LAGRANGE — The battle between LaGrange village and LaGrange Township over the village’s possible secession from the township appears to be coming to a head.
Earlier this week, township trustees sent a letter to the village in response to an ultimatum the Village Council gave at a trustees meeting last month when several council members attended a trustees meeting.
“The Township is unable to accede to the demands that it assumes responsibility for cemetery and park expenses,” the letter signed by Doug Gardner, the chairman of the LaGrange Township Trustees, said. “Although the Trustees believe separation creates issues of concern for both entities, they have grown weary of the continued unsubstantiated criticism directed towards the Township.”
Law month, Village Council President Gary Kincannon told the trustees the village would like the township to pay the village’s share of the maintenance costs of the LaGrange Community Park and continue maintenance on the cemetery property that lies within the boundaries of the village. If the township refused, then the village would proceed with seceding from the township.
The village has claimed that its residents pay about $60,000 of inside millage each year to the township, but the residents don’t see any benefits from those taxes. Township leaders have disputed the figures of how much inside millage village residents pay.
“What we’re trying to do is indicate to them that they are receiving a value for their inside millage and being a part of the township,” Garnder said in a phone interview. “It’s not a lopsided thing. It’s not like we’re getting money and they’re getting nothing in return.”
Kincannon said the Village Council has not had a chance to discuss the letter but expects that it will be discussed at the next council meeting, scheduled for Thursday night.
“We need to talk about it,” he said. “It seems like they’re trying to justify the inside millage based upon how much they’re saying we used the fire and rescue. We need to find the figures that really back that up.”
In the letter to the village, the trustees say that in 2017,
59 percent of the 602 calls to fire and ambulance were made by village residents; in 2016,
66 percent of the 569 calls were made by the village.
The township also has said it plans on putting an increase levy on the ballot to support the fire department and EMS that serve both the township and village.
“Our big concern, once again, is we’ve got a fire levy that we’re looking at and we’re looking at an increase on it,” Gardner said. “That’s going to be an issue with some people, and I hope we don’t cast a negative tone on that with what’s going on here. What we’re trying to do is increase the services for the whole community by putting a third shift on EMS and basically be able to get funding for future needs for the fire department and EMS services.”
The letter states that “the benefit gained by the village and the ‘justification’ for tax dollars paid to the township is undeniable.” It also said separation form the township would increase the burden on village residents.
Gardner said the township trustees aren’t sure what can be done to resolve the issues between the two sides.
“I can’t speak for the other trustees, but there is an air of frustration,” he said. “I’m not going to say that all is lost and there’s no way we can’t come to some type of amicable agreement, but it just seems like whatever we put forward isn’t acceptable to the village. I think there needs to be some long, drawn-out discussions.”