By KEN de la BASTIDE
Speaker after speaker indicated they liked living in the county, were happy with county services and didn’t want to be annexed into the city of Kokomo.
The Kokomo Common Council on Monday passed through the first of three readings two ordinances to annex 14.2 square miles into the city limits, a move that could add 14,000 people to the city’s population in time for the 2010 census.
The second reading of the ordinance is scheduled for July 16 with final consideration to take place on Aug. 25.
A standing-room-only crowd of mostly county residents filled the council chambers and spilled into the lobby of city hall where a closed-circuit television was set up. Some residents carried signs against the annexation.
During his presentation, Mayor Greg Goodnight listed a number of reasons in support of the annexation including: lost federal and state dollars which are based on population; people living in areas adjacent to the city who are impacted by government decisions but have no vote in the municipal elections; promote equity in services; the city receiving increased revenues through local option income taxes; and improving economic development for the city and region.
“In 1980 Kokomo was one of the 10 largest cities in Indiana,” Goodnight said. “It will re-establish Kokomo has one of the state’s largest cities. Without annexation, the city will fall out of the top 20.”
Goodnight said some areas already in the city limits are surrounded by areas still in the county and it is difficult to provide efficient services to those areas. He said two additional fire stations would be constructed to provide fire protection to the annexed areas.
“Is this a smart way to run a city?” Goodnight asked.
But his arguments received a cool reception from those in attendance opposed to the annexation.
Steve Mack said he is happy with county services and noted the county provides them at a lower cost.
“A few years ago as an incentive the city gave a $10,000 tax abatement for people to move into the city,” he said. “Are you giving me $10,000?”
Terry Wilson, who lives on Center Road, said the problems that Goodnight was talking about are for areas that are close to the city limits.
“Why does the city want to come out three or four miles?” he said.
Ralph Rivers said the annexation plan was a good idea but that everyone should look at the facts and figures and not jump to conclusions.
David Schulte, who lives in Clay Township, said he doesn’t believe the annexation will be revenue neutral for the city.
“What are the plans to pay for construction of city services and the debt?” he asked.
Schulte said he doesn’t believe the one-percent cap on residential property taxes approved by the legislature to take effect in 2010 will remain in place.
“Once those protective barriers are removed, we’ll be subjected to the full impact of the cost,” he said. “Those cities that have annexed are experiencing growth, Kokomo is not. This is a shell game.”
Schulte said residents are satisfied with the current services they receive.
“There is no reason for Kokomo to pay to extend services that we don’t want or need,” he said.
It boils down, Tim Hulett said, to the simple concept of right and wrong.
“You have the power to annex us,” he said, “without us having any real say.”
Council President Mike Kennedy appointed councilmen Mike Karickhoff, Mike Wyant and Ralph Baer to serve with him on a committee to answer annexation questions from other council members and the public.