A hearing on the lawsuit filed against the City of Havre and the Hill County government on pending annexation has been delayed until next year, and still will be held outside of Havre.
On March 30 in Lewistown, Judge E. Wayne Phillips will hear arguments on whether the annexation should be delayed until the case is resolved. The judge will also decide who among those annexed would be able to join the suit.
In his order, Phillips — the third judge presiding over the case — said the motion to delay the hearing was not opposed by the defendants.
The attorney for the plaintiffs requested the date change because of a conflict with a trial in city court in Great Falls Sept. 3.
The defendants requested a new judge to replace Havre’s Judge David Rice. After the case was transferred to Judge Laurie McKinnon of Shelby, Hill County later requested a substitution. Phillips then assumed jurisdiction.
The suit was filed by property owners, including the companies that own the Holiday Village Mall and the Border Patrol station on 16th Ave. W. The plaintiffs say that the city did not properly follow state law while annexing about 100 parcels last year.
The suit asks the judge to declare the annexation void until Havre completes the requirements of state law. They also ask that property owners be reimbursed for "double-billing" the suit says happened as a result of the annexation. It also asks for the court to award the plaintiffs attorney fees and the cost of filing the suit as well as any other monetary awards the court deems appropriate.
The suit requests an injunction to prevent further action on the annexation and requested that Hill County, also named as a defendant, be ordered to stop complying with the annexation until the suit is resolved.
The county stipulated to the request that it stop negotiating with Havre on the annexation until further instructed by the court, and in its reply to the complaint asked the judge to declare whether the annexation was done legally and what the city’s and county’s obligations are in the matter, as well as any “further relief as the Court deems just and equitable.”
Phillips has ordered the parties to attempt mediation on the issue, which is ongoing. He ordered that the mediation and settlement negotiations be completed by Dec. 3.
If mediation is unsuccessful, the lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial May 18.