Saturday, Dec 03, 2016
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Swancreek Township: Trustees eyeing limited home rule

DELTA - Swancreek Township trustees are exploring a new form of government, a type of limited home rule that could offer some additional benefits to residents and the township.

Limited home rule government is an option for townships that have populations over 5,000, said trustee Randal Ruge. Home rule "provides for additional responsibilities on the part of the township that are not permissible under the present rules," he said. The township operates strictly under state law now.

Under home rule, the township could appoint its own law director, create a police department, and provide its own water and sewer services, he said. Electors in the township could place referendum issues on the ballot too. Those opportunities are not available under the current form of government; the services are provided by the county.

Mr. Ruge said he thinks some residents would like more police patrols. Instead of creating its own department, the township could contract for more services, such as through the sheriff's department, he said.

Provisions of home rule could encourage development and increase the township's tax base. Trustees in Swancreek Township, which has about 6,000 residents in the unincorporated area, are seeing more and more annexation of township land into Delta because the township lacks infrastructure needed to support development, he said. The township cannot install infrastructure now, he said, but could under the new form.

A committee to study home rule is expected to meet soon to begin discussing pros and cons. Members include Mr. Ruge, trustees Richard Stout and Jim Meyer, and three residents who volunteered to sit on the committee: Eric Farster, Kim Baker, and Chuck Stoncheck.

As part of the study, members will contact other entities that have adopted home rule, said Mr. Ruge. Mr. Stout said he hopes the report will give us some concrete reasons to consider home rule or not."

The committee will make a recommendation to the trustees, and if the majority votes to proceed, the issue would be put on the ballot. If trustees opt to keep the current form of government, residents can petition to get the issue on the ballot.

Phil Wiland, a former Swancreek Township trustee, is urging taxpayers to get involved and find out about the alternative form of government. Residents, he said, should pay close attention to discussions about limited home rule.

Mr. Wiland questioned whether residents would pay higher taxes under home rule.

No timetable has been set for the committee to complete its study, which will include benefits and costs, Mr. Ruge said. Ultimately, it will be up to the voters to decide whether to make the switch. He anticipates that trustees will decide before the end of the year on putting the issue on the ballot.

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