Two propositions that would have eliminated recent annexations in Pasco and changed the city’s government to a strong mayor system appeared headed for failure Tuesday night.
Proposition 1 got only 1,122 “yes” votes, or just 27 percent of the tally, in the first results released by the Franklin County Auditor’s Office Tuesday evening, with 2,962 people voting “no” (73 percent). The measure, which requires 60 percent approval, would deannex an area of just over a square mile in west Pasco that was formerly part of the unincorporated “doughnut hole.”
The annexations became possible after 60 percent of the residents in the areas signed utility agreements with the city, which cause them to give up the right to oppose annexation.
“Welcome to the people who have been annexed to Pasco,” Mayor Matt Watkins said Tuesday night. “The people of Pasco have shown that we should remain one city.”
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Proposition 2 had 1,557 votes for (38 percent) and 2,525 against (62 percent). It needed 50 percent plus one vote and would have changed the city’s government to a mayor-council form from the current council-city manager system. Rejecting it would mean Pasco would stick with the council-manager system it has had since 1964.
City Manager Gray Crutchfield said he hopes the vote will end the distractions the city has faced.
“It’s certainly a relief and I’m pleased to see that kind of strong showing from the voters,” he said. “The voters essentially said they like what the city council has done.”
Watkins, who was appointed mayor by a vote of the council, said the vote was similar to the margin that initially approved the switch to the council-manager system nearly 50 years ago.
“People can put things on the ballot all they want, I just think that having a two-thirds vote shows that people here are happy with Pasco’s government,” he said.
Using the water agreements, Pasco annexed the first 41 acres in 2009. That included land near Road 76 and Court Street.
Then last year, the city annexed 608 acres and 1,450 residents. That generally included the area between roads 52 and 68, north of Sylvester Street and south of the Franklin County Irrigation District canal.
The propositions were organized by a group called Citizens for Lifestyle Preservation, co-founded by Roger Lenk and Mark MacFarlan, which was started in opposition to the annexations. Organizers collected well over the 888 signatures required to put the items on the ballot.
Before last year’s annexation, Lenk tried to organize a city of Riverview to keep the doughnut hole from being annexed. But the annexation left the unincorporated area without the 3,000 people needed to form a city.
Annexation opponents complained because they weren’t able to vote before being taken into the city, while supporters said they have known for years that the city wanted to eventually make the area surrounded by Pasco part of the city.
Annexation opponents also charged that Crutchfield, who has been city manager for three decades, had been there too long and wasn’t elected like a strong mayor would be.
But Crutchfield said the vote showed that Pasco residents trust the system in which council appoints a manager to run the day-to-day operations of the city.
“I run for election every Monday night, because my electorate is seven city council members,” he said.
The auditor’s office estimated it had 3,000 more votes to count as of Tuesday evening, though not all of them are in the city. The next count was scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Lenk could not be reached for comment Tuesday. MacFarlan declined comment until more of the votes are counted.