CASEVILLE'S QUEST FOR INCORPORATION AS A CLASS 5 CITY
Incorporation of the Village as a City has been a topic of conversation for years. In September 2002, Council formed a committee to study the feasibility of becoming a city. Nine citizens - not elected officials - met with one councilman to explore the question of City vs. Village status. These citizens were not of the same opinion or temperament. Some were in favor, others were adamantly opposed to incorporation. This was not a "rubber stamp" committee.
The issue was examined, researched and debated by the committee. In its report to the Village Council, dated October 31, 2002, the committee unanimously recommended incorporation as a Class 5 City.
The report was published by the Village and mailed to all qualified electors, property owners and residents in the village. Copies of this report are available in the Village Office.
On December 7, 2002 the Village Council held a Public Hearing in the school auditorium. The purpose of the hearing was "to gain public input regarding incorporation of the Village of Caseville as a Home Rule City pursuant to Act 279 of 1909. (To change from a Home Rule Village to a Home Rule City)"
THE PROCESS: Our Timeline To Incorporation
A Petition to Incorporate as a Class 5 City was circulated resulting in 117 signatures, 107 of which were certified by the clerk.
A formal Petition ("File") for Incorporation as a city was prepared by the Village staff and attorney. This file included the circulated petition signature sheets, a certified survey of the village, legal description, and narrative addressing the issue and state law requirements. On August 29, 2003 the file was submitted for preview by the State Boundary Commission ("SBC") staff.
The file was returned to the village for editing as suggested.
The file was submitted to the State Boundary Commission for ruling on its Legal Sufficiency. January 19, 2006 the Commission ruled that the petition submitted by the Village met the legal sufficiency requirements and set the date of March 30, 2006 at 4:00 p.m. in the James A. Stahl Auditorium of the Caseville Public School for its on-site Public Hearing.
PUBLIC HEARING by the State Boundary Commission was held in the village. A 30 day period for submission of additional information plus a 7 day rebuttal period followed the public hearing.
The Boundary Commission Deliberation and Adjudication: the SBC issued its "Summary of Proceedings: Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law" in regard to the petition/file submitted by the Village of Caseville. It voted to recommend approval of incorporation as petitioned.
REFEREBDUM PETITION In the 45 Days following the issuance of the SBC findings, a Petition for Referendum was filed with signatures of at least 5% of village residents calling for an immediate vote on the question of whether or not the Village should proceed with its quest for cityhood. On June 29th, the Village was ordered by the SBC to place the referendum question on the September 11, 2007 Village General Election ballot. The SBC even dictated the ballot language "Shall the proceedings continue that propose to incorporate the Village of Caseville as a Home Rule City? NOTE: A "yes" vote permits incorporation proceedings to continue. A 'No" vote terminates incorporation proceedings." The voters approved (157 yes - 108 no votes) the referendum.
ORDER OF THE BOUNDARY COMMISSION DIRECTOR: Following the referendum vote, the Director of the Dept. of Labor & Economic Growth (oversees the State Boundary Commission) issued the Order for Incorporation dated September 21, 2007. Next step in the process is to elect the charter commission, draft the charter and then ratify the charter. This has to occur within 2 years of the date of the Order.
Election of Charter Commissioners: Nine (9) persons are elected to draft the charter for the proposed Home Rule City. They must convene within 10 days of the election and submit a Certificate of Compliance to the SBC. The drafted charter is reviewed by the Governor's Office prior to any then put to a vote of the registered electors in the village.
Election: Voters either approve or turn down the proposed charter. Once approved, the village becomes a city. We have TWO years to adopt a charter from the date of the Boundary Commission's Approval Order.
There is a wrinkle in this timeline: The State Boundary Commission sets the dates for hearings, filing of information or petitions and elections. However, the manner and method of any election in the State of Michigan has been changed with the passing and enactment of the Election Consolidation Act. Elections may be held on only four (4) dates per year and must be conducted by the Township or City Clerk. Villages are permitted to run one election every two (2) years and only if a resolution was adopted by the Council and filed with the State (Yes, our Council did that).
WHY DOES THIS PROCESS TAKE SO LONG?
Preparation of a thorough and complete petition file takes time. Incorporation process usually takes a few years.
At each step there have been unforseen delays. For example there was a major staffing change in the Boundary Commission Office. It took time for the new staff to adjust to the position and operate at peak efficiency. There were Boundary Commission Board vacancies to fill and appointments to be made at both the state and county levels. The rules changed: the State Legislature passed the Election Concolidation Act in 1999 that changed timelines and requirements for elections.
While there are basically only three stages for incorporation, each phase has several components. The state law lists each phase -Approval for Incorporation, Referendum (vote on the issue) and Adoption of Charter and then further details each step involved in each of the phases. Looking at the list, it averages 9 months per phase with a time limit of 2 years after the Border Commission gives the go-ahead.