Source: Sherman Publications

Detach Goodrich? Commission to decide if township, village will vote

by David Fleet

May 02, 2012

Goodrich- A former village councilmember is leading a drive to separate parts of the village.

On April 12, village resident Patricia Wartella filed signed petitions to the Genesee County Clerk for the detachment of certain property within the village to Atlas Township. The minimum number of signatures for a petition filed with regard for the village is 100—based on the population of the village and Atlas Township.

The 12 petition sheets, which were submitted to the Genesee County Clerk then to the Genesee County Board of Commissioners, included a total of 64 signatures from registered voters within the village limits. In Atlas Township, 69 valid registered voters signed the petition. The petition is expected to be on the agenda of the Genesee County Board of Commissioners on May 9.

If approved, the issue will be placed on an upcoming ballot. Residents of the village, Atlas Township and the proposed detached areas will vote—a simple majority is needed.

On April 30, the village council gathered for a special meeting to discuss the issue with attorney Thomas McKenney.

“At issue is a change in boundaries,” said McKenney. “The petitions were reviewed and it will be up to the Genesee County Board of Commissioners— they will make the decision.”

“The courts are reluctant to enjoin any election—that will be up to the County Board of Commissioners,” said McKenney. “There are other grounds, but not before an election. You do have the right to challenge after a vote,” he said. There’s an issue of contiguity—the borders are in a continuous line. That’s for practical reasons—I feel someone should review these lines.”

The village voted 4-0 (Councilman Richard Saroli absent) to have an engineer review the legal descriptions of the property within the detached areas.

Wartella was confident the detachment, which includes 87 parcels, was right for the taxpayers of the village. Currently there are about 900 parcels in the village limits. Village residents currently pay a millage of 5.3251. A village resident with a home valued at $250,000 is currently paying about $665 in taxes to the village.

“We are already township residents,” said Wartella. “I did not solicit anyone—only those on the street where I live. After that many friends of mine responded to me and said, ‘Please include our areas,’ but I never solicited any in the other areas. That’s not my responsibility. They were that interested in detachment—there was an overwhelming response.”

“It’s very simple as to why the detachment is necessary— eliminate the duplication of services—wasteful government and we are already being taxed by the village and Atlas Township. Residents got together and signed petitions. We are not dissolving the village. Some (village residents) want it to stay the way it is—that’s fine—it’s the best of three worlds. We are not asking for anything—we will only be Atlas Township residents. It’s a waste of our money the way it is now. No more or less.”

Wartella referred to offers by the township to consolidate services with the village prior to her recall from office in May 2011 after serving five months as council president. Village voters opted to remove Wartella with 317 votes (55 percent) to 260 votes (45 percent).

In April the Atlas Township board of trustees offered a preliminary bid to share services including sewer fee collection, tax collection, building inspection and code inspection for the Village of Goodrich at the board of trustees meeting. The proposal was presented by Township Treasurer Ann Marie Slagle and Township Building Official Matt Hart. The preliminary proposal included 639 village sewer bills and 995 tax bills at an estimated cost of $5,917.65.

“We don’t understand why there’s a village,” said Wartella. “We are strong supporters of the township—it’s a tight ship. The Atlas Township government is well run, it’s a wonderful board.”

Richard Saroli, village councilmember, disagrees with the detachment.

“It’s a slow death of the village in regards to revenue,” said Saroli. “What residents who are ready to detach don’t understand is the village owns the sewers. The costs (for the sewers) would have to be paid for by the residents that detach through a special assessment or more taxes.”

Saroli said those 87 residents to be detached would have to pay for those sewers which could cost as much as $30,000 per year or revert back to a septic system. In addition, a segment of the area to be detached includes a sewer pumping station owned by the village.

“Consider they will no longer be residents of the village,” he said. “The same issue will come up for the village mill pond. If the village no longer can afford to maintain the 100-year-old dam and pond then it reverts back to the City of Flint. And Flint simply can’t afford that. The bottom line is the costs for those residents are going to be staggering.”

Village Administrator Jakki Sidge emphasized that the Genesee County Road Commission would be responsible for snow removal in those areas detached.

“Plowing subdivisions is not a top priority of the county,” said Sidge. “The township would have to deal with the street lights and the roads which are part of the village. The township would have to accept them.”

“The question will be how to deal with the sewers,” said Sidge. “Consider, too, if there is not enough revenues coming into the village then that could impact the existing services. It could have a major impact. The village took care of a lot of services—it’s been effective.”