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Weathersfield vows fight over annexation efforts

WEATHERSFIELD — Township officials said an incident on Aug. 7 in which a local businessman had his utilities turned off by Niles officials was the “final straw,” and trustees plan to protect residents and businesses from any annexation threats from the city.

Trustee Richard Harkins said at Tuesday’s township trustee meeting that negotiations with Niles officials over annexation have come to a halt.

“The annexation issue has escalated. They approached a local businessman last week and turned off his power for a new business that came into town. It is a sad day that it has come to this point. With support from the township administration, we were able to get his power turned back on for a short period of time while he negotiates with the city,” Harkins said.

Harkins said the businessman, John Ackworth of Canfield, invested $750,000 to get his business, ASAP Sanitary Services, into the township.

Officials said they need local business owners and residents to join with township officials and stand against the Niles annexations efforts.

“We have to stop this madness, greed, corruption and blackmail that is going on against residents and business owners of Weathersfield and Howland in what Niles wants to do,” Harkins said.

He said any township resident or business owner approached by Niles to sign any development agreement should not sign it and instead contact trustees in Weathersfield or Howland.

“Reach out to your county and state officials and city council in Niles and let them know how you feel. They need to hear your voice. We all need to stand united against Niles administration and stop this from happening. This will affect everyone whether you have utilities or not. Services ultimately can be affected as we start losing tax revenue, property, residences and businesses,” Harkins said.

He said representatives of Niles are actively approaching businesses in the township about annexing into the city.

Trustee Marvin McBride said the situation has become very serious and Niles “has already fired the first shot so now we have to act.”

“I hope we can come out of this successful,” McBride said.

Officials said the owner of ASAP Sanitary Services is scheduled to meet with Niles officials this week and his power is on.

McBride said he has received calls from some older residents of the community who are frightened if they are late paying a utility bill there may be a threat of annexation to get the service.

“There is fear out there over what people have seen happen. This is sickening and very upsetting,” McBride said.

Resident June Lucas, a state representative from 1986 to 2000, said in an email to Township Administrator David Rouan about the annexation “the situation is disheartening considering how much township land was lost when Meander was created.”

She was referring to the Meander Reservoir, which supplies drinking water to a host of communities in Mahoning and Trumbull counties, including Niles and Weathersfield.

Last year, Niles City Council passed an ordinance requiring outside property owners to annex into the city if they want Niles utilities.

Ackworth recently bought property in Weathersfield and a couple of weeks ago, he asked Niles to change his utilities over and said last week that annexation became a topic of discussion because he was told he couldn’t have utilities such as electric, water or sewage unless he annexed his business into Niles.

Soon after, Ackworth said his electric was shut off. Weathersfield and Howland officials have hired an attorney to fight Niles annexation efforts.

Niles Mayor Steven Mientkiewicz said last week the city sent Ackworth multiple notices that the power would be turned off. Mientkiewicz said a city ordinance requires a property owner to place utilities with the city in the business owner’s name. The ordinance also requires the property to either be annexed into the city or for the property owner to sign what’s called a “development incentive agreement” which is basically a contract that provides utilities in exchange for money or some other deal.

Niles officials said they will meet with Ackworth to come to an agreement.

bcoupland@tribtoday.com

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