Vote stays the same

UNIOPOLIS — The attempt to unincorporate the village of Uniopolis was officially stopped by voters as Auglaize County Election Board members certified the election results on Tuesday.

Overall, the measure was defeated by a 60-57 vote, with three undervotes. The measure failed by one vote unofficially on Election Day before provisional ballots were counted. The vote was 56-55 on Nov. 6.

However, the issue does not seem to be over yet.

Several councilors are considering putting the issue on the ballot again in an upcoming election, possibly as soon as May.

“There is the possibility it will be put back on the ballot,” Uniopolis Village Council member Marilyn Fleck said.

With the defeat of the measure, the Union Township trustees, who would have assumed control of the village, said they plan to go on as usual but keep an eye on developments.

“We will go on as usual, trustee Steve Severt said. “We don’t know how long they will hang on. We’ve been told they will sooner or later run out of money. And we have heard about the possibility of it being on again in the May election.”

Uniopolis Mayor Bill Rolston and village councilors agreed the topic of the unincorporating or surrendering corporate powers to the township as well as the vote would be a main point of discussion at the Dec. 3 council meeting.

Since a week before the election, councilors and Rolston have been at odds over information sent out in a letter by the mayor. The letter was unsigned, but Rolston confirmed he was the originator of the letter.

The letter read, “Attention. This was never brought to the town people…. The Township could change (sic) $650 per house if it went to township because it would come under new housing for township. Pluse (sic) the 3 mill.”

The letter is referring to possible changes in fees charged to residents if the village choose to surrender its corporate powers to Union Township with their vote Nov. 6. 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 later retracted his statement saying he received information from a county commissioner, but he still stands by the information that residents could receive a $650 to $750 charge for new housing. He now says he heard it from a reliable source.

Union Township trustees, county officials, and village officials all have said they do not know where the number comes from or for what the charge would be.

Councilors said Rolston may have misled the public in an attempt to get the results he wanted during the election. The disagreement reached a peak at the Nov. 5 council meeting, including some council members voicing their desire for the mayor to resign.

Rolston says his actions were done with the benefit of the town in mind.  Rolston has stated the letter he sent out did not influence the vote. However, early voting saw the move being supported by a 71-to-29 percent margin.

On Election Day, shortly after the letter was circulated, the move failed by a 55 to 45 percent tally, suggesting that the letter had a big impact on people’s decisions.

The absentee voting favored unincorporation by a 12 to 5 vote, which are votes cast prior to Election Day. The actual vote on Election Day was 51 to remain a village and 43 for unincorporation. Provisional ballots, which are ballots cast but the voter’s status needs to be checked and typically are cast Election Day called for remaining a village 4 to 2 for an overall total of 60 to 57.

At an earlier council meeting, councilors said the move to unincorporate is the responsible thing to do, considering the village’s financial situation.

“We used to get around $85,000 per year now they have cut us down to $45,000,” Councilor Elaine Wenning said about Local Government Funds from the state. “Next year we will be down to $33,000.”

Councilors have debated that it is quickly getting to the point where they have just enough money to meet and pay bills, without doing anything else further for villagers.

Rolston also said he doesn’t expect the decrease in funding to continue.

“I think things will eventually come around,” Rolston said. “I think the economy is recovering and the Local Government Funds will pick back up.”

He said it was time for the council to get down to some serious business and said he felt a move to put the issue back on the ballot would just cost more money that they could use to run the village.

He said he felt the council jumped into things too quickly and should have hired a consultant to discuss the issue before putting it to a vote.