LAGRANGE — After months of contention, LaGrange and LaGrange Township have reached an agreement that effectively puts any talks of the village seceding from the township to rest.
At a special meeting of the township trustees Thursday, the two sides reached an agreement to split the cost and maintenance of the LaGrange Cemetery and continue their partnership in operating LaGrange Community Park.
According to the agreement, the township will “assist the village and provide burial services necessary for the operation of the LaGrange Cemetery,” the “township is permitted to charge and retain burial fees” and the township will provide maintenance services for the cemetery while the village will reimburse the township for one-half the cost of the maintenance. The two sides also will continue the current arrangement of each providing a part-time employee to provide maintenance for the community park from April 1 to Nov. 1.
“They had made us an offer back in July that we split the cost of the cemetery maintenance and they would keep putting their money toward the park and a part-time person,” LaGrange Village Council President Gary Kincannon said. “We had never accepted it, but we accepted it at their meeting yesterday (Thursday). They approved it, and that’s our deal.”
The deal comes days before Tuesday’s general election in which the township has a fire and EMS 3.5-mill replacement levy that would provide funds to add additional services such as staffing an overnight shift for the fire department, pay for a new off-road response vehicle and upgrade the department’s aging ambulance.
One issue that was not addressed in the agreement was that of inside millage paid by village residents to the township. The village has claimed that its residents pay about $50,000 to $70,000 of inside millage each year to the township, but the residents don’t see any benefits from those taxes. Township leaders have disputed the figures of how much inside millage village residents pay.
LaGrange Mayor Kim Strauss said he believed the inside millage isn’t such an issue anymore.
“I’m totally fine with it,” he said. “Yes, we do pay the inside millage. I think what we get for it is worth it. I also believe the compromise we came up with is a good compromise. I think it will benefit both of us.”
Kincannon said the village had to compromise to avoid entering into a contract with the township to provide fire and EMS service to village residents.
“Village Council didn’t want to have to go to a contract or fire district, so that’s why we gave up the whole inside millage idea. (The inside millage has) been my sore point all along,” Kincannon said. “I’ve talked to some old-timers that are older than me and have been involved before me with village government. They just said, ‘Hey, it was that way before, and just mow the freakin’ grass and settle the issue,’ a lot of people felt that if it came down to negotiating who was going to cut grass (at the cemetery), then just cut the grass.”
The two sides also hope to have open communication to help avoid similar issues in the future.
“We hope that ongoing talks and compromise can put to rest any remaining differences between the village and township,” a letter from the village to the trustees said. “We, also, hope that cooperation and communication can return to levels that were seen in the past.”
Strauss said the two sides will hold meetings multiple times a year.
“We’re going to make a few changes to try to meet every two to three months to discuss things that come along the way,” he said. “Two councilmen and one of the trustees could meet together and have a meeting to discuss any issues that might be out there.”
Trustee Gary Burnett said that he believes the contention of the past year could have been avoided if the two sides had communicated more.
“We should have been doing it before, to tell you the truth, but no one really thought of it,” he said.