Newaygo Co. Residents Battle Over 'Detachment'

Justice SystemEric WilliamsMergers, Acquisitions and Takeovers

Should a group of residents be allowed to 'detach' from the city they live in?

That's a question voters will have to decide in Newaygo come November 8th.

Newaygo residents pay more than four times in property taxes than Garfield Township residents. So many Newaygo homeowners want their properties annexed to the township. They want to pay less and choose the services they want.

Supporters say they're paying taxes on services they don't use, and they believe it'll be cheaper for them to pay the township instead. However, the city says the loss of that tax income could have serious consequences.

That issue was discussed at Garfield Township Hall, Thursday night. “The detachment process is a purely political process,” attorney Eric Williams said. He represents the city. He said 680 acres of Newaygo land, including 75 homes, are part of the proposed detachment.

There are plenty of signs around the community telling residents to vote one way or the other. Some people who attended the meeting had already made up their minds, but others attended to learn the consequences of a potential split.

Williams said, “The consequences won’t be completely figured out until after a vote.”

“One is, the township would have to contribute or pay about $830,000 of city debt if the detachment is approved,” he explained. The city’s website says those dollars would fund infrastructure needs, such as sewer, water and road improvement.

However, the township’s lawyer says no debt will occur and calls it a scare tactic. “In all the five prior cases that I’ve handled, that hasn’t been true. The reason it isn’t true is because cities have a lot of assets, a lot more asset than they have debt,” attorney William Fahey said.

 “Legal consequences of a ‘yes vote’ are a bit complicated,” Williams said. It’s complicated because both sides are trying to interpret an archaic law from the 1800s.

Residents just want to know what they’re voting on before they head to the polls. “It’s too bad that they’re getting a lot of information that may not necessarily be true, but as with anything else there’s always both sides,” Patrick Sullivan said. Sullivan lives in Garfield Township.

If the detachment happens, Williams says the city will lose 3.3 million dollars worth of taxable property. If that happens, the city says cuts to services may be necessary, including public safety.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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