Paris to send out letter with answers to IGA FAQs

paris-somers-iga-mapAll Paris residents should be soon receiving a letter answering  frequently asked questions about the intergovernmental agreement with Somers.

A copy of the letter was posted on the town website Thursday and distributed to local media via email.

Answering questions the public posed about the IGA was something the board promised to do at the April 19 town annual meeting, which was dominated by questions about the IGA.

Most of the people at that meeting live in the area of Paris that under the IGA would be transferred to Somers. The introduction to the FAQs says the decision was made to distribute the information to all residents because the IGA is “significant to all Town residents, and so vital to the entire Town’s future.”

“The IGA addresses all of the Town’s most pressing problems and allows Paris to remain Paris,” the answer to one of the FAQ’s states.

The agreement will have Paris transfer designated land in the town along I-94 into the village of Somers. Villages have easier access to some development tools, such as tax increment financing. Paris and Somers will share revenue from development in the area controlled by the agreement. A commission with representation from both municipalities will govern the development activities within the development corridor. The commission will have no tax powers. The agreement says Paris also will fund two loan pools for Somers to spur development. Somers will also agree not to annex further territory from Paris. Both boards approved the agreement unanimously, but its implementation has been tied up by a legal challenge.

Here are the whole FAQs:

FAQS

  1. Why did the Town enter into the IGA with Somers? We love Paris as it currently is—why did it have to change?
  1. Was there anything improper about the way the deal was negotiated or approved?
  1. Why wasn’t the City of Kenosha included in the IGA discussions? 
  1. How much is Paris actually paying to Somers under the IGA? Why is it paying any amount?
  1. What’s up with the loans? Why is Paris acting like a bank for Somers? 
  1. Is it true that Somers cannot extend water and sewer service to the area being transferred under the IGA? 
  1. What about the lawsuit that was filed? 
  1. Is it true that there were adequate petition signatures filed to require a referendum on the IGA? 
  1. If I have additional questions, what should I do?

ANSWERS

  1. Why did the Town enter into the IGA with Somers? We love Paris as it currently is—why did it have to change?

We love Paris, too—that’s why we negotiated the IGA.  To fully understand the reasons for the IGA, a little background is in order.

The first factor to bear in mind is that Paris is a town, and under state law, towns are subject to piecemeal annexation by incorporated villages and cities.  Therefore, without some sort of boundary protection agreement in place, Paris stood to lose residents and territory without having any say at all in the process.  Towns also don’t have access to the same tools to facilitate development, such as tax incremental financing, as are available to incorporated municipalities under state law.

Another significant factor, intertwined with the first, is that Paris abuts the I-94 corridor, one of the fastest developing areas of the state and, indeed, of the entire region.  That being the case, it was only a matter of time before the significant development pressure that can already be seen taking shape along the Interstate began impacting Paris directly.  Faced with such intense development pressure, the Town Board recognized that unless something was done, and done soon, not only was the Town certain to lose this highly valuable territory along the Interstate as it developed but, even worse, Paris would have no input over how the land developed, which could have had a very negative impact on the remaining portions of the Town and its residents.

The final factor contributing to the need for the IGA is the questionable long-term future of the Waste Management landfill.  For decades, Paris has received annual payments from Waste Management for hosting the landfill, which have enabled Paris to completely fund its operations without a town tax and also to pay most of the County tax obligations of its residents.  While these payments have been a remarkable blessing, they have also led to a situation in which the Town is, at present, entirely dependent on the landfill’s continued operation.  In recent years, however, due to changes in state law and other factors, Waste Management’s annual payments to the Town have been reduced significantly, and the previously unthinkable prospect of the landfill’s closure has even been discussed.  So the Town Board has been forced to grapple with the fact that the Town’s sole revenue source is diminishing and could go away altogether.

Most communities faced with this situation could protect their residents by fostering business development to diversify the community’s tax base.  Before the IGA, though, this approach would have been counterproductive for Paris.  That is because the Town has no tax levy of its own, and it also pays the lion’s share of its residents’ County taxes, so the effect is that any new development in Paris actually hurts the Town’s finances, because development generates no tax revenue for the Town and it causes Paris to make ever-larger outlays to cover the development’s (often significant) County tax obligation, further depleting the Town’s coffers.

