By Tim Leeds
City Attorney Jim Kaze advised the Committee of the Whole City Council of Havre to advise passing a resolution rescinding the resolution annexing four tracts of land into the city.
Kaze said a number of objections had been raised to the annexation by property owners and some of their attorneys.
Prior to the passage of the annexation resolution on June 5, Kaze received a letter from attorney Bruce Swenson, pointing out that one of the pieces of property did not have a certificate of survey on file, which is required to annex property which is not platted. That piece of land was excluded from the annexation.
Kaze said since the passage he has received further information from Swenson that another piece of property did not have a certificate of survey on file, and another did not have a complete, accurate description of the exterior boundary of the property.
Kaze said he has also received a letter from attorney Chris Young alleging that the procedure used to annex property was defective, and one property owner has filed suit against the city so alleging.
Kaze said that after consulting with the staff of the public works department and Mayor Phyllis Leonard they concluded that rescinding the entire annexation resolution would be the best action.
Leonard said in an interview that they don't want to spend large amounts of the city's money opposing what is, in effect, a frivolous lawsuit. She said any person who is using city services really has no reason to oppose annexation. She said she has told property owners that if they use services without being annexed they are making their neighbors pick up the cost of the service.
Kaze said that it could be argued that most or all of the procedure was completely legal, but the steps used in the procedure may have been defective and may be subject to legal challenge. He said that it could be argued in a court of law that if any part of the annexation violates procedure that the entire annexation violates procedure.
He advised that it would probably be most effective to rescind the annexation and start over with additional annexation procedures.
Kaze said that it might be most effective to do the annexation in different sections. He said there were property owners that were not opposed to the annexation, and grouping similar properties together for annexation might be a better procedure.
Kaze also drafted a resolution, which was moved to the city council by the committee of the whole, reciting procedure about annexing property which has requested city water or sewer service, and resolving that the procedure be enforced more strictly in the future.
The resolution cites two sections of city code requiring that property owners outside the city limits sign an irrevocable petition for annexation and an irrevocable petition for withdrawal from Rural Fire District No. 1 when requesting city water and sewer service.
The resolution states that the council "feels that it best serves the interests of the City of Havre to publically inform and remind property owners that the City will not extend its utility services beyond the City limits without annexation of the properties so served."
The council resolves in the resolution that each property owner requesting connection to city water or sewer services will only receive the necessary permits for such connection after the public works department receives the petitions for annexation and withdrawal from the rural fire district.
Kaze said Montana Attorney General Joe Mazurek wrote in 1995 that a city or town might also adopt a resolution requiring property owners to sign petitions for annexation to continue existing city services.
In other action, the Havre City Council approved the final budget for July 1, 2000 to June 30, 2001, and fixed the tax levies for that period.