LAGRANGE — Plans for the village of LaGrange to secede from LaGrange Township have been put on hold.
In November, the two sides discussed the possibility of the secession, and what it would mean for the residents of both the village and township. The biggest sticking point was what would happen to the LaGrange Township Fire Department, which serves the village and the unincorporated parts of the township.
“We’re just trying to work out some issues with the township right now,” LaGrange Mayor Kim Strauss said. “I really can’t talk about the issues, but (secession) is on hold. I’m hoping we can work some things out with them, and then there’s the possibility we may not secede.”
Strauss has said village residents are paying nearly $70,000 of inside millage to the township, but aren’t getting any benefits from it due to laws regulating what work the township can do inside village limits. Township leaders have disputed the figures of how much inside millage village residents pay.
If the village were to secede, the levy that both township and village residents pay to fund the Fire Department would cease, meaning there would be no money coming in to run the department. Last year, the two sides discussed either creating a fire district or the village entering into a contract with township for the services of the Fire Department if the secession happened.
Either option, though, would still mean passing a new levy in both the village and the township to fund the Fire Department.
The current levy that funds the department expires in 2019, so Village Council had discussed moving forward with secession by the end of the year to avoid having to put a levy renewal on this year’s ballot and then having to put a new levy on the ballot, for both the village and township residents, a year or two later.
“If there was a secession, we’d need to get with our residents and explain to them why and what the reasoning is behind it,” Strauss said. “That’s something we’re working on, also, but first we’re going to try to work this out the township.”
Strauss said he and members of Village Council have spoken to several village residents about the issue and tried to answer their questions.
LaGrange Township Trustee Douglas Gardner said the township is open to sitting down and talking things through.
“At this point in time, we’d certainly like to work things out,” Gardner said. “I think it’s just an understanding of the two entities and we need to come together and talk about the impact we have on the community — from their side and our side. Maybe they don’t see what the township puts into the village, and that could be the same from the other side, too.
“We’re willing to sit down and talk with them; there’s not harm in that.”
Strauss said that the best scenario, in his opinion, would be for the village to not have to secede.
“If not, even if we secede, there’s still no animosity,” he said. “I hope that even if we do secede that we’d still do projects together, which we have done for years along with having bought equipment together and shared it. None of that would have to change. Basically, it would just be the taxing that would have to change.”