Hearings for village-township splits readied

By David J. Coehrs - [email protected]

Fulton County Commissioners on Thursday scheduled public hearings for two county villages that requested formal separation from their associated townships, while the third village has tabled discussions on the issue.

A hearing for the proposed Archbold separation will be Wednesday, Oct. 12, at 7 p.m. The hearing for the proposed Delta separation will be Thursday, Oct. 13, at 7 p.m. Both will be held in the second floor conference room of the Fulton County Administration Building, 152 S. Fulton St., in Wauseon.

The villages’ letters of petition to separate from the townships were received by the commissioners in August.

While the Village of Swanton initially joined the other villages in considering separation, its council members tabled discussions indefinitely in June after approving a first reading on the measure. The village has not sent a letter of petition to the county commissioners.

A public statement released jointly by the three villages listed what they termed six “significant challenges” of being governed by their associated townships and municipal board. They included:

• Inefficient government caused by overlapping governmental structure that wastes taxpayer money;

• Double taxation for same services from both governments;

• Trustees’ representation of property owners outside the villages, to the detriment of village residents;

• Disagreements between townships and villages over annexation practices;

• Townships’ decisions to invest tax revenues provided by village residents in opposition to advancement;

• The possible interruption or jeopardizing of fire, emergency, and medical services due to the separation initiative.

Delta Administrator Brad Peebles said the village council unanimously approved the third and final reading of an ordinance July 11 to separate from York Township. The township has not responded.

“There’s been no formal correspondence between the two entities,” Peebles said.

He said the issue of redistricting arose during a conflict between the village and the township regarding the Nature Fresh Farms complex being constructed near the intersection of State Route 109 and US 20A. The township trustees had accused county and Delta administrators of shutting them out of negotiations with the Canadian company, then cried foul when the village annexed the complex.

Archbold Village Council has made its position on separating from German Township clear, Administrator Donna Dettling said. The council has approved three readings of an ordinance to separate.

“I work at their direction, and their direction is pretty clear on this subject,” Dettling said.

The village has spoken numerous times with German Township Trustees, who, according to Dettling, are “absolutely not” in favor of the separation. The village invited them to meet on the issue, but they declined due to the differences in the parties’ agendas.

Township Trustee Andy Ruffer said the village wants to meet to discuss purchasing fire equipment from the township. He said the only meeting the township is interested in is one that will resolve the separation issue.

“We just don’t see the reasoning for separating. It’s definitely going to affect us financially. We don’t see an advantage at all,” he said.

The main sticking points between the parties are double taxation of citizens, the township’s anticipated loss of revenue generated by current levies for roads, bridges, and the general fund if separation occurs, and operation of the fire department.

Ruffer said village administrators told German Township Trustees “they were tired of working with us. They said their citizens are being double-taxed and the fire department could be better operated under one person.”

The township owns the village’s fire equipment, but has never tried to dictate fire department policy, he said.

“We’ve worked with them very, very, very well. We’ve always tried to make sure they got the equipment they need. We’re not really a boss, we’re an advocate,” Ruffer said.

As roads issues are concerned, the village has annexed 987 acres of German Township since 1990 and the township has never resisted, he added.

Ruffer said it appears Archbold favors the separation because the township opposes the proposed transformation of a portion of County Road 24 into a new State Route 66.

“We’re not against the village of Archbold. We hope that we can sit down and work this thing out,” he said. “To me, it seems like (they’re) drawing a line in the sand.”

Swanton Administrator Rosanna Hoelzle said the village council wants to evaluate all the options available and examine what consequences may result from separating.

“We’re just doing some more research, and looking into all the angles,” she said. “We’re trying to do our due diligence to make sure we have the information to make that kind of decision.”

No deadline for the process has been set, and no one is certain how long it will last, Hoelzle said. The council discussed the issue at a recent Committee of the Whole meeting, where no decisions are made. The issue is not included in the agenda for the council’s Sept. 12 meeting.

No trustees from York, Swancreek, and Fulton townships returned calls for comment.

Rufenacht said no agendas have been determined for the public hearings to be scheduled. He said at present all of the commissioners hope to attend, and what they hear will likely factor into their decision on the separations.

“I have an open mind toward it until we get all the information,” he said.

By David J. Coehrs

[email protected]

David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.

David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.