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Evansville, Union leaders talk sharing of services

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GINA R. HEINE
April 8, 2011
— The city of Evansville and town of Union officials renewed an effort Thursday night to work together on agreements such as boundaries and shared services.

About 40 residents attended the meeting at the fire department with the city council and town board to hear officials discuss cooperative agreements.


The meeting was scheduled after city and town officials recently attended a Rock County meeting with state mediators about agreements, said Kim Gruebling, who was elected Tuesday as a town supervisor.


Evansville and Union already have agreements for fire, EMS, police, municipal court and the library.


"There's a lot of things coming down the road with the new budget. We're all going to face a shortage of money," Gruebling said. "Are there other places where we can get together and cooperate?


Another area is cooperative boundary agreements, which the municipalities have been kicking back and forth for five years, said Gruebling, who noted he was on a committee that dealt with that task.


"I gave up out of frustration," he said.


The city also is proposing changes to its smart growth plan, which prompted so many town residents to flood city hall Monday night for a public hearing that the hearing was postponed.


But Thursday night was not meant for citizen comments or discussion on the proposed changes, officials noted. That time will come when the public hearing is rescheduled for a larger venue.


The city and town have a joint committee, but officials agreed that communications moved too slowly back and forth to the city council and town board, and the committee didn't have the authority to make decisions.


"We didn't really have the power to act so everything was like playing telephone in school," Councilman Jim Brooks said.


Officials agreed it made sense to continue joint meetings with the full city council and town board—12 elected officials—though they might face logistical challenges.


Union Supervisor George Franklin threw out the biggest open-ended questions of the night: "As long as we're all here tonight, where does Evansville want to go? ... We talk about boundary agreements. Where do you want to go? How fast do you want to go?"


Mayor Sandy Decker said they have to have a "frank discussion about what the town vision is and what the city vision is."


She said her personal opinion is she is committed to preserving farmland but, "I am also committed to responsible growth to the city of Evansville because our city will die if we do not have responsible growth. The question is what is responsible?"


Officials concluded that they would discuss and take action at their respective meetings Tuesday night on moving forward in talks and putting their willingness in writing.


They scheduled another meeting Monday, May 9. Officials will ask if a state Department of Administration official can attend to provide training on extraterritorial jurisdiction and annexation issues.



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