SHAWNEE TOWNSHIP — Fort Shawnee officials held a town hall meeting at Apollo Career Center Wednesday evening, highlighting what would be affected if the village dissolved by voting to disincorporate the municipality next month, focusing in on the fate of the current water contract with the city of Lima and the loss of police.
The crowd of about 150 people listened to Fort Shawnee Mayor Pete Mariotti as he reviewed the water contract, administrative changes and property taxes he said would be up in the air or scaled back if the disincorporation occurs.
The meeting was held partially in response to a town meeting organized by the disincorporate vote group held Oct. 11 at Shawnee High School, where Shawnee Township officials and auditors at the county and state levels were represented, but not Fort Shawnee officials.
As far as police coverage, Mariotti said 12 police officers make up the Shawnee Township force, with 16 officers in the village. He said only one additional police officer would be hired to the 12 police officers that patrol the area if disincorporation occurs, which he said would severely weaken the police force. However, Shawnee Township Trustee Chairman Dave Belton said a full squad car would be hired, one officer for each of three daily shifts.
Mariotti also said because Fort Shawnee owns the water lines and not the city, as had been stated in the previous meeting, it leaves the payment for those in limbo. With more than 50 years left in a 75-year water contract with the city of Lima, where rates are fixed unless the city raises prices, what’s next is unknown.
“It makes it more complicated and it’s going to extend the time of disincorporation,” Mariotti said of the water contracting issue. “The thing with the water lines is any future revenue gained from those water lines, they go to benefit this community, would be lost. It’s not going to benefit the community anymore. The money they used to pay off the water lines actually paid the bill that installed the water lines. Any future extension of those lines, tap fees, any subdivisions for each one of those houses tapped into that water line, that can all go into a fund and reimburse the residents.”
The approximately $3.5 million that residents have paid over the last decade and a half to have water lines installed is worth $6 million now.
“Is it worth giving away $6 million in water lines that are owned by Fort Shawnee?” Mariotti said.
However Belton, who was in attendance and a primary speaker at the Oct. 11 town meeting, said he believes the water contract is a non issue.
“You certainly aren’t going to take your water line with you when you sell your home. It’s just common sense. It’s an investment in the community,” Belton said. “We have the same investments that were placed into our communities when the water lines were going in, along with contracts with the city…. It didn’t say you owned the water line. There was no mention that you actually owned the water line. It was the cost of putting the water lines in.”
Belton also said he was upset and offended at some of the claims that were made in a letter sent to Fort Shawnee residents earlier this week. The letter said that it could take Shawnee Township a year to turn street lights back on, that “the Fort will be the step child of the Townhip and they will patrol our streets in their spare time,” and that Fort Shawnee residents would pay more taxes for less police coverage.
There were other issues discussed, since the prospect of disincorporation is a complicated, multi-year transitioning process.
“The liabilities that we have to pay versus the assets is another complication that has to be settled before the village is disincorporated. That’s significant,” Mariotti said. “It’s not Nov. 6, you vote and Nov. 7 someone waves a magic wand and everything is taken care of.”
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