the last remaining township in Anoka County. How does a township differ from a city? Neither population nor geographic size is significant.  Rather a township has chosen a form of local government that does the same job as a city council, but works differently.

The biggest difference is that the people of Linwood retain the power to determine their own property taxes. Every year, on the second Tuesday in March, a town meeting is held at which the citizens vote to approve the budget. Some townships elect their board at the same annual meeting, but Linwood holds elections in November to coincide with state and federal elections.

A township does not elect a mayor. The Township Board of Supervisors makes all the decisions, and oversees the work of the township’s committees, including Parks and Recreation, Planning and Zoning, and the Road and Bridge Committee. The Linwood Board of Supervisors consists of five members, each elected to a four year term. The chairman signs checks like a mayor would, but does not have the same decision making authority as a mayor. Most of the day to day business of running the township falls to the clerk, who is also elected by the citizens, as is the treasurer. The clerk is responsible for record keeping and reporting, takes the minutes of the board meetings, and runs the elections according to state statutes.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a township instead of a city?  The state requires less of a township in terms of reporting, but it also offers less in terms of aid. As a result, the township has only its property taxes as a revenue source. In the case of Linwood, they receive a small stipend from the state as “fire aid” to help support their fire department, but are ineligible for state aid to cities. Anoka County pays Linwood some payment in lieu of taxes money on the vast wetlands of the Carlos Avery Wildlife Preserve. But that amount of revenue is offset by the cost of contracting with the Anoka County Sheriff’s office for police services, since Linwood does not have a police department.

To increase efficiency, much of the community building in Linwood is done by volunteers. The board members are unpaid, unlike most city councils. Besides helping in the parks, volunteers also shovel snow, flood the ice rinks, staff the senior center, and hold fund-raisers. It takes about 50 volunteers to put together and support Linwood Family Fun Day, held each summer. Granted, cities also utilize volunteers, but volunteering in a township takes on a personal, more intimate value because it is done for ones neighbors.

Maria King is a volunteer for the Anoka County Historical Society.

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