Crook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle wants to accelerate efforts to do away with unincorporated areas over the next several years, saying today that the county can no longer afford to provide services for the 98,000 residents that live in those patches.Instead, Preckwinkle wants nearby towns and villages to annex the county’s 62 square miles of unincorporated land into their borders, leaving those municipalities to pick up the cost for police protection, animal control and other key services.
Preckwinkle acknowledges it’s a controversial idea that will meet resistance from towns that don’t want to shoulder the added costs and residents that fear annexation could force their taxes to go up.
“I would hope that we can make progress in the next year or two and that within a decade we would have reached our goal, which is the elimination of unincorporated Cook. I would hope that we could do that before the decade is out, but some of these issues are very complicated,” she said at a news conference.
Preckwinkle said the county may have to provide incentives to towns to encourage annexation, such as beefing up infrastructure that’s lacking in many unincorporated areas.
Preckwinkle said it's unclear how much money the county would save in the long run by eliminating unincorporated areas, but said residents would benefit from annexation because they would receive better representation from local government.
The recommendation to eliminate the county’s unincorporated areas came from a task force Preckwinkle put together to study the issue after meeting resistance to a previous proposal that would have charged residents of unincorporated areas an extra tax for police protection and other services.