TORRINGTON – The Torrington City Council discussed the possible annexation of property into city limits during the regular meeting on Tuesday.
The petition to initiate annexation of property located on 1501 East 20th Avenue to the City of Torrington is the first of several “islands” which the city hopes to incorporate into the town.
Kirk and Shelly Rutt, who own the property in question and are against the annexation, were present at the meeting along with their attorney Alyssa Coulson.
According to City Attorney James Eddington, when a governing body petitions for annexation of a property it is guided by Wyoming Statute 15-1-406 c. which allows the city to annex properties when they are “75% or more of the perimeter of the area to be annexed is contiguous to the corporate limits of the annexing city or town.”
Subsection c of the statute also overrides subsection b which requires “more than 50% of the landowners, or if a landowner or landowners owning more than fifty percent 50% of the area to be annexed file written objections with the clerk of the annexing municipality within 20 business days after the hearing under W.S. 15-1-405(a) no further action under W.S. 15-1-404 may be taken on any area within the proposed annexation within two years.”
Eddington said jurisdictional issues between the county and city is the main reason for these types of annexations. All islands have been identified and Eddington said they decided to do the Rutt’s property first because they are easy to get along and communicate with.
“It’s kind of a new procedure, it’s one that we haven’t done while I’ve been here,” Eddington said. “All annexations have been by consent by people wanting to come in.”
Eddington added island properties should be annexed to provide simplicity for first responders, primarily the police department, when responding to a call.
The property is currently surrounded by the city by at least 83% with the only property not owned by the city is also on the list to be annexed which puts it in accordance with subsection b of 15-1-406.
Eddington stated all city services will be logically and feasibly available to the property as well.
The actions recommended to the council were to accept the findings for annexation, comply with state statute and to approve the resolution to move forward with a public hearing at a future meeting. The same factors would be presented again at the public hearing.
Mayor Randy Adams asked Kirk Rutt what improvements were made on the property in the 50-plus years his family has owned it. Rutt said they have built a house and a commercial shop.
Adams said Rutt has been paying less property tax than those in city limits, and by annexing the property he would be “paying his fair share.”
“You may not see it that way, but I’d say that’s the case,” Adams said.
When Adams stated the city has been providing services to him without paying for it, Rutt said, “I did not ask for it either.”
Coulson addressed the council to explain why she and the Rutts believed the city could not annex the property. Coulson acknowledged the statutes are very convoluted and hard to follow but it does require landowners to receive a notice 20 business days before. Statute also sates residents within a half mile of the property should also receive a notice, but they did not.
Torrington Building Official Dennis Estes said the notice was delivered on March 29 for the meeting. Attorney Eddington also clarified the statute relating to giving landowners a notice is in regard to the public forum which would happen after the council approves the resolution to move forward with the process.
According to Coulson, the Rutts also did not receive the maps which the council was provided. Estes said he believed the maps were provided and could send it again before the next meeting.
Coulson also said annexing is supposed to benefit the city and the landowners, but they have chosen to live in the county for over 50 years.
“That’s a choice they made to stay in the county,” Coulson said. “They can ask to be annexed in just like other individuals can be asked to be annexed in or they could purchase a home that’s in city limits, but they haven’t done that in 50 years, and they have no intentions of living in the city.”
Coulson also argued the Rutts should not be forced to annex as a result of the city growing around them.
Councilman Rick Patterson said proper service should be done first before moving forward and motioned to table the action. The council approved the motion to table the decision until the next meeting.
The council also discussed the potential purchase of real estate on 217 West 20th Avenue. According to Estes, the city bought the building in the early 90s and was originally used as the ambulance shelter. The building is currently shared by the Moose Lodge and Subway with Pinnacle Bank in the same lot. The building also includes an apartment which the city used to rent out.
Estes said the main issue with the property is part of the building which is used by the Moose Lodge for storage. All of the electricity comes from the storage area which prevents the city from cutting it out of what the city owns.
Mayor Adams said the city has been trying to sell the building for a long time and currently have someone interested in purchasing it. The council had the option to either open it up for sealed bids or an auction. The council approved to move forward with sealed bids.
The council also approved four ordinances on third reading which included minors in licensed liquor establishments, restrictions on possessing and purchasing liquor or malt beverages and entry into liquor establishments, regulation of hours of operation for licensed liquor establishments and the regulation of solid waste in the city of Torrington.
In other action items, the council approved proclamations to make April 29 Arbor Day, May 1-7 as Drinking Water Week and May 21 as Kids to Parks Day as well as a bid for an articulating loader from Wyoming Machinery in Cheyenne for $228,960 and the financial report as of Dec. 31, 2021.
During the mayor’s informational items, Adams said the Goshen County Commissioners voted unanimously against the sixth penny infrastructure tax earlier on Tuesday.
“The issue was no doubt controversial, especially our request for a new swimming pool, but the smaller communities in particular have critical infrastructure needs that they cannot afford to address without some kind of assistance,” he said.
During public comment, Councilman Patterson addressed the recent announcement of becoming interim president of Eastern Wyoming College. Patterson said his new position will not affect his work as a councilmember.
“I just want to assure the voters that I will continue to do what I was elected to do,” Patterson said. “I will continue to do my duty as a city councilperson.”
Patterson also announced he is planning to run for mayor in the upcoming election since Mayor Adams will not be running again.
Before adjourning the meeting, the council moved to executive session for personnel reasons. After the executive session the council approved the recommendation from the Wage Committee for a reclassification and wage increase of the Facility Maintenance Supervisor.
The next regular meeting is May 3 at 7 p.m.