By Ken de la Bastide and Megan Graham
Tribune staff writers
The Kokomo Common Council unanimously approved the latest planned annexation along the new U.S. 31 Kokomo Corridor, but attorneys for both sides indicated a willingness to reach a settlement agreement.
There were no public statements after council president Mike Kennedy opened the meeting for comment on the Southeast Annexation.
The proposal includes approximately 4,000 acres and extends from the interchange at Ind. 26 north to Markland Avenue.
With passage of the annexation ordinance, remonstrators will have 90 days to file petitions with the Howard County Clerk’s Office once legal notice of the ordinance is published. They must have signatures representing 65 percent of the land parcels or 75 percent of the assessed value in the area to stop the annexation in court.
Tonny Storey, an attorney representing the remonstrators, said more than 65 percent of parcel owners have signed petitions. Some land owners in the area own multiple parcels, but each parcel receives one “vote.”
“The purpose of us coming today was to let them know that the landowners are concerned and that this isn’t something that they’re terribly thrilled about,” Storey said. “But [in a way that is] nice and orderly. That’s the way this needs to be.”
Storey said he hoped the remonstrators could come to an arrangement with the city instead of going to court with the petitions.
“My hope is to be able to sit down with the council and see if there’s something we can work out,” he said. “I’ll extend my hand out to see if there’s anything we can work out, and if we can’t, we can’t.”
Nicholas Kile, the attorney representing the city, said he has reached out to the Taylor Community School Corp. to mollify concerns about annexation. He said these attempts have been unsuccessful.
He said he hopes groups on both sides of the annexation can reach an agreement.
“We would be happy to meet, talk about their concerns and craft a solution that would be mutually agreeable on both sides,” Kile said. “There are lots of things that can be done in terms of trying to smooth the impact. You can always craft into an annexation ordinance special terms that are designed to narrowly tailor an annexation to make it deal with these types of issues. We can’t really talk about those kinds of special terms and conditions if we can’t sit down and talk.”
Lawrence McCormack, Kokomo city attorney, said an example of an amicable annexation agreement was the Cotswold Hills Annexation earlier this month.
Mick Owens, a leader of the remonstrance effort, said it was part of his group’s strategy not to make public comments at Monday’s meeting.
“They made up their minds,” Owens said of council members following the vote. “The process will continue. We are collecting petitions.”
Council members also passed unanimously a resolution that amended the fiscal plan for the proposed annexation area.
“It is essential that Kokomo control growth and development along the corridor,” Councilman Tom Miklik said.
Miklik said police, fire and bus services will be provided to the annexed area within one year and that storm sewers will be paid for through sewer revenues.
He said the annexation will take effect March 1.
Prior to the vote, Taylor Superintendent John Magers addressed the council to refute a fact sheet on the remonstrance circulated last week by city controller Randy Morris.
Kennedy said the council did not dispute or agree with the information provided by Morris.
“There were some disparaging remarks about myself that I won’t address,” Magers said, referring to statements that he doesn’t pay property taxes in Howard County and owns a Toyota Prius.
He said the fact sheet stated the average Taylor school administrator salary is $103,000, which is the highest in Howard County. Magers said the statement is false and that the average administrator’s salary is $65,805, which is the lowest in the county.
Magers said the considered closing of Taylor Intermediate School would have saved $64,000 and not the $500,000 as stated in the fact sheet.
He said the school system is not borrowing money for everyday expenses and that copiers are leased and paid for by the Capital Projects Fund, which would be impacted by a loss of revenues through annexation.
Magers said administrator salaries were not increased by 40 percent in 2011, adding taxpayers would have “hung” him if they had.
Magers’ comments were met with applause from the less-than-capacity crowd in the council chambers.