Washington council members have agreed to put the city annexation plan back on the table.
It’s not likely, however, that action to adopt a final plan or hold an election will be taken anytime soon.
After the council voted last December to drop the plan submitted by the planning and zoning commission, City Administrator Jim Briggs began meeting with individual members to learn their concerns about the plan and get input on how to proceed.
Briggs said Monday that there’s a very tight window of time to complete work if the council wants to put the issue on the August and November 2013 ballots.
There was no support from council members to rush to meet that deadline.
Instead, members favored scheduling a series of roundtable workshops to discuss all facets of the plan.
They agreed to hold workshops at 5:30 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month starting in April. While the workshops will be open to the public, the council will not take comments from citizens.
“For me, I’d like to have all eight people in the room,” said Councilman Jeff Mohesky who also serves on the planning commission. “I would have no time frame as long as we do the right thing. I don’t want to be under the gun. If we don’t set timetables there will be less stress.”
“We shouldn’t put a time on it,” said Councilman Joe Holtmeier. He said the council should hold workshops and talk to citizens.
“I don’t care if we take two years. We should take the time and get it right,” Holtmeier said.
“If we shoot for August 2014, we’ll have 1 1/2 years,” said Councilman Greg Skornia. That would give the council time to thoroughly study the issue.
“If we try to do it by August 2013 we will be rushed,” Skornia remarked. “We want to do it right.”
Briggs mentioned that timing is an issue in holding the two elections that will be required. Also, he noted that the cost of each election would be about $13,000.
If the elections are not held this fall, Briggs said he would not recommend holding an election in April 2014 when the mayor’s office will be on the ballot.
Mohesky asked Briggs what prompted bringing the annexation issue back up at this time.
Briggs said he was getting feedback from community leaders that the city should continue to move the issue forward in some form.
“I didn’t want it to die on the vine,” Briggs said.
“At some point, we need to know what the council wants,” Mayor Sandy Lucy said. “I think we have some common ground. I hope we can go about it in a better way and be methodical. If we want to hold the first election in August 2014, we need to have a timetable.”
Mohesky said he doesn’t think the planning commission needs to go back and review the plan again. “They’ve already told us their recommendations.”
Connie Groff, council member, earlier said the council made a mistake in voting to drop the plan after holding only a couple of workshops on the plan.
“We stopped the process,” Groff said. “I felt that was an injustice. We didn’t have all the results or information. We didn’t have the chance to ask questions.”
The planning commission took about a year to develop the annexation plan which called for taking in parcels of property to the west, south and east of the current city limits.