St. Catharine could be annexed into the city by early 2012

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By Jesse Osbourne

By the first day of the new year, the majority of the St. Catharine campus could be annexed into the city of Springfield.

“I think the best way to put it is, it’s just going to be a win-win for everybody,” Laurie Smith, city administrator, said after the regular scheduled Springfield city council meeting on Monday at City Hall.
The St. Catharine farm would be excluded from annexation, as the land belongs to an agricultural district, as designated by the USDA, which means it legally can’t become part of an incorporated city.
Included in the potential annexation is St. Catharine College, Sisters of Peace St. Catharine Motherhouse, Sansbury Care Center and Lakeview Landing.
Both the city and the campus can benefit from the partnership, should it pass.
St. Catharine will benefit from city services such as police and fire protection.
It could also see savings in the city water rate, according to Smith.
“The city water rate is considerably less than the county,” she said.
Zoning would also be a perk for the campus, according to Smith.
“It’s a tremendous protection,” she said. “Zoning is invaluable. It’s something you can’t buy.”
The city of Springfield will reap the benefits of a population increase, which will help land grant money and new businesses, according to Smith.
Nearly 400 residents will be added to the population.
Smith said the total consists of 285 students, 44 residents at Sisters of Peace and 60 residents at Sansbury.
The addition would put the city population at 3,000.
“We did lose some population in the last census count,” she said. “That’s extremely important to the city in terms of vying for grant money. A lot of the things we do is based on population.”
Mayor Dr. John Cecconi added the college population would likely increase in the future as construction continues.
The annexation would bring occupational tax dollars to the city, as well.
Smith said the campus has 270 employees.
Of those, 191 work at the college, 33 work at Sisters of Peace and 46 work at Sansbury.
“We’re not looking at this as just a tax base,” she said. “There are so many things we can do in terms with partnering with the college.”
Smith said she is serving on committees at St. Catharine now as a result of the annexation process.
“We look forward to partnering with them,” she said. “We’re working now on an arts venue with them.”
Smith said the school and other facilities won’t be subject to property taxes because they are religous and non-profit corporations.
 The first reading was presented  on Monday during the regular scheduled Springfield city council meeting.
Next, the zoning request will go before the Springfield Planning Commission on Dec. 20 at City Hall (see news brief on page A2).
If the planning commission approves the annexation, the ordinance will face a second reading and a vote from the Springfield city council.
Smith said the effective date for the annexation was Jan. 1, 2012.
All council members were present. The next regular scheduled meeting is  Jan. 10 at City Hall.