Why St. Joseph resident believes annexation is not the answer

Administrative AssistantLetter to the Editor, Opinion, Print Editions, Print St. Joseph0 Comments

Len Bechtold, St. Joseph

In December 2017, the city of St. Joseph notified St Joseph Township of the intent to annex all of the property located within the Orderly Annexation Agreement area. This area includes all the property in St. Joseph Township lying north of the Sauk River and north of I-94, an area of several thousand acres.

At the March 5 City Council meeting, by letter I asked “As a city resident and a concerned taxpayer, what will be the cost of providing water and sewer services to the entire annexation area?” To this date, I have not received a reply. Certainly that price will be in the millions. Does the city have the adequate water storage capacity and sewage facility to handle this or will these facilities need to be expanded? How much of this cost will the city taxpayers be required to pay? If the entire cost were to be assessed to the taxpayers of the OAA, the cost would be overwhelming.

For the taxpayers of the township which would remain following annexation, would the township be able to survive without substantially raising their taxes so they could adequately maintain roads, provide fire protection and more?

The township would be reimbursed by the city for taxes collected at the rate of
Year 1 – 60%
Year 2 – 50%
Year 3 – 40%
Year 4 – 30 %
Year 5 – 20%

At year 6 and beyond, all tax revenues are property of the city.

The township would stand to lose more than 40 percent of its income.

In early 2017, Stearns County notified the city and township they would no longer be providing planning services to the OAA. On May 25, a public hearing was held to consider modifying the OAA and to modify the management of the OAA to include administration duties. The proposal was the city administrator would be responsible for this. This meeting was attended by approximately 150 residents and owners of property within the OAA. All who spoke were opposed to this agreement. After lengthy negotiations, on Aug 26, 2017, the city and township approved a resolution re-defining the land-use-management process and adopting the county zoning regulations and naming the city as plan administrator.

So why annexation?

In December 2017, the city notified the township it’s their intention to annex all of the property in the OAA effective April 1, 2018. Public input sessions were announced. At the Jan. 25, 2018 meeting, approximately 100 residents attended. All who spoke were opposed to annexation as there were no benefits to them, only much higher taxes and more severe regulations. At the Feb. 15 meeting, attended by approximately 75 residents, the city administrator stated the reason for annexation was the boundaries were fragmented and managing the OAA was difficult, created a lot of confusion and was ineffective. All who spoke at this hearing were in opposition to annexation. Negotiations between the city and township continue at this time.

It appears the motivating factor for the city at this time is this is nothing more than a “tax grab.” For the city administrator that motivation is power, control  and authority as she wishes to impose city ordinances and regulations on the residents, even though they don’t want to be in the city and will receive no benefits.

Throughout this entire process the residents have been ignored.

As a resolution, I would suggest the following;

  • All annexation plans be put on hold.
  • Allow the present OAA to continue.
  • Turn administration of the OAA over to the township where it belongs.
  • Annex property only when petitioned by resident and owners.

This annexation issue appears to be very expensive to the taxpayers of the city, the township and mostly to the residents of the OAA.

Why annexation?  It just doesn’t make sense!

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