City, Town lock horns over incorporation

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BELOIT - Beloit City Manager Lori Curtis Luther is standing by her news release offering annexation options to Town of Beloit residents despite town Administrator Ian Haas calling the release "unfortunate, misleading and incorrect."

Luther released a statement last week explaining the city's position, offering town residents an annexation option rather than incorporation into a village.

Any annexations would be completely optional and voluntary, she said.

The city's offer came after the township published a notice of intent to circulate a petition for incorporation.

"The Town of Beloit chose to pursue an incorporation petition without having a boundary agreement with the city in place," Luther said on Tuesday. "We are simply responding to their action. The city did not instigate this process."

Luther also said it was not clear to her what Haas was calling incorrect in her statement, and she defended the council's decision.

"The city communicated early in the process to the town that should the town wish to move forward with an incorporation petition without a boundary agreement in place it would place the city in an adversarial relationship with the town making it more difficult but not impossible to pursue an agreement," Luther said.

Luther also said the city remains willing to work with the town on a boundary agreement, but city officials still are waiting for the town to respond to the city's last letter.

In an interview Tuesday, Town of Beloit Chair Diane Greenlee said Haas has prepared a document detailing what he considers inaccuracies in the city's release.

Haas said the township is creating the fact sheet to address some of these questions and inaccuracies. He said when it's completed it will be linked to the town's website and Facebook.

Greenlee said the township is still willing to work with the city to establish a boundary agreement, but said it's actually the town waiting to hear back from the city on the town's last counter-proposal submitted in June.

Greenlee said she was aware the city opposed the town moving forward with an incorporation petition without having a boundary agreement in place.

"We came to the table with every intention of reaching an amicable agreement," Greenlee said.

In his Tuesday statement, Haas said the town does not want an adversarial relationship with the city.

"We continue this stance and are disappointed that City Leadership has taken this position and begun a negative campaign," Haas said in the release. "The Town of Beloit will no longer be bullied and no amount of misinformation or politically-charged rhetoric from the City of Beloit will change that fact."

Calling the city's release "distortions and fabrications communicated by Ms. Luther and the city council," he said the town staff is willing to provide the "correct information."

Luther said the town has publicly admitted a primary reason for incorporation is to gain additional funding once the new Riverside Energy Plant is complete.

"The incorporation effort is in essence a money grab for the Town without due consideration for what is in the best interests of the city, county, region or individual taxpayers," Luther said.

If the town incorporated, it would net approximately 66 percent of the utility subsidies as opposed to the 33 percent currently sent to the township, swapping the current county and township rates. Once the Riverside plant is finished and operational, the township could see $1.2 million in utility aid, up from $700,000.

Luther said this would limit county resources. She also said incorporation would make permanent the costly and inefficient duplication of service that already exists, including police and fire services.

Town officials previously have denied the incorporation plan is primarily about netting new revenue, stating the village option would protect its borders.

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