While we’re all about Gardner’s recent “annexation bonanza,” we’re a bit concerned about the fast and furious deals being made with little public oversight or discussion.
Sept. 3, the council approved a 261 acre annexation as part of the consent agenda. The consent agenda usually contains five or six vetted items, such as equipment purchase, previously discussed business, or bill payment. It’s odd to see a large annexation passed in a consent agenda with no prior discussion.
But it was. The quickie annexation for property at 175th and Clare Rd. was also contingent on the city coming up with a plan the developers would approve – within 30 days.
And Gardner did. Replete with a 75 percent 10 year property tax abatement, the issuance of Industrial Revenue Bonds and a special benefit district to finance the project and a Community Improvement District.
And the “annexation bonanza” didn’t stop there. At the Oct. 7 meeting, the council quickly annexed another 500 acres along 199th St. The annexation did not appear on the city’s published agenda; rather it was added late afternoon before the meeting. There was little discussion, and the annexation passed unanimously.
The city also tried to hop county lines and do a quickie annexation of the Hillsdale Water treatment plant – in Miami County – but have been delayed by the Miami County Commission.
While it’s important for Gardner to annex, it’s also important to do things the correct way and exercise caution.
It’s a bit concerning when council members consistently thank a fluid group of area officials who work behind the scenes to “build bridges.” The public has the right to know who, and how, they are being represented.
It’s also concerning that the council thanked Jim Pruetting, city administrator, for work done prior to his hire for making some of the annexations come to fruition. Pruetting was a part of the “bridging the gap” group that helped unseat the former city administrator and cost taxpayers $350,000 for a contract buyout.
It’s also worth noting that the recent “annexation bonanza” nets Pruetting a $7,500 bonus.
It seems Pruetting is accomplishing what this council hired him to do; but we urge caution and transparency when making such large, quick annexations.
We’re curious why there isn’t a chance for more public discussion. Adding 500 acres at the last minute, or passing 289 thru in a consent agenda, is unusual and makes us go “hhhmmmm.”
The devil is always in the details.