Annexation gets council’s approval
A section of land on the west side of Baldwin has been annexed into the city, despite the fact some of the property owners were against the proposal.
The Baldwin City Council voted 4-1 to approve the annexation of property located west of 12th Street, extending south from Ames Street to approximately Fremont Street, east of the new elementary school. Council Member Ted Brecheisen voted against the motion.
One of the reasons the annexation was approved 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.
"I don't think we have a whole lot of other options available to us to explore," Council Member Marilyn Pearse said. "We have to have an alternative way to get these kids to school other than 56 Highway."
But some of the owners of the properties that were annexed weren't in favor of the decision.
Albert Johnston said students shouldn't be allowed access to the school from that area because of the natural barriers, like the creek and the timber, and the possible dangers from crossing the railroad track. He suggested bussing all of the students to the new school.
"We shouldn't even be talking about this," Johnston said. "(The school district) picked this ridiculous location for a school. They need to come up with a way to get these kids to school safely. They need to step up to the plate and solve the problem."
Joey Mosteller was also concerned about the liability the property owners would face if students were injured on their properties.
"I don't want to have to put fencing up around my property to keep people out," Mosteller said.
Johnston distributed a letter to the council, which said he believed the annexation was a preliminary step to condemn part of the property.
He said the city couldn't annex property for condemnation if it would disrupt the use of property, which is what would happen to Midland Railway if a crosswalk was placed across the railroad.
"You're going to displace the storage of equipment," he said. "You're going to disrupt their use."
City Attorney Bob Bezek said it didn't apply to the city.
"The proposal before the council is annexation, not condemnation," Bezek said. "It doesn't have anything to do with the annexation tonight."
Brecheisen said he sympathized with the property owners.
"I know we're doing this for access to the school. That seems to be what everybody wants," he said. "But I'm on your side. I don't think we should be having to annex this."
He said he felt the issue should have been addressed earlier with the school district.
"I kind of feel we as the city council of Baldwin have been put in a position, forced into the annexation because of where the school was built," he said. "I would like to see all of this worked out in the district and not have the problem dropped on us."
Brecheisen made a motion to not approve the annexation, but it did not receive a second and the motion failed.
Council Member Amy Cleavinger said she believed the property should become part of Baldwin.
"I think it would serve the better good of everyone if we annexed it," Cleavinger said. "I don't think it's a realistic option to get all of these kids on buses. I don't think there's anything you can do to stop the kids from walking and riding their bikes."
Council Member Todd Cohen said the city also needed to have the authority to clean up and police the area.
"We need to be in the position to have better oversight of that property," he said. "We need to have that ability and I don't think we can count on the county for that."
In other business, the city council:
- Approved in a 4-1 vote, with Brecheisen voting against, to make Mayor Ken Hayes interim city administrator.
Council Member Ken Wagner said he thought Hayes, who has already been doing many of the administrator's duties, should be named as an official interim administrator to help solve any questions about responsibility in answering city staff's questions.
"I don't think it's going to change anything," Wagner said. "It just makes it official."
- Approved in a 5-0 vote Baldwin City Police Chief Mike McKenna's employment agreement.
- Approved in a 4-1 vote, with Cohen voting against, to approve a Medical Savings Account health insurance plan for city employees. Under the MSA plan, the city and its employees pays a lesser premium, but part of what would have been paid goes into a medical savings account to help pay deductibles.
Cohen said he would have liked to have seen the plan in writing before approving it.
- Approved in a 5-0 vote to rename the street in front of the new elementary school Bullpup Drive.
- Approved in a 5-0 vote to rename Signal Ridge Court to Deer Ridge Court and Signal Ridge Circle to Eagle Ridge Circle.
The decision to rename the streets is to reduce potential confusion during an emergency situation.