Welcome to the city: Wedgewood annexation moves forward
It's been a number of years since the city of Halstead purchased Wedgewood Golf Course, a nine-hole golf course that sits a little more than 2 miles north and east of the city limits.
The course, first constructed in 1935 with sand greens, was purchased by the city in 1984, opening as a public golf course in 1985.
Throughout the history of the course, it has not been in the city limits — something that the city has finally been able to change.
The county voted commission voted 2-1 in favor of annexation of the golf course into the city of Halstead. Commissioner Chip Westfall voted against the motion.
"I think this will lead to more annexation issues of city properties scattered all over Westfall said. '... This could lead to more annexation questions about cemeteries, water well sites, sewer plant sites and that type of thing. That concerns me."
The problem for Halstead was to annex the course would be an "island," not bordering on current city limits. In order for that to be accomplished, the annexation must be approved by the county.
According to statute, if the commission finds that the annexation "will not hinder or prevent proper growth in the area or some other city" then the annexation should be granted.
"it is an agricultural area, for me is hard to defined what proper growth means in that area," said commissioner Don Schroeder. "... If they wish to annex more property around that they need to come to the commission for that. That eases my mind about this. ... It is in the interest of the city of Halstead to do this."
The annexation was not without protest or controversy — county staff sent letters to about 40 landowners within a mile of the golf course notifying them of the commission considering the annexation.
Two chose to speak at the meeting, and a third sent a letter, in opposition to the annexation. Those opposed to the annexation did so namely out of a concern that future city councils and commissions would have a desire to expand the golf course and use eminent domain in order to do so.
The eminent domain question became a hot button for commissioners — an area of concern. The commission asked legal council what limitations could be placed on the golf course growth, and eminent domain.
There are really not limitations the commission can put on the property during an annexation, according to county legal counsel. However, should the city wish to annex more property in the area there would be a need for approval from the county commission.
"I understand the adjoining land owners concern," said commissioner Randy Hague. "My concern is future action when none of us are on the commission and sitting on this bench."
He asked city staff if the city subsidizes the golf course, and learned the city of Halstead subsidizes the operations of the golf course at a cost of between $40,0000 and $50,000 annually. According to city manager Ethan Reimer, the city has lost as much as $100,000 in a year.
"It is a quality of life ammenity," Reimer said.
Reimer told the commission the city has no interest in expanding the golf course — and likely losing more money — in the future.
This is not the first time annexation of the course has been on the county docket — last month the commission sent a petition back to the city for the fix of clerical errors. And decades ago the city made an attempt to annex the course that was rebuffed.
"Before I was commissioner I came to a hearing in this room that was very heated. The disscussion of expanding that golf course has gone on forever," Westfall said. "Who knows, maybe someday some rich golfer will donate them the money to go to 18 holes, but I don't see that happening soon."
However in 2021 expansion is not a part of the conversation.
According to Reimer, the city has an interest in streamlining business operations and taking minor criminal activity under the jurisdiction of municipal court rather than district court.
"We are attempting to annex it to streamline things when there is an issue at the golf course," Reimer told The Kansan in February. "Even though it is city property, it is out in the county."
Reimer said that can create law enforcement issues.
"If something happens out there that puts it under the sheriff's office jurisdiction. We have never had an issue working with the sheriff's department," Reimer said. "When there are minor things like vandalism or that, we would hate to bog down district court with those kinds of issues. We would like the ability to run those things through muncipal court, and we can't unless it is in city limits."
The city wants to eliminate gray areas for law enforcement.
And the city wants to recover some taxes collected at the course.
"Right now all of that goes to the county," Reimer said. "The personal property that is out there, right now that all goes to the county and we would like some of that back since we are paying to operate that course."