Commission backs Haysville residents' complaints

Criticizing state laws that allow forced annexation of unincorporated territory, Sedgwick County commissioners ruled Wednesday that Haysville failed to provide adequate services to a neighborhood it absorbed five years ago.

The commission finding is the first hurdle overcome for residents who want to secede from Haysville. These residents want to avoid special assessments for streets and utilities that they say would cost more than their properties are worth. In 2004, the residents lost a lawsuit in which they sought to avoid annexation.

Carol Neugent, director of government services in Haysville, said the residents probably won't face the level of assessments they fear and that "the city believes we have provided services in accordance with the service plan" that was filed with the annexation.

The plan calls for about $2.4 million in street, sewer and water improvements for the annexation area, which is between Broadway and the Kansas Turnpike on the north and south sides of Grand Avenue.

Divided equally, that amounts to about $200,000 for each property owner, said Daniel Benner, a lifelong resident of the area.

"There is no possible way I could afford that kind of money," he said. "My home is not worth $150,000."

Neugent said the costs would vary by property and that some of the paving could be done with citywide sales tax money.

Also, she said it's unlikely that major improvements would take place until someone petitions to subdivide their property and the costs would be spread over more residents.

But commissioner Gwen Welshimer said she didn't see what the residents are getting for the 30 mills in extra taxes they pay for being part of Haysville.

"The only things they've received have been police and fire (services), and they had police and fire from the county," she said.

Within certain constraints, state law allows cities to annex properties without the consent of the property owners or the county.

However, the law does require a city to file a plan for providing public services for its new residents and for the county commission to consider, five years after annexation, whether the city has followed through.

If the commission finds the services are inadequate, the area can be deannexed if the city doesn't correct the problem in 2 1/2 years, Assistant County Counselor Robert Parnacott said.

Welshimer was joined by commissioners Kelly Parks and Karl Peterjohn in the majority.

Commissioners Dave Unruh and Tim Norton, a former Haysville mayor, sided with the city.

Peterjohn urged the residents to contact their legislators and the governor's office to try to get the state law changed.

But he warned them that they'd have to fight the Kansas League of Municipalities, a coalition of most of the state's city governments, which opposes legislation to do away with forced annexation.