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Mayor rebuked by area council

November 6, 2012

UNIOPOLIS — At Monday’s Uniopolis Council meeting, councilors discussed their disapproval of the actions of Mayor Bill Rolston concerning a letter he mailed out to village residents last week.

A letter circulated by the mayor was initially sent out last Tuesday, though several of the letters were retrieved to make grammatical corrections and then recirculated throughout last week. Uniopolis Post Master Link Noykos estimated there were approximately 90 letters.

On Oct. 30, a few residents in the village received a letter that read “Attention. This was never brought to the town people…. The Township could change (charge) $650 per house if it went to township because it would come under new housing for township. Pluse (Plus) the 3 mill.”

The letter is referring to possible changes in fees charged to residents if the village chooses to unincorporate Nov. 6 during the general election.

Rolston said he circulated the letter to better inform voters because the possibility of the extra charge was not discussed during the Oct. 1 first council meeting. Rolston is against the move.

Rolston said he got the information after speaking with a commissioner, but he later retracted that statement and said he did not plan to divulge the source of the information.

At the council meeting, Rolston still would not say the information was incorrect, only saying it was something that could happen, inferring that it wasn’t a definite move. He still stood by the information that residents could receive a $650 to $750 charge for new housing,

Councilor Elaine Wenning opened up the discussion, questioning the fact that the letters were distributed without council knowledge or approval.

“You are not supposed to be doing anything without council’s approval,” Wenning said.

Several council members felt the issue, along with the coverage by local television and newspapers, made the village look incompetent.

However, Rolston defended himself, saying he exercised his freedom of speech.

He also argued he did not present himself in a capacity as mayor of the village. The letter was unsigned, though Rolston has readily stated when asked that he was the source of the letters.

The confusion seems to come under zoning regulations for the Union Township. The township will take over governing of the village if the village chooses to unincorporate today in the election.

Rolston said it was possible the township could consider all village property as new construction, which requires a $750 permit for building. However, all three trustees attended the meeting, and all three insisted the statement was simply not true.

“Nothing was ever discussed like that,” Union Township Trustee Dale Miller said. “The only thing that has been discussed is that the $7,50 permit fee for a new house would stay in effect.”

Township trustees Kelly Knutzen and Steve Severt made comparable statements, and Severt said the township didn’t appreciate the letter being sent out.

“To be blasted from the side like that, it is not appreciated,” Severt said. “The township wants to go on record as saying we have made ourselves available. To put something out like that, I do not appreciate it — putting that out and not asking us about it.”

Village Solicitor Angie Elliott said zoning regulations are not even in place yet for the village and that zoning within the village would likely be different than throughout the rest of the township due to the buildings being so close together.

The issue upset enough councilors that they discussed the resignation of Rolston, saying they had several requests from village residents that the mayor should do so.

However, other councilors said with the vote looming today, it was better to let the vote go through and see what the voters have to say.

“To send it out at the last minute like that, that wasn’t right,” councilor Greg Ritchie said. “It made the township look like they were doing something shady. But I think the voters rare smart enough to figure it out. It’s the people’s opinion that counts.”

Other councilors said they thought possibly the mayor may have had good intentions, though they still agreed the information was false.

At the township’s September meeting, Township Zoning Inspector Chuck Copeland reminded the crowd that the large fee only was in effect for new single family dwellings, and likely would not come into play.

Copeland said it was unlikely there would be any new building within the village.

Miller said at the September meeting that if the village does choose to unincorporate, Choice One Engineering will likely be brought in and the area that now officially encompasses the village will likely have separate zoning regulations from the more rural parts of the township.

“We realize the same zoning will not work for in town,” Miller said.

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