Carbondale Council discusses rejection of Park District merger and Walker’s Bluff sewage system | Government and politics
CARBONDALE — Carbondale City Council discussed Tuesday the Park District’s rejection of a potential city merger and intergovernmental agreement with Blairsville Water District to provide sewer service to Walker’s Bluff.
The Park District sent a one-page letter to the city council rejecting the possible merger between itself and the city.
In the April 2019 municipal election ballot, an advisory referendum asked Carbondale voters “should the Town of Carbondale and the District of Carbondale Park consider merging their operations?”; the result of the referendum was that 71% of voters said “yes” and 29% said “no”, according to city documents provided to the public.
After the election, many meetings took place between the full boards of each tax agency and also between smaller committees.
As no resolutions were made from these meetings, the City Council directed staff to prepare a proposal to present to the District of Carbondale Park to initiate a process to begin working together to explore and analyze the potential risks and benefits of the merger, according to board documents. .
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City Manager Gary Williams received a response from the Park District on January 19. This letter rejected the proposal and was discussed at the February 8 meeting.
“We do not believe that the merger of these two government agencies will provide Carbondale residents with the best possible services,” the Park District wrote. “The Carbondale Park District will look to continue to facilitate future cooperation with the Town of Carbondale on projects that benefit the Carbondale community, such as the Carbondale Splash Park and more recently the improvements to Evergreen Park.”
Councilman Adam Loos said when 71% of the public voted to explore it, it is the public’s duty to explore a merger.
“You have a duty to the public to conduct fair and reasonable exploration,” Loos said. “And if the result of that exploration is, no, that’s not a good idea, that’s the prerogative of any member of the city council or the park district board, that’s fair enough. But I think that you also owe the audience an explanation of why.
Loos said public money has been wasted in the Park District and the city should no longer “activate” the district. Loos suggested proposing a final joint meeting with the district.
Councilor Carolin Harvey asked during the discussion what the district’s hesitation was and whether or not the city would bear some of the costs it would incur if a merger occurs.
Mayor Mike Henry said Evergreen Park, which is mentioned in the letter, was in terrible shape before the city helped fix it. He said he wasn’t interested in sitting down with the district again.
“I think they’re happy we’re covering their costs because they’re going to fail miserably if they carry on like they’re doing,” Henry said. “But I agree that we need to cancel all the leases we can and take care of the park.”
Harvey suggested another meeting with the new Park District superintendent to explain the council’s position once it is selected. Henry said there was nothing stopping them from going five years without hiring a manager.
The City voted to enter into the intergovernmental agreement with Blairsville Water District to provide sanitary sewer service to Walker’s Bluff for the next 20 years, after council debate and two opposition votes.
The sewer will extend five miles from the casino site to the existing sewer at Reed Station Road on Highway 13, Williams said. He said the projected annual sewer fee is about $70,000 per year and that will give them potential for annexation on Reed Station Rd. There are no upfront costs to the city, but there there will be maintenance costs, he said.
Loos said he was against the measure because Walker’s Bluff gets a special deal on that sewer system because others who hook into the system have to annex to the city or sign an annexation agreement.
“Walker’s Bluff does neither,” Loos said. “Why we should commit to a special deal for a big company, especially one that’s going to run a casino that’s just another way to plunder the poor’s money, is beyond me.”
Loos and Councilwoman Ginger Rye Sanders voted no to the motion, all other council members voted yes, and the motion passed.
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