"Shove it up your annex!"
Those were the words one resident of the Franklin County doughnut hole had Monday evening for the Pasco City Council as he was led from the council chambers by Police Chief Bob Metzger.
Mayor Matt Watkins asked Metzger to escort the man, whose name was not given, out of the council meeting after he booed a speaker who favored Pasco's proposed annexation of the doughnut hole.
It was the only such outburst during the 90-minute meeting, but at least a few of the annexation's opponents may have had similar thoughts after the council voted 4-3 to start the annexation process.
Councilmen Al Yenney, Tom Larsen and Bob Hoffmann voted no.
About 80 people attended the meeting to find out whether the city would go ahead with annexing part of the doughnut hole to stop residents from incorporating as a new city.
About a year ago, Pasco announced its intentions to annex the 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 attempted to negotiate an annexation agreement with Fire District 3 and Franklin County.
City officials have said Franklin County agreed to participate in talks in September 2011 but then didn't respond to proposed terms provided in October.
Mayor Matt Watkins said during Monday's meeting that he had talked to Franklin County Commission Chairman Brad Peck and that Peck had said he didn't want to talk about the proposed annexation.
That prompted Peck, who said he had been watching the meeting on TV, to come down to City Hall to set Watkins straight.
Peck said that Franklin County wanted to stay neutral on annexation because the commissioners represent people on all sides of the issue and had decided to suspend discussions about an annexation agreement to give doughnut hole residents an opportunity to be heard.
"Perhaps your memory is flawed. Perhaps it's a half-truth. I'll give you credit that you're misremembering," Peck said to Watkins. "I would very much like to discuss this issue. I would like to debate you publicly. I don't think it's in the best interests of the citizens."
While annexation talks stalled, some doughnut hole residents in May said they wanted to form their own city rather than become part of Pasco.
That prompted Pasco City Manager Gary Crutchfield to suggest the city go ahead and use the utility agreements to start annexing part of the doughnut hole.
Crutchfield told the council a week ago 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.
Annexing a portion known as "Area 2" would do the trick, he said.
Annexation opponent Mark MacFarlan, who lives in Area 2, said he will continue gathering signatures to place an incorporation vote on the ballot despite the council's action.
"We deserve the vote -- a simple, basic vote," MacFarlan said. "I don't know how I'll vote. If (incorporation) doesn't work, I'm an educated individual. I won't sink myself or my family. ... I ask you to at least give us the vote."
Resident Bill Venema told the council he supports annexation because he thinks it's the most efficient way for doughnut hole residents to get services.
Venema criticized county commissioners for not upholding the county's decision two decades ago that the doughnut hole would be part of Pasco's eventual growth area.
He noted that the annexation had been planned for many years.
"I think we really need to remember that this has been a long process," Venema said.
But resident Jeff Hendler just wants the facts about annexation, incorporation or simply remaining in the county.
Hendler said he'd like to see representatives for each of the three options to prepare their cases and convince him what's in it for him to agree to any of them.
"I want to be wooed in this courtship," Hendler said.
The next step in annexation is for the city council to set a date for a public hearing.
-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org