On Monday, August 22 at 5:30 p.m., Winlock City Council held a hearing regarding the annexation of the Urban Growth Area into the Winlock city limits. The room was packed and overflow went well into the hallway with at least 15 to 20 people standing outside. The city council is not allowing the people to vote, instead they are using a direct petition by those who hold the most value, which means the developers not the residents. There is no vote for the residents in the Urban Growth Area, only the developers have the say at over 60% of the value. The public hearing is for the people to speak. After the hearing and during the city council meeting, the council voted to move the annexation forward by a vote of 4-1, Lindsey Alvord being the only one who voted against the annexation.
Many residents got up to speak, many were questioned or interrupted by the mayor, even asking them whether they lived in the UGA or not. The purpose of a public hearing is to allow everyone to speak. This was a regular occurrence during the meeting, interruptions by the mayor or sarcastic comments, making his actions extremely unprofessional which is what the citizens have come to expect from this mayor.
Tim Fife, who lives in the UGA stated, "I question the ability of the city to manage the roads. The culvert failed 4 years ago... Is there any plan to take care of it?" Fife is referring to the culvert at Walnut St. and Avery Rd. which has not been fixed. "I am not a big fan of the strong mayor government," he continued. "I have seen nothing but issues with the mayor since I moved here."
Then Eric Bernard of K & E Tree Farms got up to speak, he started, "we moved here so we wouldn't have issues with stuff like this. Kent was a poorly run city. The annexation lowered response times for fire and police. When the dust settled, it just cost us more in taxes. You are already expecting us to pay for a ladder truck and fire station." He then continued, "Expecting all of us are just going to standby why you decide this for us. This is an authoritarian government, not a vote and call in the rich and powerful people to lord over us."
Bernard then discussed buying a piece of land in the city and stated, "the City of Winlock allowed a big overflow of raw sewage of 1 million gallons last year." He then spoke of Winlock not having enough water, Eric stated, "I would be in queue which to me meant, as long as I got along with the mayor, I would get water." Mayor Svenson interrupted and said "that's laughable."
Kathy Chastain spoke, she stated, "60% of the annexation was passed. A total of 129 residents live in the UGA, only 6 voted yes. 95% of the voters do not want the annexation. There are 10 developers who want the annexation, including Red Rock who is a local builder." The reason these developers want the annexation is because it will lower their property taxes by thousands, yet the residents will not get a reduction in thousands of dollars in taxes. Mayor Svenson also interrupted Kathy Chastain over how much of the UGA would be annexed in.
Next, the Editor of the Lewis County News stated, "when we met with the mayor prior to him becoming mayor, he was against the warehouses and too many homes, that is why he wanted his predecessor gone. He is gone now and fast forward to today and the same thing is happening. Fire insurance will increase, this is an expense you are putting on the people."
The mayor interrupted and asked, "you know this to be a fact?"
The editor stated, "Yes, I spoke with (Commissioner) Randy this evening."
The editor continued, "I have dealt with public records that were outstanding for almost 6 months. Then I was given the option at 6 months to pay for old records, which I refused. As the editor, my job is to tell the citizens the truth. There has been zero transparency as we were promised. I am here for our citizens and residents, they have every right to live in their homes without government interference. The vote should be given to the people, as our founding fathers would have done. When the people no longer have a say, as your know Mayor, tyranny has set in. Don't tell us we are a constitutional republic Mr. Mayor, because republicans would let the people vote who live here. Transparency, freedom and the right to vote is what WE as a republic agree to, not corporate domination. Bring the vote to the people who live here or stop the annexation. Tyranny does not belong in Winlock and this is what we have."
Patti Manifor, a realtor in Winlock stated, "when the city of winlock hired Troyer, I was surprised that there wasn't a group of Winlock citizens that would work to discuss this, instead it was all done behind the scenes. Winlock is not capable of handling the streets and services right now. I had a theft on my property over the weekend, I called and I was told the police would be calling. I have still not heard from the police." Winlock recently agreed to loan out the Winlock Police Department to Toledo.
Richard Roth, a longtime resident of Winlock stated, "Your responsibility is to let the people know all the details about this whole thing. I don't see that. I would like to see a presentation with all the questions asked before you decide."
Randy Pennington, Commissioner for the Lewis County Fire District where we reside, stated they have two separate ratings for the City of Winlock and the Urban Growth area. "The city has a rating of 6, outside the city is a 7," he said. "Can the city have more than one rating, the answer is no. Is the city going to become a 7 or is the 7 going to be a 6? If the rating goes from a 6 to a 7, you will see an increase of $1200 per $300,000 in fire insurance. We can't get an answer from the ratings bureau. I don't have an answer. I can't tell you how, but there will be an impact. I am very nervous about what is going to happen."
The vast majority of Winlock citizens do not want annexation.
Several questions came up about the wells, asking if the city was using water along Hwy 505, which it is.
During the meeting, Mayor Svenson interrupted several speakers, using sarcasm and other unprofessional comments. In September of 2021, Mayor Svenson signed a proclamation against Governor Inslee for the extended lockdowns and against "tyranny"; He cited Inslee needed an evaluation for narcissistic behavior. A few of the points he gave were, "reacting negatively to criticism, taking advantage of others, having the inability of willingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others and behaving in an arrogant manner." The Mayor interrupted several speakers where he reacted negatively to criticism, even making several sarcastic comments against those who spoke. Will the city council be asking for a mental evaluation against the Mayor for narcissistic behavior as the mayor asked of Governor Inslee?
You can listen to the entire hearing by going to the City of Winlock's website, under the city council tab.
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