Unless something changed, therefore, Paris faced the prospect of losing residents and territory to annexation, and the Town’s reserves to diminishing landfill payments and increased County tax outlays, all of which would result in a situation where Town residents would not only have to bear their full County taxes, but also the full costs of operating the Town, with very little new development to help carry the costs.

The Paris-Somers IGA addresses all these concerns.

First and foremost, the agreement gives the Town meaningful boundary protection.  For the duration of the IGA, no additional land can be annexed into Somers without the approval of a supermajority of the intergovernmental commission, which is half controlled by Paris.  Moreover, if Somers were to let the agreement lapse at the end of its 10-year term, the Village would have to repay all amounts it received from Paris under the IGA, plus interest, plus an additional amount equating to 20 years’ future value of the area that was transferred to Somers under the IGA.

The IGA addresses the Town’s other concerns as well.  In addition to the boundary protection, the IGA puts in place a mechanism by which Paris can ensure that the transferred area develops in manner consistent with the Town’s long-term plan.  The IGA also sets up a commission, answerable to the parties’ respective boards and, ultimately, to the voters, to see to it that the agreement is fairly implemented and to facilitate the area’s development.  Finally, the IGA enables Paris and its residents to actually share in the financial benefits of that development, by enabling area property owners to capitalize on the value of their land when and as they see fit.

In short, the IGA addresses all of the Town’s most pressing problems and allows Paris to remain Paris.

  1. Was there anything improper about the way the deal was negotiated or approved?

Absolutely not.  The nature of negotiations is such that each party must be able to keep its strategy discussions confidential so that its interests and negotiating position aren’t compromised.  For this reason, state law allows local government discussions regarding negotiations of this sort to be held in closed session.

That being said, though, it was important to the Town Board that as soon as the draft IGA was in a form that appeared to be close to final, it should be released to the public.  In fact, Paris began releasing drafts of the agreement to the public even before the final details were worked out with Somers.  Paris officials also worked with a local Internet newspaper to keep the most up-to-date drafts of the IGA available online.  Moreover, rather than simply give the minimal public notice required by state statute, Paris sent notice of the public hearing to every Town resident.  Town officials also actively sought to inform Paris residents about the details of IGA, by going door-to-door to discuss it with residents, and by holding “office hours” at the Town Hall, totaling 18 hours over three days, for the express purpose of addressing any questions or concerns that residents had.

  1. Why wasn’t the City of Kenosha included in the IGA discussions?

 Paris representatives have had numerous conversations over the years with Kenosha officials, including relatively recently, regarding a possible agreement between the City and Town that would both protect the Town’s boundaries and also provide for mutually-beneficial cost sharing to facilitate development.  Unfortunately, because of the way state law treats towns as opposed to cities, Kenosha had very little incentive to discuss any agreement with Paris that would have benefited both parties, rather than just the City.  After Somers recently incorporated, though, the new village indicated to Paris that it was both able and willing to enter negotiations for an IGA that would be mutually-beneficial to the parties, rather than completely one-sided.

  1. How much is Paris actually paying to Somers under the IGA? Why is it paying any amount?

Paris is making a one-time payment of $1.25 million to Somers under the IGA.  To understand the reason for the payment, it’s important to bear in mind that, under state law, a city or village can annex land from a town without any compensation at all to the town for the lost territory.  Therefore, IGAs that include boundary protection for a town, like the current IGA does, almost always require the town to make a payment to the incorporated municipality in exchange for the boundary protection.  In this case, that payment is $1.25 million.  The agreement also provides for the payment by Paris of up to $500,000 to defray Somers’ costs related to implementing the IGA.

Weighed against the many benefits of the IGA, including securing meaningful boundary protection and enabling the Town to share in the transferred area’s economic growth, and considering the size of the payment relative to the overall value of the Town’s reserve, which has been saved up over the years largely for this purpose, the Town Board considers this money well spent.  Moreover, under the agreement, the Town will actually recoup these payments over time, because the Town will receive revenue under the IGA that it would not have received otherwise, since the Town has no tax levy of its own.  In fact, because the transferred area has the potential to become one of the most successful development areas in the state, Paris could actually end up recouping its IGA investment many times over.

