The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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July 22, 2012

Silver Creek residents look at pros, cons of consolidation

JOPLIN, Mo. — If one drives through the village of Silver Creek, it’s clear that something is simmering.

Some yards sport “Save Silver Creek” signs.

That’s the take of one village resident who so opposes a proposed consolidation of the village with Joplin that he paid for the signs himself.

Voters in both the village and Joplin will see the consolidation question on Aug. 7 ballots, and it will take a majority vote in both places for the measure to pass.

Resident Michael White paid $590 for the signs to spread his message. He said he had takers for all 50 of the signs he had printed.

White said there are several reasons he doesn’t want the consolidation question to pass, but the chief one is that he believes the village trustees worked on it under the table without a vote at a public meeting.

“We received a newsletter reporting it,” he said of the board’s decision to seek putting the village in Joplin’s city limits. He said that when he asked the trustees to specify when they had talked about it at an open meeting, they said it was in April or May, but he could not find it in meeting minutes.

Village board Chairman Pat Worley disputes that the board did not vote openly.

Worley said he approached Joplin city officials with the idea of consolidation, and that later they called him wanting to know how all the trustees felt about it.

“I took a straw poll on the phone,” he said. “I felt I had to respond” to the question by Joplin officials. Then the board took an official vote on the question at its next public meeting, he said.

Worley said consolidation would eliminate two headaches. One is code enforcement for properties that have issues. The other is the makeup of the board of trustees, which has had a lack of volunteers in recent years. Consolidation would dissolve the board.

Another hot issue is the cost of fire protection service.

White, who distributed the signs, is the assistant fire chief for the Redings Mill Fire Protection District, which stands to lose about $100,000 in funding a year from property taxes in the village.

Mike Hays,stet 3910 Ivy Lane, is a retired Joplin firefighter who has lived in the village 22 years. He said he moved there not for independence from Joplin but because his in-laws gave his wife and him the land on which to build a house.

Hays favors consolidation.

“It’s cost us at least $10,000 (over time) more to live out here” than in the city, he said. “I feel like the police and fire protection is better from the city. They’ve got paid departments on duty 24 hours a day.

“But another big thing that I see is that Silver Creek, continuing as its own entity, is losing the quality of the people who are willing to serve on the board for nothing. Joplin has a lot of employees to do things that are to your benefit that Silver Creek can’t afford.”

Those increased costs Hays talks about include extra money for sewer service. The village has debt payments on a $2 million sewer system, with residents paying about $43 a month. Joplin provides sewage treatment and has a surcharge outside the city limits of $7.45 for minimum usage.

Village residents pay about $150 a year in taxes that they wouldn’t pay in Joplin, village officials say.

“There certainly is a savings there, there’s no doubt” White agreed. “But I look back to the fact that I voted for the sewer tax” after having problems with his septic system. “I felt like it was something that needed to be done.”

Resident George Wagahoff, unlike some of his neighbors, is on the fence and may not get off.

“It’s six of one and half-dozen of another,” Wagahoff said of the consolidation proposal. “Personally, I don’t know how I’m going to vote. I may not even vote.”

He said he believes village residents pay too much for sewer service and fire protection, but joining the city of Joplin has drawbacks to him, such as requiring a burn permit for a leaf pile.

Hays said it’s true that some people feel as if they would lose a little bit of independence by coming into the city. But, it’s always been his opinion that the advantages outweigh that concern.

“I see these ‘Save Silver Creek’ signs, and I say ‘from what?’ and ‘for what?’” he said. “I don’t get it.”

Revenues

According to an analysis by Joplin’s finance director, Leslie Jones, the village of Silver Creek receives about $415,000 a year in revenue, which would cover the $400,000 in costs for Joplin to provide services there and pay the village’s sewer system debt.

‘Save Silver Creek’ rally

A rally for opponents of consolidation is planned for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 31, at the Apostolic Church at 3505 Silver Creek Road.

Silver Creek stats

Incorporated: 1955.

Population: 623.

Size: Three-quarters of a mile square.

Median home value: $157,253.

Source: city-data.com

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