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Businesses worry city taking on too much with annexation

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Businesses worry city taking on too much with annexation
Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

Dickinson is trying to absorb one of the largest land areas to date, but the move is not sitting well with several business owners.

A public hearing regarding annexation of about 325 acres on the city's north end will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Monday at City Hall.

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The proposed annexation would begin just behind the water tower near Wal-Mart Supercenter and end at Northern Improvement Co., according to an e-mail from the city's Public Information Officer Bill Fahlsing.

Many business owners feel they are being forced into annexation and fear the move will ultimately hurt business.

But, city officials see things differently.

During an Oct. 4 City Commission meeting, Mayor Dennis Johnson said the city wants to see development in a more regulated manner to avoid negative aftermath down the road.

Johnson cited a trailer park on the city's south side.

"That was developed in the last oil boom outside the city standards and the city is not responsible for the streets down there ... we're not responsible for the water and sewer, but I can tell you someday, some city commission is going to say, 'We can no longer let that look the way it looks,' and the city is going to step in and take care of it and the taxpayers are going to pay for that when they really shouldn't have to," Johnson said. "And if we don't have better controls on how we develop north, someday we're going to be left with that too."

Of the landmass represented in the proposed annexation area, at least 75 percent of it must be approved for annexation to occur.

Johnson said it only takes 25 percent of landmass disapproval to stop the annexation.

One area in the proposed annexation is 163 acres.

During an Oct. 4 public hearing on the matter, one man asked if the city drew up the annexation lines the way it did as a method of preventing 25 percent from opposing the annexation.

Johnson responded "yes."

"That's what we're looking at," Johnson said.

Several feel the way the annexation lines were drawn is unfair.

"The public should be aware of what's going on," said Susie Andrus of Andrus Outdoors. "To come up here to force us into annexation ... I think its dirty rotten pool what they're doing."

Two entities signed a letter in favor of annexation, according to city documents.

Those with concerns were invited to submit public comment to the city and 16 were received, from both landowners and businesses.

Several say while they are in favor of city growth, they are not in favor of the methodology behind the proposed annexation.

Multiple businesses say annexation will cause their prices to increase and bring on additional costs due to future required infrastructure and higher taxes.

For some, it could mean a loss in business.

Mark and Mary Grove, who submitted a public comment letter on behalf of MGM Rural Sanitation, LLC, cited concerns that if the annexation were approved, the company "stands to lose a significant portion of our commercial customers as well as a substantial loss of income to our company."

A letter submitted by Steven and Londa Halvorson on behalf of Wyoming Casing Service, Inc., said "'stacking the deck' when the annexation boundaries were drawn to better ensure 75 percent passage of this annexation is self-serving and wrong. The boundary lines could be logically redrawn to make this a 'win-win' situation."

Ted Meyer of Meyer Industries LLC, fears business could be damaged from higher sales tax as a majority of his business is high dollar sales.

"So does that mean that $10,000 trailer set-up, now that extra percent and a half gives it to somebody in Stanley?" Meyer said.

The annexation would also affect Dickinson Rural Fire Department's funding, something Chief Curt Lefor says is a "big concern."

Lefor said slightly more than $4,000 would be lost in funding if the annexation were approved.

"Our total budget is $138,000 so yeah it's a good chunk off the top," Lefor said. "Each time they annex in we lose more (the district)."

Tom Kirchen, area manager and vice president of Northern Improvement, said while the company is not against annexation, they don't agree with how and why the city is going about it.

"They don't need to annex us at this time, they're not prepared for that," Kirchen said.

If approved, the annexation would become official in Feb. 2011 in which police and fire response services would be immediate, according to Fahlsing's e-mail.

However, it could take eight to nine months to design and construct infrastructure, but users won't pay for those services until they are built, according to Fahlsing's e-mail.

Some tax mills will be dropped if the annexation is approved and the first payment on new tax rates would be due in 2012, according to Fahlsing's e-mail.

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