It’s also worth noting that the amount Paris is paying under this IGA is significantly less than amounts paid by other towns under similar agreements.  For example, as part of the recent IGA between the Town of Somers and the City of Kenosha, Somers had to pay the City $5 million to secure it borders.  Likewise, when officials from Paris and Kenosha had preliminary discussions a few years back regarding a possible Paris-Kenosha IGA, the City indicated that it would require a payment of $10 million from Paris as part of the deal—and even that huge amount would have secured Paris’s borders for only a short time.  So the amount paid by Paris to Somers under this IGA is both common and reasonable when compared with comparable agreements.

  1. What’s up with the loans? Why is Paris acting like a bank for Somers?

 The IGA provides Somers with access to two loan funds provided by Paris.  One loan, which is capped at $3 million, provides Somers with a source of funds to offset any new costs that it incurs strictly as a result of the agreement.  Because, by definition, Somers would not have incurred such costs in the first place absent the IGA, the parties agreed that it was appropriate that this $3 million loan fund would be interest-free.

The second loan fund, which is a revolving loan fund capped at $5 million, can be used by Somers for any lawful purpose.  Somers does pay interest to the Town on this revolving loan fund.  The IGA is structured, though, such that Somers is able to realize a lower interest rate under the IGA than it otherwise would have had to pay, yet also that Paris is made whole by Somers’ interest payments relative to the earnings that the Town would have otherwise received on its funds.  So the revolving loan is a win-win for the communities.  Plus, the revolving loan fund allows Somers to improve its overall credit rating, which will end up saving both communities money when it comes time to finance the development of the transferred area.  In the end, because Paris will share equally in the area’s development under the IGA, the Town has a vested interest in seeing to it that the area attracts the best development possible.  The IGA’s loan provisions will help make that happen.

  1. Is it true that Somers cannot extend water and sewer service to the area being transferred under the IGA?

Not at all.  Somers currently gets water and sewer service from the City of Kenosha and there is absolutely nothing in or about the IGA that prohibits Kenosha from providing water and sewer service to the transferred area as well.  In fact, Somers’ attorneys who negotiated the Village’s IGA with the City have indicated that they believe the current agreements already require Kenosha to provide water and sewer service to the entire Village, including the new areas that were added under the IGA.  Given this fact, and given the vital importance to the county, region and, indeed, the entire state of ensuring that this gateway to Wisconsin is developed to its highest and best use, the Town Board is confident that the area will be served with water and sewer in relatively short order.

It’s also worth noting that the cost of constructing new water and sewer mains will almost certainly be paid for by new development in the area, so extending services would likely cost Kenosha nothing.  To the contrary, providing water and sewer service to the transferred area would actuallybenefit the City, by bringing in hundreds of new utility customers to help pay for the City’s existing water and sewer infrastructure.  Not to mention, of course, that facilitating new development in the transferred area would create hundreds of new jobs and dramatically benefit the entire region economically, particularly Kenosha as the largest nearby community.  So there’s no reason that Kenosha couldn’t provide water and sewer service to the transferred area and several good reasons that it should want to do so.

If Kenosha nevertheless chooses to fight the extension of water and sewer service to the transferred territory, therefore, it could only mean that having new customers for its utilities and ashare of the value of new development isn’t enough for the City—that Kenosha demands it all for itself, including that residents must be forced into the City to get water and sewer, where their taxes would be more than twice as high as they would be in Somers.  By contrast to Kenosha’s approach, the Paris-Somers IGA sets up a situation where all three communities, as well as residents both in the area being transferred and those remaining in the Town, are best positioned to reap the benefits of the area’s inevitable future economic development and growth.  And, frankly, if Kenosha does insist on taking a “my way or the highway”-type approach to the area and to its neighboring communities, that’s all the more reason that the IGA and its boundary protection are vital to the Town’s interests.

  1. What about the lawsuit that was filed?

Almost as soon as the IGA was effective, the City of Kenosha and a few Paris residents filed suit against Somers challenging the agreement.  The lawsuit alleges that Somers made various procedural missteps regarding the IGA’s approval, which they believe should nullify the agreement.  Paris was recently brought into the suit as well by three property owners who claim that they never received the public hearing notice that was sent to them via certified mail.  The Town is confident that it followed proper procedures in approving the IGA.

