Kelso City Council on Wednesday discussed the possibility of annexing four unincorporated pockets throughout the city, a move the city has been thinking about for at least ten years.
The process is in the early stages and the council took no formal action during the workshop, but a couple members of the public indicated that this move might be unpopular with residents.
The four unincorporated islands, known as the “McGowan Precinct,” total 198 acres with 266 households and 612 individuals.
There are three methods of annexation: election, petition and resolution. City officials recommended the resolution method because it is simpler and cheaper. The Council would pass a resolution to start the annexation process and then hold multiple public hearings before potentially adopting an ordinance.
City Manager Steve Taylor said the city has been discussing this topic for at least ten years.
“We have talked to Cowlitz County’s previous commissioners and now current commissioners, and we’ve received generally positive reception for this annexation,” Taylor said.
Despite the fact that Mayor David Futcher said annexation might not even happen, multiple residents from the unincorporated areas spoke about how much the residents did not want to join the city.
Barney Pundt, who said he owns property in area four, said it is not the right time for the city to annex the lands.
“Why grab land when you don’t have the resources to take care of that land?” Pundt said.
Councilman Rick Roberson said he does not see this action as a landgrab and argued that the residents have something to gain from annexation.
“Our police department is a little closer (than the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Department) and with them there you could have more patrols,” Roberson said. “If you got issues down there, Kelso’s going to be there in a heartbeat. Guarantee it.”
Becky Morkert, who also owns land in area four, said the roads in the county jurisdiction were far better than those on city lands.
“Part of the reason we don’t want section four to be annexed is because the county takes really good care of us,” Morkert said.
The council took no formal action and did not indicate an inclination either for or against annexation. City staff will present again at the July 18 meeting, but they proposed bringing a resolution to the council on Aug. 15 and holding a public hearing Oct. 17.
Officials recommended annexing the land effective Feb. 1, 2018.
Councilwoman Nancy Malone thanked the members of the public who spoke at the meeting.
“We need more citizens like you to come out and voice your opinions,” Malone said. “Come to our council meetings, listen to what we’re talking about and voice your opinions because we are here for you.”
The council also unanimously voted to appoint Rick VonRock to Todd McDaniel’s recently vacated seat.
McDaniel stepped down June 30 because he moved out of city boundaries. His old seat, Position Number Two, is up for reelection this fall. VonRock is not running for the seat, so he will only be filling in temporarily until a new councilmember is elected.
Councilman Jim Hill formally nominated VonRock and multiple council members voiced their support. VonRock was sworn in at the beginning of the meeting and participated in future discussions.
“I wasn’t at the last meeting, but this certainly is a great idea,” Roberson said. “There couldn’t be a better person.”