Streator city manager Scot Wrighton talking to residents about annexation
Wednesday evenings informational meeting between residents of unincorporated Streator was less contentious than the meeting held last week but that doesn’t mean some sparks didn’t fly.
Streator city manager Scot Wrighton took every chance he could to make digs at and to criticize the Ottawa Times newspaper for its coverage of the controversial issue of the city trying to annex one area northeast of city limits and another southwest.
Several residents where still highly skeptical of the city’s desire to put them within the ospaces of the city, complete with an increase in their property taxes, so that the city can install sewer lines in an effort to get rid of some homeowners discharging their sewage into old mine shafts that run underneath the entire area.
Streator officials are looking at getting federal grant money via the Department of Housing and Urban Development and possibly the USDA to instal sewer lines in the two neighborhoods in exchange for the sewer system those residents would then be annexed into the city.
Wrighton repeatedly emphasized that if the city failed to secure the grants in a 3 year time frame no one in the effected areas would be subject to annexation. To date the city of Streator has not even begun to apply for any grant for the project.
Under the tentative plan homeowners in the two areas would be able to hook-up to the grant funded sewer lines at no cost, however some homeowners would have to pay what could be up to $10,000 to a plumber to connect their existing sewage to the new sewer line if it is too far away. Homeowners with pre-existing septic tanks, some of which Wrighton said were illegal because they lacked an over flow leech field, would also have to pay to have the tanks emptied once they were connected to the new sewer lines.
As at the meeting last week Wrighton conceded that the city not only wanted the sewage discharge into the mine issue resolved but to increase the city’s property tax base. The annexation if it happens would add some 7,000 people to the city’s population which currently sits at around 13,000.
Several residents offered alternative suggestions that would not include having the homeowners annexed into the city. Wrighton said that could be a possibility but wasn’t likely to happen as Streator policy is to only do sewer services for property within city limits and that the city council was very unlikely to change that policy because they want people who get one city service to get them all.
Many residents who reside outside city limits are fine and content with the services they are getting from area townships and neighboring fire departments and are not eager to be getting them from the city.
One person questioned how the annexation would effect Streator’s staffing and equipment levels for the police, fire, and public works departments. Wrighton said that the annexation, and all the possible new residents wouldn’t affect the fire or police departments much, the big increase in equipment and possibly manpower would come in the public works department just given the increase in the amount of roads and more that the city would become responsible for.