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Georgetown scraps annexation plans


March 26, 2008
The Town of Georgetown is cutting its losses and moving on by scrapping a plan to annex unwilling neighbors into the town and by taking steps to severe ties to a company supplying Broadband Internet service to residents.

The town's plan to annex an area between Georgetown and the Interstate 64/S.R. 64 interchange at Edwardsville several months ago was met with opposition from a majority of residents in the area. A lawsuit was filed on behalf of the opposition, and the town council voted last Tuesday night to discontinue efforts to pursue the annexation.

"There were over 70 percent of the residents in that area opposed to the annexation," Council President Billy Stewart said in a later interview. "It just wouldn't stand up to a court challenge, so we decided to discontinue the annexation attempt.

"I'm personally against annexation, also, but once a person is elected, there should be no personal feeling involved. What I want should have no meaning. It's my job to do what's best for the town.

"But there's a dilemma in Georgetown — there's no commercial land available for new businesses or for the growth of existing businesses. We have one business that wants to leave now because they can't grow here," Stewart continued. "That's why it's kind of sad to stop the annexation process now. There's one lot for sale here for $180,000 an acre. Another one near Copperfield is for sale for $200,000 an acre. No one can afford to open a new business here at those prices. There's just no land left that is zoned commercial."

In another matter, Town Attorney Jim Montgomery informed the council that he talked to an attorney who represents Discernity, the Broadband Internet provider that the town has a contract with for Broadband services. The town has been unable to contact anyone from Discernity to discuss problems with the service provided by the company.

"I have had discussions with the Discernity attorney," Montgomery said. "They are willing to meet with us and discuss any issues the town has concerning the Internet service. We need to see if we can find common ground."

The town signed a contract with Discernity more than a year ago to supply the service to the town at a set rate. The town now owes Discernity more than $8,000 a month for service that many believe has been poor and even not available to many residents.

"We've already spent $160,000 on this," Stewart said. "Plus, we've lost a lot of revenue. This was a bad deal from the beginning. And now we've got $540,000 hanging over our heads, and we can't afford to take a loss like that."

Montgomery set up a meeting with the Discernity attorney, and he and two others from the town will discuss the contract and service with the company this week.

In other business, the council heard from Lyndal Woosley from Southern Indiana Waste System, who was there to discuss a possible contract with the town for garbage pickup. The town now has its own sanitation department and equipment and handles the town's garbage and trash pickup.

"We've been in business nine years," Woosley said. "We have a contract with the City of New Albany to handle their garbage pickup. One year ago, New Albany had a deficit of over $1 million. This year, they're getting back to positive (in the black) in their sanitation budget. We would buy Georgetown's equipment at market value"

Woosley also mentioned that the company would hire any workers that Georgetown has in the sanitation department, and would do the garbage pickup service for $11.42 a month per household. Garbage pickup would be once a week and residents would be allowed one 90-gallon container or four regular garbage cans. One bulk item would be allowed per week and yard waste and brush would also be picked up once a week.

Councilman Aaron Striegel spoke favorably of Woosley's proposal, saying that a reduction in employees would be a positive step for the town.

"What we're paying employees here is outrageous," Striegel said. "I've seen what town employees make, and they're making too much around here."

But the other council members weren't in favor of the proposal and refused to act on it.

Resident Elizabeth Madden, in another matter, mentioned that the placement of the proposed sewage treatment plant had not been mentioned and that the location should be made public if it involved the people on Baylor-Wissman Road.

In a later interview, Stewart indicated that the plan was to build the plant at another location.

"The land that the town owns where the town garage is located is not suitable for a sewage treatment plant," he said. "It is in a flood zone, there's houses close by and a railroad track. There would also be no room for future growth — the spot there is just too small. In my mind, the land there just doesn't meet the required criteria. The only ordinance passed has been for the O'Brien property (in Edwardsville), and that's the best place for it."

Stewart also mentioned that, although talks on a joint venture with Harrison County have been postponed, it is still possible that Harrison County will be a customer if Georgetown builds a sewage treatment plant.

"Harrison County only has a need to process about 5,000 gallons a day," he said. "They can't afford to build a plant for no more sewage that that. So, we'll see what happens."

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