Thursday, September 15, 2011

Top Ten Reason Not To Go Along With Annexation

As read by Roger Lenk at the County Commissioner's Meeting...

Honorable Members of Franklin County Commission:

My name is Roger Lenk. I reside at 1817 N. Road 76, Franklin County, Washington 99301. I will try to be brief.

I appreciate your continued concern regarding this matter. You may not know it, but this body has devoted more public meeting time to hear out constituent concerns than the last two governing bodies combined. The other two have devoted absolutely no time, only indicating that they wish to do so after an agreement is reached. Thank for being the only adults in the room regarding this matter.

I will give you the top 10 list of reason not to go along with the annexation hustle being proposed by the City and Fire District.

Reason 10: Why add a new layer of ineffective Government? The service provided to us by the County is great. All our needs are met, in a timely manner, very effectively. We appreciate a governing body which takes the time to understand the impacts of what it is approving, as opposed to doing only that which is in the best interest of the individual members of the governing body.

Reason 9: The opposition you have here today. Those of us in the Doughnut Hole support their county residency 100%, and vehemently opposed being forced into the City of Pasco.

Reason 8: The Negative impact on remaining Franklin County residents. Franklin County has a very tight budget, with no room to trim staff nor expenses. The loss of property taxes and assessed valuation from the doughnut holes will have a extremely negative impact on Franklin County finances. Further, the County will see significant increases in refuse rates.

Reason 7: The disparities in land use densities. My County neighbors take exception to the City's high density policies. Those of us West of Pasco understand when we purchased these lots that they were located in a very low density environment. Unfortunately, the City is bent on changing this low density environment into a higher density environment in order to reap the higher taxes and fees associated with such developments. There is no mechanism, permitted by state law or Pasco Municipal Code to include density standards in an interlocal agreement. The only means to maintain our preferred densities and lifestyle is to remain County residents. While 2 houses per acre is high, five or six per acre, or greater, is obscene. We also take offense that our agricultural uses and farm animal will become "non-conforming" in the City, thus limiting sales potential, animal rotations, etc.

Reason 6: The shake down doughnut hole resident will get. Of course, we get a new layer of unresponsive government and tossed our of Franklin County Fire District #3. We will become City of Pasco residents, and as such will be required to pay the Fire District for its lower ambulance access fees, the cost of Station 32 when the City buys it, even though we already own it and paid for it, as well as in lieu payments to the First District for lost property tax increment. The Fire District will retain its level of revenue, receive a lump sum payment for Station 32, lower its cost, and have less area to be responsible for. What a deal! No wonder they kept it under wraps!

Reason 5: The havoc and animosity doughnut hole resident needs may provoke between the City, County, Fire District. If annexation foes forward, doughnut hole residents may be forced to push a referendum for reduction of Pasco City limits. Voters have the option of excluding a specifically identified area from the Pasco City Limits. Given the high level of animosity toward the City, we can easily speculate what would occur if the voters are given their choice. RCW 35.02 also provides for the authority to incorporate a new City. A committee of citizens could easily map out an economically viable, tax self-sufficient, and well balance municipality say starting with the eastern boundary of Road 68, traversing west and south to the river front. Extraordinary assessed valuation, great sales tax base, good public and private school, nice low density environment. But, we don't want to do that as we are very happy now.

Reason 4: This is wrong annexation process to use. RCW 35A.14.480 does not allow County residents a proper voice in the annexation process. Under this imperfect system of annexation crafted by the Washington Fire Commissioners Associate, Counties have no ability to negotiate favorable terms for their residents. No density limitations, no service or improvement requirements, no lifestyle guarantees, no protections at all. Period. In order to obtain favorable treatment for its officers and organization, Fire Districts surrender their constituents to the foe much like soldiers and chattel given up on the field of battle. General Lee received much better terms for his troops from General Grant at Appomattox. If we must be annexed, all us the dignity of receiving individual notices from the City, and the ability to plead our case in front of the Pasco City Council, at a formal public hearing, utilizing the process provided for vie the annexation agreement. The folks who successfully avoided a Water Agreement annexation over on Argent Road a few years ago understand the ability to fend for themselves. This fight would not be possible if you agree to allow this process to go forward.

