Pasco not backing down from Donut Hole annexation

PASCO -- The Franklin County "donut hole" has long offered a peaceful setting to its residents. But there is still a bitter fight brewing there, just under the surface.

Just last week, residents submitted a petition to vote on incorporating into their own city.

And at the same time, Pasco City Council members are once again moving forward on plans to annex a portion of the Donut Hole, known as Area 2.

If the move is finalized, it will be just enough to lower the Donut Hole's total population below the legal minimum to incorporate.

Many residents say the city is trying to take away their American right to vote.

But City Manager Gary Crutchfield says, "There's nothing sneaky about it. They want to use the state law to ask for that vote, but they don't want us to use the same law to pursue the city's interests."

He's referring to the state law that says, after a petition to incorporate is filed, a neighboring city has a right to file its own petition to annex any portion of that same area.

Pasco can only annex Area 2 if it has enough utility agreements in place. It's a document many neighbors signed years, or even decades ago, when they wanted water or sewer service from the city. And they essentially waived their right to fight annexation. But now, some of those agreements are being called into question.

Roger Lenk, who is leading the charge in the effort to incorporate the donut hole, says the city is using "falsified and defective agreements."
It's an issue currently being decided by a judge, as part of a lawsuit.

Last Wednesday, Lenk turned in nearly a thousand signatures to Franklin County, more than twice what is required to bring the incorporating issue to the ballot.

But Pasco tells Action News it isn't backing down. And Lenk vows the same.

He says he will bring even more legal action to the city until those who live in the Donut Hole are allowed to make their own decision about their future.