Pasco doughnut hole residents threaten secession vote

By Michelle Dupler, Tri-City HeraldJune 14, 2012 

Residents opposed to Pasco's proposed annexation of the doughnut hole area said if the city forces the issue as the city council discussed Monday, they'll just force a vote to secede.

Roger Lenk, one of the residents who has led opposition to the annexation, said at a public meeting held by the Franklin County Commission on Wednesday at TRAC that state law allows a vote to reduce the city boundaries.

And that's exactly what Lenk said he proposes to do -- at the city's expense -- if Pasco forces the issue.

Wednesday's meeting was a forum for residents to offer comment on a proposal to incorporate the doughnut hole as its own city -- a move some residents were hoping would stop Pasco from annexing them into the city.

Franklin County Commission Chairman Brad Peck said the county is not taking a position on incorporation or annexation, but was legally required by the state to offer residents a public forum.

Almost all of the roughly 200 people who attended the meeting raised their hands when asked if they favor having a vote on incorporation.

But some were concerned it might be a moot issue because the Pasco City Council on Monday discussed moving ahead with annexing part of the doughnut hole as a way of blocking the area from incorporating as a small city.

Pasco about a year ago announced its intentions to annex the roughly 4-square-mile area known as the "doughnut hole" using authority granted by utility agreements a majority of residents signed as they connected to city water and sewer lines.

Instead of going ahead with the annexation using the utility agreements, the city has pursued an annexation agreement with Fire District 3 and Franklin County.

But after some residents of the doughnut hole said they want to form their own city rather than be annexed, City Manager Gary Crutchfield suggested the city go ahead and use the utility agreements to start annexation of part of the doughnut hole.

Crutchfield told the council Monday that the proposed new city needs at least 3,000 residents to be eligible for an incorporation vote.

About 4,000 people live in the doughnut hole, but Crutchfield said the city can use the utility agreements to annex enough land to absorb more than 1,000 of those residents -- leaving fewer than 3,000 in the unincorporated area and killing their efforts to form a new city.

Mark MacFarland, who also has been a vocal opponent of annexation, encouraged people to attend the city council meeting Monday and tell them not to force an annexation.

He said if the city moves ahead, he'll join the effort to force a vote on de-annexation.

"I will do everything -- everything -- that is morally and legally appropriate to defend my rights," MacFarland said.

Resident Candy Hales was one of a few people who said they don't support incorporation.

Hales said she believes a new city would not have the tax base to survive on its own and that too many questions remain unanswered about how it would work.

"I believe we would pay more for the same services," she said. "We feel the value of our property and the quality of our lives would be dramatically reduced if we are incorporated."

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