Alice Campbell Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
Letters have been sent out today to over 100 property owners on the outskirts the city of Havre proper making clear the city's intent to annex the properties. "It's a significant amount of properties," said Annexation Committee member Pam Hillery. The letter is the accumulation of months of work by the Annexation Committee to determine the number of properties that receive water and sewer services from the city and to annex them into the city, including waivers given to property owners with the objective of getting 51 percent of them back signed. Only one of those waivers has been signed, said Hillery. But she also said the committee is not expecting the other 99 percent to oppose based on personal interactions with property owners. The owners of annexed properties would pay taxes to the city and, in return, receive all city services. The exceptions to the services immediately received would be garbage collection and fire protection. State statute requires that the privately contracted garbage collectors be given five years before the city takes over unless both the property owner and the garbage collection company both inform the city in writing before then, Committee Chair Andrew Brekke said. State statute also requires that the Rural Fire District be informed of the properties' inclusion by individual owners before they can receive city fire services, Brekke added. The letters give property owners three options for consent: Notify the city in writing of consent; If no "firm arrangements ... to discontinue all utility service ..." are made in writing to the city, the city considers it the same as consent; If no response at all is made to the letter within 30 days, the city considers it the same as consent. During their meeting Tuesday, committee members discussed several developments in the annexation process: A preliminary draft of a plan to submit to the state has been completed. Public Works Director Dave Peterson will now plug in the property names. Members made sure that the plan is flexible enough to encompass future annexations, mainly properties that receive either water or sewer services from the city. "It's our responsibility to look to the future and make it easier for growth," committee member Allen “Woody” Woodwick said. Peterson said that due to current infrastructure, "I don't see us extending water or sewer to anywhere outside the city limits within the next five years." The draft will be submitted to City Council for approval at its April 6 meeting at 7 p.m. Then the public will have the opportunity to comment and make suggestions during the April 22 public hearing at 7 p.m. in City Hall. The plan can then be amended, said Hillery. While taxes will be collected from annexed properties' owners, Hillery said it's not about the money and instead, "We're annexing because it makes sense," in the larger growth plan. The taxes collected will be "the same stuff, just in different ways" that Hill County collects, Brekke said. Havre Mayor Bob Rice said after Monday's Council meeting that he did expect some additional money to flow into the city from the taxes. Taxes vary greatly for each property, Brekke said, and so the city has no way of telling exactly how different the amount of taxes collected will be. Hill County Commissioner Mike Wendland said Tuesday that he had recently requested, but not yet received, a list of proposed properties so he had no way of estimating the annexation's effects on county finances. "I don't think the Annexation Committee has been totally honest with property owners on what their options are ... and with what those special levies are going to cost," Wendland said this morning. The committee will meet to finalize the plan on March 24, at 4 p.m. in the City Hall meeting room.