An additional claim was recently added to the lawsuit alleging that Paris wrongfully rejected a petition seeking a referendum on the IGA.  As discussed below, the Town does not agree with this most recent allegation either.

  1. Is it true that there were adequate petition signatures filed to require a referendum on the IGA?

No.  The petitioners’ contention that they filed an adequate number of signatures is based on their position that it is only those electors in the area transferred from Paris to Somers that should count toward the petition threshold, and presumably only those electors who should be allowed to vote on the IGA were a referendum election held.  The Town Clerk concluded, though, as did Somers’ clerk when he was presented with petitions seeking a referendum on the Somers Village-Town consolidation IGA just last year, that it is actually the number of electors in the entire Town from which the adequacy of referendum petitions must be based and who, if the referendum were triggered, would get to vote on the IGA.  Significantly, Somers’ Clerk’s determination was challenged to the state’s Government Accountability Board (GAB) by a person who made the exact same argument the petitioners now allege, and the GAB determined that the Somers’ clerk’s determination was not improper.

In essence, the petitioners argue that it is only their voice that should count regarding the IGA.  The Somers and Paris Clerks, however, read the statute as providing that, because the IGA affects the entire Town, all Town voters should have a voice as to whether there should be referendum and, if so, whether the IGA should take effect.  The GAB previously reviewed this exact issue and affirmed the Clerks’ reading.

  1. If I have additional questions, what should I do?

You should always feel free to direct any questions to the Town Clerk at the Town Hall, who will do her best to answer your questions or to direct them to the person best suited to do so.  The Town will also work to provide residents with periodic updates via the Town website, which can be viewed at www.town-of-paris.org.

As always, thank you for your continued support and interest in Town government.

Sincerely,

Town of Paris

 

 

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19 Comments

  1. Resident says:

    Oh my!!! How much did THIS set the Town back? I’d like to know which “local internet newspaper” the Town dealt with to keep the residents up to date on things. There are NO closed door meetings on the website regarding any meetings with Somers. Look on the website yourself. The last time there was a closed door meeting that was on the website, was last April. Is this how they keep people up to date on things? No Planning meeting information on the website at all. If you believe that “all of the residents” are affected by this annexation, then, why didn’t “all of the residents” receive a certified letter? You cannot have it both ways – either everyone is affected or everyone is not affected – which is it??? Considering the City of Kenosha Water Utility person said that there is no way that Paris will get water – I would tend to believe him over anyone else’s comments. I’ve heard it said many times that people cannot be annexed to the City unless they WANT to be annexed to the City. But, the Town so willingly is “giving” 2500 acres of the Town to Somers. Plus now, all of the attorney fees we are paying – just how many lawyers does Paris have? Four? Five? And, according to one of the answers above, the Town is also paying up to $500,000.00 for Somers? What the heck?
    As far as the payment to Somers – you can call it a payment, you can call it a loan, or, you can call it a “revolving” loan (pay-off), it still all adds up to 9.5 million dollars! That’s half of the Town’s money. And, considering that the dump is on it’s way out, how do you suppose that money will be replenished? Certainly not by development along the interstate – look at the economy!!
    I just hope the Town didn’t pay too much for this joke of an answer to these questions.

    1. I think the reference to “local internet newspaper” refers to westofthei.com. Just before the hearing, we worked with Plan Commission Chairman John Holloway to get a copy of the draft agreement to post before the hearing. Our post went up April 1. You can read it here: http://www.westofthei.com/2016/04/01/paris-somers-intergovernmental-agreement-seeks-to-set-stage-for-i-94-development/56770. The town also ran an ad and accompanying “sponsored posts” with westofthei.com promoting office hours by town officials to answer questions about the IGA.

  2. Affected Resident says:

    heartless…I just wish Paris Board showed a little sympathy in the questions and/or answers for the affected residents. I found out a day before the public hearing my taxes were going up almost $1,000 the same year if the agreement was passed. Paris passed it that night to go in effect 8 days later. heartless…

    The affected residents love Paris too. And just want to stay Paris.

