Highland News Leader

150-year-old Clinton County community is now a village

It’s official. St. Rose is now the newest village in Clinton County.

“It passed a lot stronger than expected. I thought it would be a closer vote, but we had a 92 percent voter turnout. It passed 2 to 1,” said Justin Detmer, a member of the St. Rose Development Club (SRDC). He, along with fellow club members Craig Benhoff and Chad Vonder Harr, spearheaded the campaign to turn St. Rose into an incorporated village.

“I got a good feeling that people wanted to see this happen. We knew there was some opposition and concern, but we felt like the two town hall meetings we held were good for voicing concerns and asking questions,” Detmer said. “We laid everything out on the table.”

St. Rose has existed as a community since the 1800s. At no time has St. Rose had any recorded municipal boundaries. There’s not ever been a mayor or a town board, but now that’s all changed.

The push to become a village has been an underlying current in the community for some time. But it wasn’t until a few years ago that the idea of incorporation started to gain momentum. The idea picked up traction after an anonymous donor gave the SRDC $5,000. After the club received the money, the SRDC started doing research on how to become a village. They reached out to surrounding communities of comparable sizes, compiled their information and presented the idea during the annual SRDC banquet this past February.

The matter went before voters on Nov. 8. On Nov. 29, a Clinton County judge certified the vote and declared St. Rose as village.

Until the general consolidate election on April 4, 2017, the village will operate with a small committee.

“We are starting the process of forming the town. We are laying the groundwork for the elections in April right now so we can hit the ground running,” Detmer said.

Now What?

Taxes

“In the first year or two, won’t see much difference except the taxes people are already paying will go toward St. Rose instead of Clinton County,” Detmer said. “We basically looked at it as a redirection of tax dollars. We have no intention of levying taxes or raising property taxes. We are going to keep living in our means and use the sales tax dollars that are already generated in community.”

Detmer said he only sees positive results from not raising taxes.

“That was a big concern. I didn’t know if it was a good idea or not, but in the end, I couldn’t be neutral,” Detmer said. “I could only see positives from not raising taxes.”

Lighting District

One of the first things to address is the lighting district.

“It’s always been a cost that the development club has always incurred. We’ve already contacted Ameren, and now we can buy power at a municipal rate instead of residential,” Detmer said. “We are hoping this will make district solvent. We can make (this) more efficient, and we are already starting to see savings.”

Trash and Recycling

“The Water District is looking into trash pickup, which could go hand-in-hand with village. We had recycling program set up through the Clinton County Rehabilitation Center. They would bring a trailer for us to fill with our trash two weekends a month,” Detmer said. “Now we are looking at a curbside service since we are a municipality. We are hoping to save money if we can buy at group rate.”

Applying For Grants

“We had some money that was donated to the SRDC from a family for a playground. As a development club, we are a for-profit club, but now we can apply for grants as a municipality,” Detmer said.

Public Services

As far as public services are concerned, Detmer said there’s nothing to worry about right now.

“Nothing changes,” Detmer said. “The water, sewer, and fire districts will not be affected. Everyone can expect to see no changes.”

Reaction From County

“When we first started on this, we had all the county officials come in with the citizens. We sat together and asked them ‘What do we stand to lose if we incorporate?’

“They said, ‘Nothing. Things will stay the same,’” Detmer said. “The county has been very good to work with and answering our questions. We have a good standing relationship with them and want to continue that.”

Looking to the Future

The residents in St. Rose will have to elect public officials this spring. Those chosen will then have to manage their own assets and take on the benefits and drawbacks of becoming a village. But the SRDC said the new village is strong and up to the challenge.

“We made a good decision for the future of our community,” Detmer said. “We’ve been able to work all these years without extra money and by living in our means. Now we will have more money, but we still plan to live in our means.”

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