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City council talks annexation
La Grande City Councilors indicated Monday night they are interested in annexation but not forcing it on anyone.
Councilors, City Planner Mike Boquist and City Manager Robert Strope discussed annexation strategies during the work session. Boquist told councilors there are a couple approaches the city could use: group annexation or annex properties one by one.
“It’s where do we go from here?” Boquist asked Monday night.
The city attempted to annex property on the north side in November 2011. The ballot measure failed by a wide margin, with only 19 voters of 112 voting in favor of annexation.
“I’m not in favor of forcing annexation on anyone,” said Councilor John Bozarth.
Strope asked if the council would be open to a package of rate structures for water and sewer based on whether the city has a consent to annex form on file for the property. Currently, those who live outside La Grande city limits but within the Urban Growth Boundary pay double for water and sewer. In Strope’s proposed structure, those in the Urban Growth Boundary would pay double only if they have filed a consent to annex form. Those who have not would pay more.
Bozarth said he thought that sounded like the city would be threatening people to annex.
“I have a real problem with that,” he said.
Bozarth and other councilors said they would be OK, though, with an option that would require a consent to annex form for a new connection request or for re-activation of water and sewer for those living within the Urban Growth Boundary.
Boquist, Strope and several councilors noted that the issue is one of equity. Strope said non-residents derive benefits from the city without paying taxes for them.
“I think we almost have a responsibility to look at something,” said Councilor Gary Lillard, who noted that the budget committee recommended they look at annexation for revenue.
City tax revenue would increase from an annexation as would street user fee and gas tax revenue, officials said.
Boquist said group annexation would be easier for the city to save up consent forms and “bring in an entire block” at a time.