DOVER — Town residents are bracing for a financial impact after the Racine County Board of Drainage Commissioners voted to more than double the size of the Eagle Creek Drainage District by annexing more than 5,700 acres of the town’s land.
The annexation, if approved by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, will see homeowners pay a minimum of $50 per year and farm owners an annual rate of $5.71 per acre of agricultural land to relieve existing district residents of some financial burden.
The Board of Drainage Commissioners works to control flooding and runoff by maintaining creeks, canals, drainage ditches and tiles.
By completing the annexation, Al Wilks, chairman of the Drainage Board, said every resident within the Eagle Creek watershed — also known as a drainage basin, or an area where precipitation collects and runs off into a common outlet — will now be assessed. Currently, only about a third of residents within the watershed are actually charged, Wilks said.
The district currently spans 263 parcels totaling 4,160 acres, bounded roughly by Highway J on the west, Highway A on the north and Highway 11 on the south, stopping just short of the residential areas surrounding Eagle Lake on the east.
The new district boundaries, as approved by the Drainage Board on Feb. 26, includes 1,606 parcels totaling 9,898 acres. Most of the Kansasville business district and the subdivisions around Eagle Lake — the most densely populated areas of Dover — are included in the annexation.
The new boundaries extend about 1½ miles east of Eagle Lake, just under one mile north of Highway 20 and just over one mile south of Highway 11, with no westward expansion.
Dover Town Chairman Sam Stratton was not happy when he and other residents received notices saying their land was to be annexed into the district.
“It’s like taxation without representation,” Stratton said, referring to the fact that the Drainage Board is an appointed, self-governing body that is independent of Racine County government.
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Drainage Board commissioners are appointed by petitioning to be appointed, and then a Circuit Court judge can approve or deny the appointment. Racine County commissioners serve staggered five-year terms.
‘Can’t make everybody happy’
Wilks said the annexation is only fair because a third of the residents were paying for the whole watershed. Those residents will see their assessments “lowered somewhat,” he said.
“It’s going to make it fair for everyone in the watershed,” Wilks said. “Can’t make everybody happy.”
Affected landowners have through March 26 to forward objections to the Drainage Board, Wilks said. Once that period ends, the Drainage Board will send objections and specifications for the annexation to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Protection, which must approve or deny the annexation within 90 days of receipt.
If the DATCP approves the new district boundaries, assessments will be levied starting in the 2020 tax year, Wilks said.
Wilks said the Drainage Board plans to do some projects in the new area such as repairing and improving drains and dredging.
From Sept. 1, 2017, to Aug. 31, 2018, the Eagle Creek Drainage District collected about $64,000 in assessments, according to its latest annual report. After the annexations, it will collect about $120,000, Wilks said.