Town fires back at city in incorporation dispute

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TOWN OF BELOIT - Town officials fired back at Beloit City Manager Lori Curtis Luther after she announced the city believes it no longer can pursue boundary agreement discussions.

In a news release Wednesday, Town Administrator Ian Haas said Luther and the Beloit City Council's decision to cite the Town of Beloit filing its incorporation petition as cause for the city to cease negotiations has "absolutely no basis in fact or law."

Luther said Tuesday after the town submitted its petition to the Rock County Circuit Court earlier that day that the town's decision eliminates the possibility for further negotiations.

The town and city have been meeting intermittently for over a year to negotiate a potential boundary agreement with tensions running high at points during the discussion.

This morning, Luther said the Town of Beloit's filing with the court includes a map with defined boundaries not established through any negotiating process.

From a legal standpoint, she said, such boundaries in official documents with the courts stymie any negotiating process until some resolution is reached regarding the status of the incorporation petition.

"From our perspective the Town stopped the negotiating process" by filing a petition including boundaries, Luther said.

Haas disagreed, saying, "the filing of the incorporation petition in no way limits the ability for our two communities to continue negotiations," Haas said. "The town remains committed to negotiating a boundary agreement should the city wish to continue. If negotiations are to cease, it is due to the city's choice of tactics and nothing more."

Haas said it was "troubling" the city would cease negotiations after the town made what it considered to be a "generous counter offer" in the ongoing negotiations.

"This counter offer would have been beneficial to the residents of the city as well as the town and could have helped solve some of the current service provision issues the city is faced with," Haas said. "It seems that the city has chosen instead to oppose a process that will very likely end with a new village regardless of their actions. Not only will this decision harm the residents in the City of Beloit, but will also further strain an already tainted relationship."

Haas declined to elaborate on the counter offer as he said it was part of confidential negotiations.

Luther stated in her release Tuesday the city will "almost certainly" oppose incorporation efforts, because the petition has yet to address the impact on the town's west side residents or the impact on the City of Beloit as a neighboring community.

One of Luther's concerns with the township incorporating is the revenue from the Alliant Energy Riverside Power Plant.

She said utility aid revenue is shared between the Town of Beloit and Rock County, with Rock County's 161,000 residents receiving two-thirds of every dollar and the Town of Beloit's 7,000 residents receiving one-third. However, these ratios would be reversed if the town were to incorporate into the Village of Riverside.

Luther said if the incorporation passes and the new village receives more funding, it will "reduce efficiencies, raise the cost of services, and undermine cooperation, rather than advance regional economic development."

Haas called Luther's statements "vague" and "with little or no truth to substantiate them."

"The town is, and has always been, committed to providing the very best possible services to the residents of the area," Haas said. "This includes the times when we are called to assist in the City of Beloit, which are numerous. The town has been, and continues to work with residents of what would be the village and the remnant town to ensure that there are agreements in place to continue services unabated."

If the town were to incorporate, land on the east side of Afton Road would become a village and the west side would stay a remnant township.

There are a few different options for the proposed village and remnant town to become one village.

Now that a boundary agreement option is off the table, the other option for reconciliation is annexation.

This can be done either by using a referendum or by annexing small portions of land at a time. In this scenario the City of Beloit has the same rights to potentially annex the remnant town as the village.

If consolidation between the remnant town and new village isn't possible or isn't immediate, the proposed village and remnant town could have an intergovernmental agreement for police, fire and public works services.

Town chair Diane Greenlee created a Citizens Advisory Committee for Incorporation to finalize an agreement for services between the proposed new village and remnant town.

The committee is comprised of three east-siders and three west-siders as well as a member of the Town of Beloit's Board of Supervisors on each side.

If the circuit court approves the petition, the next step would be for the town to submit an application to the Wisconsin Department of Administration.

If DOA approves, voters would have their say in a referendum.

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