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Petition filed to repeal Rugby’s Home Rule Charter

By Staff | Sep 2, 2010

Rugby has been under Home Rule Charter for over 18 years, but a group of Rugby residents are seeking to repeal it in its entirety at a future election.

Dennis Fred, chairman of the five-member committee which submitted the petition to Rugby City Hall last week, says its about returning more power into residents’ hands.

“I don’t think this is a fair charter,’ Fred said. “There needs to be changes and I’ve heard from a lot of people who are frustrated right now with the process. The voices of people are not being heard.”

An example Fred pointed to was the street improvement project completed last summer. Despite many concerns raised by residents about the costs and timing of the project, the council still moved forward in passing a resolution of need and setting up a special assessment district. The council did conduct two protest hearings for the proposed project and each time the percentage of property owners who filed a written protest fell short of the required 50 percent to stop the project from assessing property owners.

Fred said there are some advantages of a city having Home Rule, including the ability to establish a sales tax, which the city has had in place since 1994. Those funds have enabled the city to fund its economic development board – the JDA – as well as collect funds for infrastructure repairs, including funding a large portion of the street improvement project.

All good things, Fred said, but it appears the council is not willing to hold off on projects when there are clear concerns. Among them was the street project and earlier the regional jail and corrections center.

Fred would eventually like to see a new Home Rule Charter adopted which places more restrictions on the council’s authority and more accountability. He said just changing the current Charter to reflect those concerns isn’t enough. “We need to start over,’ he said.

Fred along with his wife, Candace, and residents Jeff Armstrong, Roy Walsh and Donald Haman were the sponsoring committee which went around gathering 164 signatures last month. They dropped the petition off at Rugby City Hall on Aug. 31. The signatures had to total at least 15 percent of the number of residents who voted in the last city election.

The next step is for city officials to review the petition to determine if it meets all the requirements set forth in the state century code relating to a petition to repeal Home Rule, said Bill Hartl, city attorney. The city has 20 days to review the petition and act accordingly.

Fred said the goal of the committee was have the repeal question posed to city voters as early as the November general election, but whether that is possible hinges on a number of factors.

Most notably is whether the petition is valid. If it is, the council would also have to set an election date and under the century code there is a period of time permitted before an election would be called.

The city of Rugby adopted Home Rule in April of 1992 through a vote. It provided more latitude for city officials in transfer funds to cover deficiencies and is also allowed the city to establish a sales tax to generate additional revenue.

Several cities across the state have Home Rule Charter.

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