  3. Land annexed into Kenosha saves Paris money because Paris pays 3/4 of County tax for “Paris” residents (not Kenosha residents).

    The less land (residents) in Paris, the more money Paris can allocate to remaining residents.

    You want lower taxes, let landowners near the interstate leave. If enough land leaves Paris, we can have no tax liability in 5 years.

  4. Kept in the dark says:

    Wonder if and how much it cost to get a lawyer to write that up?

    If you’d like to hear the other side of the story (interesting that it’s taken a recall petition to get these answers suddenly from the politicians!) see: https://www.facebook.com/recallparistownboard/videos/981136178674819/

  5. See my point above. I only add to it because I can’t resist countering lies.

    Why do you think Paris continues to claim that they want development?
    If Somers could provide water west of Hwy H, Amazon would have built in Somers (northeast corner of I-94 and Hwy 142). Amazon was forced to build in a wetland because Somers couldn’t provide water to that flat piece of dirt on the north side of Hwy 142.

    Ask the landowner how many times he’s been approached to develop that land? Spoiler alert: at least 3x.

    Why does Paris insist they have to give Somers $1.25 million?

  6. Perplexed in Paris says:

    Well folks…..looks like our town board did a fine job of trying to make the city of Kenosha look like the “big bad wolf”! If you read #6, try and convince yourself that the city is legally responsible to provide sewer and water to the “Twilight Zone'”. Read it again folks! “if the city chooses to fight extension of sewer and water”. Assume they do. Assume they win. NOW WHAT!!!!????? See any contingency plan here folks? Nope. To state that the city would “benefit” by increased use of their sewer and water users in the annexed area, as well as the “jobs created”…COMPLETELY IGNORES the FACT that the city would not receive a DIME of tax revenue from the development!!!! Now go back and read #1…where the deal is only good for 10 years, and what happens if Somers reneges on the deal. This is incredible!

  7. 7 days notice isn’t sufficient for such a huge change. As documented (see links) draft of agreement is published on April 1st on westofthei.com and Paris signed agreement 6 days later (@ 1st public meeting, April 7th).

    Publishing a FAQ 2+ months after agreement is signed is too little and too late. How about educating before agreement is signed?

    If I remember right, Paris had “Open office hours” weekdays from 8am to 11am for 3 days after agreement was signed.
    *Darren, will you link to the “office hours” notice published on westofthei.org. My memory may not be correct. If I’m wrong, I want to be corrected.

    If you were a politician, how much time and effort would you devote to educating the public about the following:
    *Investing nearly half town reserves in another community.
    *Transferring 2,572.6 acres of land from one municipality to another.

  8. Answer to my question above? Silver Lake and Salem are educating the public 8 months “prior”….

    http://www.westofthei.com/2016/06/16/coverage-of-salem-merger-informational-forum-1/57820

    Note that they (Silver Lake and Salem) did NOT sign the agreement at the 1st public meeting.

  9. Affected Paris Resident says:

    I love how it states that Paris sent notice of the public hearing to every town resident. Most of the residents effected by the IGA received registered letters, some did not. I’d like to know who they talked to going door to door cause they never stopped by me. There were many questions asked at the public hearing that were never answered, yet they voted on it as soon as we left. It was quite obvious that the public hearing was nothing more than a formality. There is also nothing in the IGA that guarantees water and sewer to the effected area(quote: The village shall endeavor to provide municipal water and sewer service within the I-94 Planning Area). “Endeavor”? Really? Man up and start telling the truth Paris.

  10. Nothing new in Paris says:

    Some old smoke and mirrors from the Town Board. This script sounds like it came directly out of the chairman’s mouth. The town clerk interpreted referendum rules improperly as well. The Town Board changed that to an appointed position a few years ago. Makes sense now why they would want to do that.

  11. Water Woes says:

    This agreement is STILL contingent on the city of Kenosha providing sewer and water.
    While it MIGHT be in their best interests to provide those services(eg…letter cites
    increased jobs, increased water/sewer revenues)….the real MEAT in this deal is the TAX REVENUE that the projected incoming businesses will provide. You know, the revenue that Paris and Somers will split 50-50. If you think the city is not interested in a piece of that tax revenue pie, and will provide the services out of some sense of moral or economic duty………I’d ask again…”what is the contingency plan if the city decides to abstain”?

