Council splits over request for annexation

Thursday, January 8, 2009

For the second meeting in a row, Cassville Mayor Tracy Holle was forced to break a tie in the face of another split vote between the four members of Cassville's city council.

On Monday night, city aldermen were divided over whether or not they should allow Larry and Gretchen Bussman, owners of Carquest Auto Parts and a private residence on Old Exeter Road, to rescind their request for voluntary annexation that was filed back on Oct. 9, 2008.

The paperwork signed by the Bussmans to annex into the city is labeled as an "irrevocable petition for voluntary annexation." According to Mayor Holle, the city made the request "irrevocable" to eliminate the potential problem of people deciding not to annex after the city had begun the annexation process, which carries with it associated costs that the city shoulders.

The Bussmans were asking the council to make an exception in the case of their annexation request and rescind it, because they said their desire to annex into the city was based on "misinformation."

Larry Bussman said his only motivation for annexing into the city was to keep his Old Exeter Road business address. He told the council he received notification from 911 that his address was being changed to a Farm Road address and he wanted to do whatever it would take to retain his old address.

Larry said he contacted City Clerk Kelly Paul about the situation and she told him the only way he could keep his old address was to annex into the city.

Paul clarified that she gave Bussman general information concerning his address situation.

"I told him the only way the city can control properties is if the property is in the city limits," said Paul. "That's the information I give everyone."

Bussman said he based his decision to annex solely on the information he received from Paul. He said he did not contact 911 for additional information.

It was a few weeks after the Bussmans signed the annexation request that they learned 911 was going to allow businesses along Old Exeter Road to keep their existing addresses.

"I'd never have signed the annexation request if I'd received the correct information," said Larry. "I do understand the council's desire to expand the city but these are not the correct circumstances.

"Our business is down because of the economy and the additional sales tax (2 percent for businesses located in the city) would be a burden to our business and to our family," added Larry.

Mayor Holle told the Bussmans that the couple's request put the city in a "difficult situation" because by rescinding an irrevocable document the city would be setting a "bad precedent."

Alderman Pete Landstad took a different approach to the issue, stating that he believed it would not be fair to force the Bussmans to annex in this particular situation.

"It's my feeling we have some extenuating circumstances and I think we need to vote this down," said Landstad. "There's the letter of the law and the spirit of the law, and we need to go with the spirit of the law in this case. If a party doesn't want to some into the city, we shouldn't make them, especially because their decision was based on misinformation."

Dennis Baker, the city's other north ward alderman, agreed with Landstad but said he would like to see the property come into the city.

"Unfortunately, what's fair should come into play," said Baker. " I think we should allow you to back out, although I truly wish you didn't feel that way. I respect that you got into this because of misinformation."

South Ward Aldermen Sue Brattin and Terry Heinz both expressed their opinions that the Bussmans' request for annexation should stand.

"You did sign an irrevocable document, and I think to reverse that document would make the city look wishy-washy," said Heinz. "It's your responsibility to verify the information you're given. It's not ours. I'm in favor of upholding the request to annex into the city."

Heinz then made a motion to approve the annexation request, and Brattin seconded it. Heinz and Brattin voted in favor of the measure and Landstad and Baker voted against it.

Mayor Holle cast a vote to break the tie in favor of approving the Bussmans' initial annexation request.

"If this town is ever going to expand and succeed, we're going to have to make some tough choices, and this is a tough choice," said Holle. "I've talked this over with the city attorney. This is an irrevocable request to annex, and I feel I have to vote yes on this."

City officials also voted in the same manner concerning the voluntary annexation request submitted by the Bussmans regarding their personal residence, which is also located on Old Exeter Road.

In other business, the council:

* Authorized the mayor to enter into an agreement with Regal Beloit to extend the city's lease purchase agreement to lease the existing manufacturing facility on Sale Barn Road for $9,000 a year. The agreement is a five-year contract that extends from Oct. 1, 2009, through Sept. 30, 2014. In a letter sent to City Attorney Don Cupps, Scott Schneier, Regal Beloit vice president, indicated that it is the company's intent "to continue operations at this facility."

* Approved an ordinance authorizing the mayor to execute a contract with the Missouri Department of Transportation for its Safe Routes to Schools grant that will finance construction of a new sidewalk on Highway Y linking the high school with the middle, intermediate and primary school campuses. Holle said two more easements need to be signed by property owners before the project can begin.

* Voted not to participate in the Show Me Green Sales Tax Holiday, which the Missouri legislature set for April 19 through April 25. This holiday exempts the sale of certain energy star-certified appliances from state tax during that week. If the city had opted to participate, consumers purchasing energy-efficient appliances during that time period would have also been exempt from city sales tax.

* Paid bills totalling $14,358.20.

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