Annexation proposal met with criticism
About 20 property owners, Midland Railway representatives and parents of Baldwin school children filled the room at Monday's Baldwin City Council meeting to voice their opinions about a proposal for the annexation of land on the west side of town.
The property being considered for annexation is located west of 11th Street, extending south from Ames Street to approximately Fremont Street, east of the new elementary school.
One of the reasons the city is considering the annexation is the need for another entrance -- a walkway or bike path -- to the new school from 11th Street that would not be along U.S. Highway 56. The proposed path for students lines up with Elm Street and would cross a section of the railroad.
"As a parent of a child going to the elementary school, we need pedestrian access to the new elementary school which is not possible now," Baldwin resident Steve Pierce said. "The only other option we have is for the kids to come to school on the highway."
Baldwin resident Gayla Waymire said the highway was not an option for students who walked to school.
"It's not safe for the walkers and bikers," Waymire said. "We still need to have other ways to get the kids to and from school other than the highway."
But some of the owners of the properties being considered for annexation are not in favor of the proposal.
"We're quite happy in the county and not in the city," Albert Johnston said. "It's a matter of the ability to manage our own property. There would be a lot of constraints of what we can and can't do.
"Our taxes will go up," Johnston said. "It seems this is a way the city is trying to increase their income without much thought about providing additional services."
Joey Mosteller said he was also against the annexation for several reasons, including not wanting an increase in taxes and not wanting to lose his septic tank to have to hook up to the city's sewer system.
Mosteller said currently there is no sidewalk, which would probably be added if the land was annexed.
"I don't want to lose a large chunk of my property for a sidewalk," he said.
Both Johnston and Mosteller were also concerned about the liability that would be placed on the landowners once they were annexed and the safety of the students if the area was used as a route to the new school.
"I think that's a bad idea," Johnston said of path to the school. "I wouldn't want a child going up there. The railroad's there. There are several areas that are brushy and haven't been cleared.
"A much safer route to get them to school would be on a bus," he said.
Mayor Ken Hayes said the city didn't have many options.
"We didn't have a lot of say or input on where the school was going to be, but we have to deal with it," Hayes said.
"The reality is that not all children are going to ride the bus," he said. "In my opinion, we should annex the property and do what we can to protect the children and protect the property owners."
Council Member Ted Brecheisen said he sympathized with the property owners.
"I wholeheartedly feel with these people and I agree with them," Brecheisen said. "We as a city council have been put in a position that I hate to be put in."
He said he was disappointed the Baldwin School District hadn't done more to solve the problem.
"The school board has run a path to Elm Street with no place to go. I just don't think the school district has decided to address it in the way they should have," he said. "They've created a problem they expect us to solve overnight."
Hayes said something had to be done, because the school had already been built.
"I don't think a lot of in-depth planning was done on the other side of this issue, but the school's there," he said. "I agree with Junior on a lot of points, but literally, we have to get from A to B. There is no good solution to this problem."
Council Member Ken Wagner agreed there was no easy answer.
"I'm leaning toward voting pro-annexation. I very much understand your concerns, but it comes down to the reality of a multi-million dollar school we're forced to deal with," Wagner said. "It's one of the tougher decisions we've made in the last year. My struggle is, I don't know how else to deal with it."
Ernie Griffin, general manager of Midland, said no one would be allowed to cross the railroad tracks unless it was safe.
"Nothing is cut and dried about people crossing our property," Griffin said. "We have major concerns. Nobody is going to cross our property until we're sure it's going to be as safe as possible."
Mike Fox, president of Midland, pointed out to the council that there were a couple sections of the land that were not included in the proposal. If the current proposal was approved, those sections of land would be left in the county.
Council Member Marilyn Pearse said she would like the city to check the sections of land Fox listed before having the council vote on the proposal.
The decision was tabled to the April 21 council meeting.
In other business, the council:
- Approved in a 4-0 vote, with Council Member Todd Cohen absent, to grant the Baldwin Community Arts Council permission to use the sidewalks from June through September for Art Walk, which are the third Friday of each month.