|Written by Greg Ruland|
|Friday, 22 April 2011 00:00|
Four candidates for Cottonwood City Council remain on the Tuesday, May 17, ballot, but only two will eventually vote on the residency of Verde Santa Fe property owners should proponents submit enough signatures.
Incumbent councilmen Duane Kirby and Terence Pratt face political newcomers Jesse Dowling and Mary Eichman in the election to fill two seats on the City Council. With early voting starting Thursday, April 21, and mail-in ballots arriving by Friday, April 29, the candidates voiced their position on the annexation issue.
To get a vote from council, proponents of Verde Santa Fe annexation must submit to the city petitions containing signatures from 51 percent of people who own property and 51 percent of the people who reside within the subdivision. Proponents have until April 2012 to accumulate the required signatures.
Should the city receive the right number of signatures, the issue goes to City Council for a public hearing and final vote.
More or less, all current City Council members agree Verde Santa Fe residents should decide for themselves whether to become city residents, Councilman Duane Kirby said.
“The fire department is an important factor for us,” Kirby said. “It means we’ll go ahead with construction of a new firehouse out there. It fits in with our whole idea of expansion.”
Kirby did not see annexation imposing any additional strain on the city budget.
“We’re planning to go there anyway — the sooner the better,” he said. “I think it’s good for the city because it extends our services without increasing our costs.”
Kirby said email from constituents is running about 50-50, with half of the correspondents in favor of annexation and the other half opposed.
“We gave them authority to circulate petitions. From there on, we just wait and see what they can do.”
“At this point, as a City Council person, I am taking a neutral stance,” Councilman Terence Pratt said.
The council is studying the pros and cons of the issue and watching to see what kind of support the issue garners in the community, Pratt said.
“We have not made a decision to support it or reject it,” he said, “but we wanted to allow the democratic process to go forward. Let the people’s voices be heard.”
On the pro side, Pratt said Verde Santa Fe looks like a natural fit with the city, but on the other hand, there could be costs not as yet understood.
Pratt said email from constituents is running about 50-50, with half of the correspondents in favor of annexation and the other half opposed.
“We just want to hear from all people in Verde Santa Fe,” he said.
“It’s definitely a complex issue,” City Council candidate Jesse Dowling said, “but I think it’s one that has to be examined now and taken care of so it doesn’t come up again in the future.”
Dowling said support for annexation appears strong and backers of the initiative seem well organized.
An obvious benefit of annexation would be an increase in the amount of shared revenue Cottonwood receives from the state, he said.
How much annexation could cost the city is an important unknown at this point; however, adding taxpayers to the city would likely decrease some existing costs because the burden to pay for them would be spread across more people.
“As a Cottonwood citizen, I would be concerned about the city taking on the liability of Verde Santa Fe and its residents,” Dowling said. “You’d have to weigh that out against the benefits of added revenue and other positives. I could definitely look at the con and say maybe they’re not worth the trouble.”
Dowling said he would study the issue carefully with an open mind.
City Council candidate Mary Eichman said she attended the April City Council meeting where council voted unanimously to approve annexation petitions for circulation at Verde Santa Fe. At the meeting, 11 people spoke in favor of annexation, nine against, she said.
She said opinion is clearly divided and she could see both points of view.
She said she understands why people who moved to Verde Santa Fe to enjoy a rural lifestyle would like to maintain that by living free of city rules and regulations.
On the other hand, she sympathizes with Verde Santa Fe residents who would like to take advantage of city services, especially faster response times from city police.
“I understand there are two opposing views,” Eichman said. “I agree with what the council decided. It is a democratic process. Let them go ahead and circulate their petitions.”