  12. Paris resident says:

    Mr. Hillock!
    Are you backing Mr. Holloway and the current Paris Town Board members?
    Some of Paris Residents would like to know!
    Or are you neutral and willing to publish a statement on your website from some of the Paris Town Residents?
    For some of us do not agree with our Current Paris Town Board decisions!

    1. We don’t really have a vehicle for pure opinion pieces, but we would be willing to publish such a statement if it is pegged to a news development.
      I also would like to react to the statement about backing the town. I assume this is in relation to our publishing the IGA before the joint meeting. I don’t see this as backing the town. It was my perception that they were not making any move to make the text of the agreement available before the meeting other than by having a copy at town hall. It hadn’t been discussed at an open meeting or posted on their website. So I asked to get a copy before the meeting that I could report on and post at westofthei.com so access to it would be wider. My contact was John Holloway and we communicated via email until they felt they had a copy they could give me. I think it’s possible that without that effort the agreement would not have been made public other than to people who could go to town hall to look it over. Our actions don’t seem to me to be advocacy of one position or the other on the IGA but rather an effort to give as many people as possible a chance to see what it said shortly before it was to be actually voted on.

  13. Bernard Punsley says:

    @Paris resident….let’s not “kill them messenger” here folks. West of the I does a pretty good job of reporting the news in a fair and equitable sense. They don’t “politicize” it, nor should they. While you may not always agree with the news they are reporting, they nevertheless feel a story is important enough to warrant coverage on their website. They also provide PLENTY of opportunity for readers to post their comments, pro or con. Darren also does a good job of providing additional insight on an issue if some clarification needs to be done. That should not be construed as “taking sides’. Wherever you stand on the current boundary agreement between Paris and Somers, this article at least made folks outside of those entities aware of what the issues are. How is that a bad thing?

  14. Resident says:

    @Nothing New In Paris: The clerk/treasurer job is still elected – they considered making it appointed a few years ago, but decided not to – that’s a good thing. Why be upset with Mr. Holloway? He didn’t sign the agreement. I would wonder why one of the board members didn’t contact the paper – they signed the agreement – not Mr. Holloway. And, considering that the attorney is at all of the meetings and seems to be the one to answers all of the questions, what good is having open office hours for questions and answers with the board members – they wouldn’t be able to answer any questions anyway, unless they paid the attorney to be there for all of those open office hours. Just how many lawyers does the Town have anyway? That would be a great question to ask.

  15. Paris Resident says:

    I do apologize to you and Mr. Hillock! I didn’t mean for it to be a negative statement. I was just wondering because he said he was working with Mr. Holloway about the Paris/Somer agreement. I do like this website for it is more informed then others. So I do hope Mr. Hillock understands! I still would like to know if some Paris Residents send in a statement would he post it! For Mr. Holloway he might of not signed the agreement for he is not a Board member but he did write up the agreement along with those lawyers the Paris residents money went too without asking them from the present Paris Board Members. The Paris Residents need a new Paris Town Board that will work with the people and really listen, not do what the present Paris Town Board Members wants. We understand things are changing but the residents of Paris should have a say and let them vote! This is there town just as much as the present Paris Town Board members. Anyways, again I apologize to Mr. Hillock for my last comment it didn’t come out the way I really meant it to be. I still believe that the Residents of Paris should have more of a say of what is going on in Paris then letting three guys make our decision for us without asking. The present Paris Town Board members have been in office long enough! One member has been there for over 30 yrs. the other two have been there for at least or over ten years that’s enough! We need a change! If I’m wrong on that again I apologize! They still have been there on the Paris Town Board long enough!

  16. Bernard Punsley says:

    @Resident: I believe the answer to your valid question “Just how many lawyers does the Town have anyway?” would be: “NOT ENOUGH”! This IGA has turned into a BONANZA for the law teams feeding at the public trough. Let’s not forget the legal expenses Somers, Kenosha, and those citizens involved in the lawsuit are incurring.
    Fast forward over to Silver Lake and Salem, where their merger is proceeding FLAWLESSLY(so far!). Kind of refreshing to see what can happen government entities work together for the COMMON GOOD of their citizens!

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