Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Annexation of Sanctuary Results in Hidden, Unbudgeted Costs for North Canton

Prepared Comments Made to
June 12, 2006

Last Monday night, June 5, 2006, I sat in this chamber as a spectator to observe the actions of the North Canton City Council. I have attended council meetings regularly since serving as an at-Large councilman myself in 2002 term. I would like to tell this council publicly, that it is getting more and more difficult to sit in the audience and watch as agreements are made and funds are expended with no regard or concern for the taxpayers of the City of North Canton.

Last Monday, I heard the other shoe drop as Councilman Jon Snyder revealed his plan to purchase the water distribution rights for the Sanctuary for a price “a little south of $500,000.” And Mr. Snyder wants to rush this plan through council on “an emergency.”

Councilmember Snyder is the former President of Council under whom not one but two pieces of legislation were passed that has put this city in this very predicament. Why would council consider following this course of action? Three wrongs do not make a right!

The genesis of the circumstances allowing the Sanctuary to be served water by a competing water provider is found in legislation passed in 2003. It is Ordinance No. 49-03 and had council approval as the Community and Economic Development Agreement, commonly referred to by the acronym, CEDA.

I was a member of the council body at that time and I was the lone council member to vote against the CEDA. I had many reasons for voting against the CEDA and one of those reasons is that there was nothing “economic” about the agreement that was hailed as a great step forward for North Canton’s first CEDA agreement.

Plain Township negotiated a moratorium on future annexations in the CEDA agreement.

The developers of the Sanctuary, McKinley Development, Ltd., who by the way drafted the agreement, negotiated terms in the agreement in their favor.

What did the City of North Canton negotiate on behalf of the city and its citizens? NOTHING!

Passage of legislation approving the very first CEDA for the City of North Canton was all the glory the supporters of that piece of legislation needed when the CEDA was passed on council on May 12, 2003.

Unfortunately, the CEDA legislation put this city at a disadvantage!

But council, again under the leadership of Council President Jon Snyder apparently wanted to make a bad deal worse with approval of another bad deal. This was passage of Ordinance No. 183-05 on September 12, 2005.

This was a contract agreement to sell water to Aqua Ohio, the competing water provider, who in turn would be selling water inside the city limits to North Canton residents.

The legislation approving the water agreement with Aqua Ohio put this city at an even greater disadvantage!

Earlier, I referred to the fact that last week “I heard the other shoe drop.” This probably needs an explanation.

Three years ago, when council passed legislation approving the CEDA, there was no indication that annexation of the Sanctuary would require the expenditure of taxpayer funds in excess of one million dollars. Not one word. Not a hint that annexation would result in the need for the expenditure of monies by the City of North Canton on behalf of the development of the Sanctuary.

Last year the City of North Canton passed Ordinance No. 183-05 authorizing the expenditure of $1,200,000 for the construction of the Marquardt Sanitary Sewer project. Of that total, the Metropolitan Sewer District contributed $290,000, the developer, McKinley Development, Ltd., contributed $265,000. The balance of the costs, $645,000 was borne by the City of North Canton. This was the first shoe dropping.

The other shoe that is about to drop is the proposed expenditure of what Councilmember Jon Snyder described as “a little south of $500,000” to purchase the water rights to the Sanctuary.

If that expenditure is approved by this council, that will result in a cumulative expenditure of $1,145,000 by the City of North Canton on behalf of the development of the Sanctuary.

My exact comments from the council minutes of May12, 2003, regarding the CEDA were: “This CEDA is a community economic development agreement and there are no economies shared in this between Plain Township and North Canton… they’re all developer issues.”

Well, it looks like the developer issues I referred to in 2003 have become “BIG” dollar issues for the City of North Canton. I wonder why?

What was the motive for the inept legislation that council has passed, not once but twice regarding the development of the Sanctuary? I ask that this council not cure past missteps of council with another expenditure of city funds.

There is another option for the city which was discussed in a May 15, 2006, public meeting with representatives of Aqua Ohio. I urge this council to pursue that avenue.

According to a Repository report on April 7, 2006, regarding Mayor David Held’s State of the City address, the City of North Canton has outspent its revenue for the last three years. Continued expenditures that are unbudgeted such as the proposed expenditures for a little south of $500,000 will make this a fourth year of reckless spending.

How many more years can this city continue to outspend its revenue?

How many more failed council actions such as passage of the CEDA or passage of the Aqua Water agreement can the City of North Canton survive?

I ask you to solve this issue without paying out hundreds of thousands of dollars as recommended by Councilmember Jon Snyder.

Thank you
Chuck Osborne
City of North Canton