Reason 3: The Fire District thoroughly botched its execution of this process. Throughout, it referred to RCW 35.13.238 related to annexation. This includes formal minutes, letters to the City and to County. A completely different section, RCW 35A.14.480 is the controlling legislation for a Code City. In addition, the Fire District did not take formal public action on its acceptance to go forward with the negotiation process. Its August 3 acceptance letter to the City, and it August 15 and 16 letters to this body, are now formally characterized as "personal opinions" as opposed to public policy directives. What about their August 3rd, 10th, and 17th testimony made before this body? You need to change your meeting minutes. It was not based on public actions nor policy, but personal opinion. After I made an August 17, 2011, public records request for authorizing documents, the Fire District held a special meeting and approved entering into the annexation process. I had to wait until after it retroactively cleaned up its mess to receive the documents. It appears that a significant amount of public agency time and resources were devoted to espousing personal political opinion. We trust the District to fight fires, but not to negotiate an annexation agreement on our behalf.

Reason 2: The agreement of February 24, 2011, is illegal. I know you are saying to yourself "we were told we had to enter into this process BEFORE we could negotiate an agreement." That is true according to The City and Fire District told you that you had to buy the horse before they could build the cart. However, since your last meeting, we discovered that the City and the Fire District have been in negotiations regarding this annexation since September 2010. In other words, the building of the care took place out of the public eye and without public authorization by their respective governing bodies. The City and the Fire District were not "thinking" about an agreement, they specifically formalized it in writing. The County, a necessary party to such an agreement, was never notified nor advised of these shenanigans.

An agreement was consummated or about February 24, 2011. It was put on hold until after the primary election filings to avoid political landmines. When it was clear that the incumbents were sage in their chairs, the City Manager brought the idea to negotiate forward, and pushed hard at three (3) meetings. It was approved at a special workshop meeting where no attends. I provided the Clerk of the Board the complete text of the agreement and all other documents.

Among other things, that agreement provides for transfer of one Fire District employee to the City. This is against the State of Washington Civil Service Provisions for Public Safety Officers (RCW 41.08), and a violation of the City of Pasco Municipal Code. The agreement also provides for the sale of Station 32 to the City and rezoning it for commercial purposes. The rezoning provisions is a violation of Washington State law RCW 35A.63, and the Pasco Municipal Code. Only the Planning Commission or a Hearings Examiner is granted that authority, after proper notice, and conduction a public hearing. Along with other favors, the agreement also includes "quid pro quo" payments from the City as the Fire District increases its levy rate.

Reason 1: Your counter parties to an interlocal agreement are untrustworthy. The City and Fire District intentional violated the provisions of RCW 35A.14.480 by covertly negotiating an agreement prior to the formal process being adopted by all three (3) agencies. Mr. Crutchfield lied to his governing body, lied to this governing body, and lied to the public at large. The heads of Franklin County Fire District #3 are conspirators to this felony, and committed serial omissions. Moreover, they made public policy statements which were in fact personal political opinions in drag. The more gentile among us would call this group consistent. Since the City and Fire District did not want the County's help or input when they were negotiating the interlocal agreement, it would be prudent not to led your authorization now. The Dictionary defines "scofflaw" as a person who flouts the rules, conventions, or accepted practices. You can't negotiate a deal with a scofflaw. The outcome is always the same and will be at our peril.

In closing, throughout this process, we citizens have observed the differences between good and bad government. Again this body has shown extremely good judgement in listening to the voices who lent them temporary custody over our sovereignty. The City of Pasco and Fire District #3 clearly lack integrity, ethics, honesty, candor, competence, accountability, and moral compass in conducting the public's business. Their behavior in this matter is abhorrent, yet typical.

We recommend that the County Commissioners vote against wasting everyone's time and entering into a specious negotiation process where we already know the outcome. Doughnut Hole residents thank you in advance for your consideration of their concerns.

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