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Aurora

Bloomfield, your village is waiting


Elections, shared service discussions likely once state certifies referendum



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Chairman's reaction recalls how it all began - BLOOMFIELD — Town Chairman Ken Monroe said he was happy when he heard the vote was 547-146 in favor of the Nov. 8 special referendum to incorporate a 12-square-mile region of his community as a village. But "happy" is probably an understatement. Monroe has been at the front of this effort, which can be traced back as far as 2006, when officials and town residents who supported the idea of becoming a village started to organize. At first, it appeared the effort was over before it could get started. In 2007, the results of a survey prompted the Town Board to nix the incorporation idea. But in April 2008, a group of residents presented the board with a petition of 645 signatures. The petition directed the board to take another look at incorporation. About four months later, the town filed a petition to turn an 18-square-mile region of Bloomfield into a village. But the effort hit another snag when the city of Lake Geneva and the village of Genoa City filed motions to intervene in Bloomfield's incorporation request. Lake Geneva and Genoa City officials at that time cited concerns the proposed Bloomfield village would stifle future growth in their communities. Officials from all three communities attempted to negotiate a border agreement, but were unsuccessful. In June 2010, the state Department of Administration determined the 21-square-mile Bloomfield village proposal didn't meet incorporation requirements, but asked the town to refile a request to incorporate a smaller region of the town. On Dec. 20, 2010, petitioner Doug Mushel filed a request to turn a 12-square-mile region of the town northeast of Highway H into a village. This time, Lake Geneva and Genoa City's attempts to intervene were declined by Walworth County Circuit Court Judge John Race. The DOA also determined the modified request met state requirements. During a Dec. 1 telephone interview, Monroe said the biggest factor which motivated this effort was the fear of losing town land by annexation. State law allows cities and villages to annex land from nearby towns at a property owner's request. "The biggest part of this I've always made clear to the people is we have to secure our borders," Monroe said. "Being a village secures our borders."
December 07, 2011 | 07:39 AM
BLOOMFIELD — It's been a month since town residents approved a referendum to turn a 12-square-mile region northeast of Highway H into a village by a vote of 547-146.

But it's not a village yet.

So, what's the hold-up? Essentially, the holidays, according to Bloomfield Town Chairman Ken Monroe.

During a Dec. 1 telephone interview, Monroe explained what he believes to be the final step in the incorporation process.

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According to Monroe, Bloomfield Town Clerk Martie Wells has to take the Nov. 8 referendum election results to Walworth County Court Clerk Sheila Reiff, who then is expected to send those results to the secretary of state for certification.

Monroe said he believes once the secretary of state signs the certification, an election to select town and village officials must occur in 40 to 50 days.

He said he also believes the secretary of state has 10 days to certify the election results once they are submitted.

"We have to hold elections, of course, but we would be having them in December if we sent (the election results) in right away," Monroe said. "By waiting, we'd be past the holidays."

But soon, the wait will be over. He said Wells is expected to submit the results to Reiff later this week, and the hope is to hold elections between the end of January and the beginning of February.

"We're hoping the (court) clerk mails it to the secretary of state on the 12th," Monroe said. "We hope he signs it by between Dec. 14 and 16."

He said it's up to Reiff to set the date for the election after the secretary of state certifies the results.

With the fate of a process which has taken Bloomfield officials and incorporation proponents years to complete resting on the secretary of state's shoulders, Monroe didn't sound worried.

"The biggest thing right now is this certification," Monroe said. "I can't imagine (the election results) would be turned down. Ö All he has to do now is sign it."

After certification

If the secretary of state does what's expected, then the work begins.

Two of the major factors of becoming a village will be elections and establishing shared service agreements between the village and the town.

At least two town of Bloomfield officials aren't entirely sure how things proceed. Last week, Wells summed up the entire process of becoming a village when she said, "It's like reinventing the wheel."

Monroe couldn't answer several questions Dec. 1 because he said it's too early to tell.

As for elections, he said state law dictates the number of members for the town and village boards of Bloomfield.

Monroe said the Bloomfield Town Board — which is running local government until the elections occur — can remain at five members. Of those members, two live in the new village — Monroe and Supervisor William Holder. Supervisors Tom Sullivan, Sue Leedle and Dan Schoonover live in the remaining town of Bloomfield.

Monroe predicted the new town board may take steps to reduce the number of its members to three because of the remaining town population being smaller than the that of the new village.

Monroe also said the Bloomfield Village Board would consist of five members — four trustees and a village president.

So far, candidates have yet to publicly emerge, which wouldn't be uncommon considering the elections aren't scheduled yet. But Monroe, a longtime Bloomfield Town Board member and town chairman for the past several years, likely would be eligible to run for a spot on the Village Board.

"I've given it some thought, but I haven't made up my mind," he said. "I probably won't until I find out exactly how all of this is going to go down."

Assets

Another somewhat gray area is the division of assets. Once that's done, will one community pay the other for services?

Monroe said this hasn't yet been worked out, and it wouldn't be until the state certifies the incorporation.

"Right now, we're having our attorneys work out a tentative agreement between the village and the town," he said.

But it appears what the town has now is what it will have once the village of Bloomfield officially is formed.

"Everything will still be the town's — police, public works, even the clerk and treasurer," Monroe said.

However, a significant curve ball could be thrown, not by the state, county or local officials, but by town property owners.

The idea of a "sham incorporation" has been discussed during previous public meetings.

State law allows villages and cities to annex land from nearby towns at a property owner's request. In Bloomfield's case, it's conceivable those who own land in the remaining town can request to be annexed into the new village.

If everyone who owns land in the remaining town asks to be annexed by the village of Bloomfield, what does that do to the need for shared service agreements or potentially splitting up assets?

Monroe said they have to proceed as if that's not going to happen.

"We still need service agreements," he said. "We're still two separate entities, even if these (annexation) requests are made."

But will there be a large number of annexation requests once the village becomes certified?

"To be honest, I don't know what's going to happen," Monroe said.

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