Disincorporation of Village of Baldwin to be on ballot
BALDWIN — A controversial move to place the disincorporation of the Village of Baldwin on the Aug. 7 primary ballot has met the required number of signatures of registered voters in the Village of Baldwin.
A Citizens Action Committee was formed last month to get the required number of signatures from Webber Township residents of the village as well as Pleasant Plains village residents. One of the main influences to disincorporate the village was the possibility of Baldwin becoming a city, an idea discussed by village council members, though not acted upon yet.
Both moves to become a city and to disincorporate the village are efforts to be free of multiple governing bodies within the village limits between the two townships and the village. Becoming a city would remove the townships from the incorporated area and disincorporating the village would dissolve the village council and other downtown authorities. The boundaries will stay the same if unincorporated, but responsibilities and services will fall on the townships within the boundaries, as will the village debt.
“On Wednesday, May 16, Webber Township had a special meeting to adopt a resolution to place on the ballot for Webber residents of the village to disincorporate the village,” said Webber Township Supervisor Ernie Wogatzke. “The clerk verified the correct amount of signatures of registered voters. The best option, in my opinion, is to remain a village, then we wouldn’t go through this process, but the village council is pushing for a city and people don’t like it.
“I can understand nobody likes change, but we got to this point from being bullied. The people’s power is in their vote, giving them a voice. This is a day of reckoning for being ignored by those in power. It is their choice to remain a village, move forward with a city or become an unincorporated town.
“As officials, we don’t have a vote on this issue. It is the citizens that live in the village that will vote on this. Townships remain neutral. We just provide information if needed.”
Pleasant Plains Supervisor Tammy Ghent said there were enough signatures in her township to move forward placing the dissolving of the village on the ballot.
“This move is not driven by the township boards at all. Our township residents who reside in the village are voicing their opinions. People want their voices heard regarding Baldwin becoming a city,” she said.
The ballot proposal would require two-thirds of voter approval in the village to pass. It would then be brought before the annual Lake County Board of Commissioners meeting in October to be finalized.
“We acknowledge signatures were turned in,” said Village of Baldwin President Jim Truxton. “We haven’t reviewed the validity of the signatures, but we will make an effort to do so. I intend to have public information meetings moving forward to give people information about what dissolving the village would entail.
“The process of disincorporation of the village is way more complicated than what is being sold to people. There are a lot of issues I don’t think some people thought through, such as the village being the authority over the Baldwin Housing Commission. The village also pays the road commission to take care of streets. If the village goes away, who is going to take care of streets, or Hollister Park?”
Truxton said people are worried about the village becoming a city overnight, but it is at least a three-year process with two referendums. He said people were worried about a city income tax, but he affirmed there wouldn’t be one.
“If the village dissolves, the townships don’t get more money, but they end up with a lot more responsibility,” he added.
Deborah Smith-Olson, of the Village of Baldwin Downtown Development Authority, feels the effort to dissolve the village is a dangerous move.
“I am very disappointed in the level of involvement of township officials interfering in the village of what should be the business of village residents,” she said. “I take it as a slap in the face for the work people have been doing for many years in order to create economic activity on a volunteer basis. I think there is a lot of misinformation and unclarity about the process for disincorporation, but it appears this process would divide assets between the townships while strapping the village for indebtedness outstanding.
“I think action to dissolve the village would interfere with the reopening of the GEO prison, the Baldwin Housing Commission and efforts to look like we are not abandoned downtown. Hopefully village residents will realize what a bad deal this is for them.”
With Baldwin being the county seat, some residents have questioned what will become of county services if the village is dissolved.
“According to information I got from our state representative, county services would remain in the unincorporated town of Baldwin, but village services would be eliminated,” Wogatzke said.
“The townships would pick up services. There also was concern about the county seat being replaced if the village of Baldwin was dissolved, but the unincorporated town of Leland is the county seat of Leelanau in the public act of 1875 appendix 336-337. While not common, there are other instances where unincorporated villages are the county seat.”