Home Rule Will Hit the Ballot in West Frankfort

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By WSIL Reporter


WEST FRANKFORT -- Voters in West Frankfort will have a big decision to make in November. They'll be voting on whether to keep the city's home rule status.


West Frankfort implemented home rule back in 2006 to help pay for big city projects like the sewer plant and updates to the water system on Main Street. But a petition signed by more than 500 residents will put home rule back on the ballot in November.


Right now West Frankfort runs on home rule. It allows the city to collect 1 percent on sales tax and 2 cents on every gallon of gas.


Mayor Tom Jordan says under Illinois law it also gives them the power to manage issues on public health, safety and to incur debt.


"Home rule also gives the city the ability for a little bit more," he says. "We can reach a little farther with our ordinances and we can do a little bit more legally."


But some think it gives the city too much leeway. John Mize is one of them.


"It allows them to basically do what they want in my opinion," he says. "I mean three people can have the say for eight thousand."


Tensions began over a loan co-signed by the city for Morthland College.


"I don't think that's right," says Mize. "I think $438,000 decisions, where they signed a bank loan for Morthland College, I think that needs to be on a ballot."


Mayor Jordan explains the city's TIF fund would back the loan. That money comes from local businesses. The home rule fund, supported by the tax payers, wouldn't be used.


"What we did was collaterize that loan," says Mayor Jordan. "We said if Morthland College can't pay this payment, we'll pay them. We talked to our TIF adviser and the payments are not going to have any deterimental effects on the city."


But in the midst of all this, Mize has another bone to pick with the city. West Frankfort implemented a new code in 2013 that requires all realtors to register their properties and to have home inspections.


"I believe people shouldn't be treated any differently in this town whether they own a house or rent a house, and I think the old code was fine if they just enforce it," Mize says.


Mize says he owns nearly 150 rental units around southern Illinois, including a number in West Frankfort.


Morthland College will be attracting new renters and Mayor Jordan admits they were a catalyst for the new code.


"Before this ordinance they had no place to go, but with the new ordinance they can complain to the city and the city can do an inspection," says Jordan.


West Frankfort had until Monday to decide if they wanted to appeal the petition. Mayor Jordan tells us they will not contest it and will let it go on the November ballot.


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