TOWN OF BELOIT
The town and city of Beloit are poised for conflict, now that the town has filed to turn part of itself into a village.
The town Tuesday filed for incorporation in Rock County Court, a step in a process that could lead to a referendum to decide the issue.
Town Administrator Ian Haas said it’s possible the referendum could come next November, but it’s more likely to be held during the regular spring 2019 elections.
Beloit City Manager Lori Luther issued a statement late Tuesday, saying the city “will almost certainly” oppose village incorporation. She didn’t say how.
Luther said she would not respond to further questions Tuesday.
All of the town east of Afton Road would become the new village, an area of about 8 square miles with 6,142 residents, according to the court filing.
Haas said the proposed village portion has about 3,500 properties, while the rest of the town, called “the remnant town,” has about 750.
The town and city share common boundaries, but the city now is able to annex parts of the town. The two municipalities have been meeting to establish boundaries.
The city’s statement says the court filing “effectively ends efforts to find a compromise that meets the needs of the greater Beloit region.”
The town’s filing includes a map designating the part of the town east of Afton Road as the proposed new village of Riverside.
Luther’s statement says the town is “cementing its chosen borders and eliminating the possibility for further adjustment through negotiations. This action makes clear that the town has not negotiated in good faith with the city.”
The statement accuses the town government of taking the action because of money.
Alliant Energy now pays the town and county a fee for its power generation facilities in the town and plans to expand.
Rock County’s 161,000 residents receive two-thirds of the money, while the town’s 7,000 residents receive about one-third, according to the city.
But if the town becomes a village, the village will receive twice as much funding as the county.
“What’s more, this act will reduce efficiencies, raise the cost of services and undermine cooperation, rather than advance regional economic development,” Luther asserts. “The town’s actions are not in the interests of or helpful to building the future for this region.”
Haas said the town is still discussing a boundary agreement with city. Setting boundaries would make it easier to include the remnant town in the new village later on, he said.
The city has said repeatedly that village incorporation would harm the relationship between the neighboring municipalities, “and we don’t believe that to be true,” Haas said.
Haas said town officials hope to add the remaining portion of the town to the village, but they can’t do it now because of state law.
It’s like two people holding hands who can’t go through a door together, Haas said. So one of them has to enter before the other one can.
As part of the process, the town must be able to prove that the remnant town will still receive the services it gets now, so the town is working on a service agreement. The town will ask the court to make the village incorporation contingent on ratification of the agreement, something never done in the state before, Haas said.
The services in question are police, fire, EMS, public works, planning, building inspection, the town clerk and village administrator.
“The intent of the agreement is that everything stays the same, so there won’t be any negative impact on anybody,” Haas said.
Haas said he expects a judge will set a hearing in 30 to 60 days and then certify that the petition meets the standards for incorporation in state statutes.
The court would refer the matter to the state Department of Administration’s Incorporation Review Board, which would have 180 days to review the application and ask for public input, including local listening sessions, Haas said.
The town would submit large amounts of information, and the board would decide whether the town meets the requirements for incorporation.
“I think we exceed all of them,” Haas said.
If the state approves, the matter moves back to Rock County Court, which would order the county clerk to hold a referendum in the area proposed for village status, Haas said.
If a majority votes “yes,” the new village would work to extend its borders to the rest of the town of Beloit, Haas said.Haas encouraged anyone with questions to contact him or elected town officials.