Stressing unity of the county, the Fulton County Board of Commissioners voted to deny boundary certification requests from Archbold and Delta.
The board voted 2-1 on Archbold’s request and 3-0 in rejecting Delta’s. The vote means the current townships boundaries will not change.
Board President Paul Barnaby led the opposition, expressing his belief the county works better as one unit and not divided between townships and cities. He has been a strong proponent of the status quo and was quite vocal in his opposition to the villages’ requests.
Commissioner Jeff Rupp opposed both requests and said the current township system works best for the rural areas of the county.
The importance of the decision was clear to Commissioner Bill Rufenacht who said it was unlikely any of the board members were aware the law concerning boundaries existed when they ran for office. The four entities in question have been concerned about their piece of the world, he said.
While the townships have said they are concerned about the incorporated parts of their territories, Rufenacht is not convinced their actions supported those statements. For some, the current system has always worked in the past so why shouldn’t it now, he said.
“I don’t believe (in that’s the way it’s always been), because we would still be in covered wagons and stagecoaches,” Rufenacht said.
State law dictates that when a town reaches 5,000 people, it automatically becomes a city. It allows county boards to make exceptions, Rufenacht said.
The current system has worked for 150 years, Barnaby said. The area lives with city rules and township rules, with the 5,000-resident threshold to meet, he suggested those want to be come a city to purchase land at the going rate of $10,000 an acre and grow their towns that way.
“My suggestion is to buy some land and start building houses if you want to bring people into the village,” Barnaby said. “I am all for that.
“However, Fulton County is Fulton County because we rub elbows and shake hands with everybody.”
Dividing the county was never in the equation for Barnaby, he said.
“I can’t; I think it’s terrible,” Barnaby said.
For Rupp, while he can understand the need for change, doesn’t believe now is the time for such action. He wants to maintain the status quo until the legislature can offer townships more protection.
“I have studied this issue in depth,” Rupp said reading from a prepared statement. “I have read statute, law, and judicial opinions. I have studied what other townships, villages, counties, and states have proposed and done, or not done. And I have had conversations with many residents of the entities involved.
“I have thought about this issue a great deal and have changed my mind a few times on how I would cast my vote.”
It’s only natural for villages, as they grow, to take on more responsibilities and duties townships generally perform, Rupp said. This includes road maintenance and fire protection.
Archbold and Delta believe they have reached the point to go it alone, with township oversight, Rupp said. While some people complain of being double taxes for roads, village residents have supported levies for roads in the rural areas, he said.
“It is also true that the township residents who live outside of the village limits but work in the village pay an income tax on their earnings that they did not vote on nor have the ability to vote on how those tax monies are spent,” Rupp said. “I have also heard the argument from supporters of the township side of the issue that ‘It’s been done this way for 150 years so why change?’ Well, if we never made a change because of the way things had been done in the past there would never be progress of any kind so I don’t believe that is a valid argument either.”
A vote to approve the boundary requests may solve some of the issues, but not all, Rupp said.
“Especially the issue of long-term funding,” Rupp said.
“I am also of the opinion that this issue needs to be addressed at the state level and that the statutes should be changed to give some protections from undue harm to the townships.”
Archbold Mayor Jeff Farmer said he was happy the process has run its course because the village had several other pressing matters to address.
Delta officials declined to comment.
James Pruitt may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org