July 9, 2013

Narrow council vote OKs annexation

Questions over stormwater and fiscal plan still remain

by Mitchell Kirk Pharos-Tribune

---- — Logansport City Council narrowly opted in favor of annexing two areas south of the city in its final vote on the matter Monday, but will still have to adopt a fiscal plan and address if residents of the annexation areas will have to pay stormwater fees.

Since February, when city officials began discussing annexation, they have said the motivation behind the initiative has been to harness projected economic development along the Hoosier Heartland Highway.

There was division among the council since its first vote in March, which went through unanimously. The approval Monday squeezed by with a 4-3 vote, with council members Jeremy Ashcraft, Chuck LaDow and Teresa Popejoy dissenting.

“I do not feel all of the answers have been secured at this point in time,” Popejoy said, adding that she supports economic development in Logansport and feels annexation would help draw in this development, but didn’t feel it would be fair to the residents of the annexation areas until all questions are answered.

Several of these questions were brought up at the council meeting, one of which had to do with how utilities would be extended to the annexed areas.

While water and sewer lines are not required to be run out by the city, residents of the annexation areas would have to pay for them to be extended, should they desire them, said Jason Stephenson, an attorney with Barnes & Thornburg out of Indianapolis who is assisting the city with the initiative.

When it comes to stormwater fees in the annexation areas, however, city officials and Stephenson were unable to answer whether or not the city would charge for such services, although Logansport Mayor Ted Franklin expressed his desire not to do so.

“It would be my intent to veto any measure that would charge you for water that’s not going into city sewers,” Franklin told a resident of one of the annexation areas at the council meeting Monday.

Popejoy questioned whether the mayor and city council would even have authority over such a measure, or if it would be solely up to the Logansport Municipal Utilities Stormwater Management Board.

Councilman Bob Bishop, although agreeing with Popejoy that not all questions have been answered, said he voted in favor of the measures in an effort to better ensure the economic development the Hoosier Heartland Corridor is expected to bring.

“I know we don’t have all the answers, but I don’t believe we can just keep kicking the can down the road,” he said.

The council tabled a measure that would adopt a fiscal plan for the annexation areas outlining the cost of city services and projected taxes, which changed after the annexation areas were reduced recently. The measure, which was not published on an agenda three days before the meeting in accordance with the city council’s bylaws, required a unanimous vote to suspend this rule if it was going to adopt the plan, which failed.

Franklin said the annexation will be complete one year after the necessary paperwork with the state is filed, which he said he anticipates to be the fall of 2014.

However, Lisa Hanson, a Washington Township resident serving on a committee nominated to represent landowners in the annexation areas, said they are still working on a remonstrance to oppose the annexation. Indiana Code states opponents must present objections from 65 percent of the affected landowners to delay a proposed annexation.