Dissolving village prompts response

UNIOPOLIS — Nearly 60 residents attended the Uniopolis Village Council meeting Monday to ask questions and get details on different scenarios as a vote to surrender the village’s corporate powers quickly approaches in November.

Most people in attendance expressed comments backing the move to unincorporate the village as the best financial scenario for the village and its residents. However, several addressed concerns for the switch, which would surrender governing powers to the Union Township Trustees.

One resident expressed his outright dismay for the move and directed his anger towards Councilor Greg Ritchie and Village Solicitor Bob Fitzgerald.

Bill Scheele, 287 High St., who said he had lived in the village for six years, said he wanted to know what the village would do if the vote went down.

“What happens if we vote it down, for those of us that don’t want it,” Scheele said, looking directly at Ritchie. “Don’t give me your funny look. Don’t be glaring at me. You’re the one that sold us out.”

Councilor Elaine Wenning said the village was at its financial end and was trying to do what was right.

“Are you going to pay a 10-mill levy to help keep the village going,” Wenning said. “That is what it would take.”

Scheele said he didn’t mind paying a little extra.

Fitzgerald then got into the conversation.

“Let me tell you the realities,” Fitzgerald said. “A lot of people are blaming the police department. The reality is the council saw this coming. They had the good sense to bring it to the village for a vote. Who knows, maybe (Gov. John) Kasich will leave office or maybe the economy will get back on track, but if you believe that, I have a couple bridges for sale.”

Mayor Bill Rolston explained the village still had enough money right now to run for two years, but other councilors felt they were doing the right thing putting it up for a vote with the village.

“We are trying to do this the least expensive way,” Ritchie said. “We want to turn it over to the township while there still are some assets.”

“We see the writing on the wall,” Councilor Marilyn Fleck said. “We don’t like it, but we are doing what needs to be done.”

Fitzgerald explained the village did in fact have enough money to keep running for two years, but he said the village would eventually run out of money to operate if things did not change.

“We are currently spending about $9,000 to $10,000 a month,” Fitzgerald said. “You are running through the money. In about 28 months you will have spent all of the money and all of the reserves. If we show up just to pay to mow the lawn, snow removal, the electric bill and go home, are we really doing the village a service.”

Ways of raising additional income were discussed, such as incorporating some businesses or homes into the corporation limits. Some of the businesses discussed were Arrowhead Estates, Miller Brothers, or a storage facility for KISS Insulated Seamless Siding.

However, owners of Arrowhead Estates and Miller Brothers have expressed no interest into being incorporated, and the storage facility was determined to have little impact on adding additional funds.

Also, township trustees present at the meeting said they would challenge losing the tax base for the three entities to the village.

Questions concerning who would oversee managing the sewer system were brought up, and councilors told the attending group that the county would assume duties for maintaining the sewer.

One question yet to be answered is the impact of a 3-mill levy currently placed on the township for fire protection with the Uniopolis Fire Department. Township Trustee Kelly Knutzen said the township has discussed the matter with Auglaize County Auditor Janet Schuler and Prosecuting Attorney Edwin Pierce, but they have not yet received an definitive answer yet.

The township will lose an ongoing contract in which the village pays $12,000 for fire protection annually. If the village incorporates and the addition of the 90-plus village homes are viewed as new buildings to the township by legal definition, the township would receive a small increase in real estate property tax income. However, if the residences are not viewed as new buildings, the township would lose out on the $12,000 while still being responsible for fire protection in the area.

“The truth is, the village will not go away,” Fitzgerald said. “Your neighbors will still be there. Your friends will still be there.”

If the move to surrender corporate powers is approved by voters, the village would still operate as a corporation until around April or May while the books are audited and business is closed. The mayor, the village clerk and the village solicitor were scheduled to responsible for the finances until the books are closed.

The village also signed a 1-year contract with the fire department for $12,000 to cover fire coverage into the new year if the village is unincoprated.

Knutzen thanked the councilors for taking action with the township in mind and trying to pay off bills and hand over as many assets was possible to not put a drain on the townships already dwindling resources.

“We are facing the same problems everyone else is,” Knutzen said.