LOWELL | The Town Council remains divided on whether Lowell should pursue the annexation of an industrial landfill less than a mile past the town's western boundary.
Council President Edgar Corns, R-5th, Councilman Robert Philpot, R-2nd, and Councilman Don Parker, D-3rd, put down an effort last week by council Vice President Craig Earley, D-1st, and Councilman Phillip Kuiper, D-5th, to force any and all annexation discussions with Republic Services representatives into the public arena.
Earley said he objected to Town Attorney David Westland's involvement and subsequent legal fees on a matter in which Earley was not a participant.
Parker and Corns met with Republic representatives in November after Corns telephoned the other councilmen. Earley and Kuiper told him then they would not support negotiations with Republic for annexation.
Parker said Corns' calls yielded a consensus to pursue talks, not negotiations, with Republic, which has not asked to come into the town.
"I went to them. We want to go to (U.S.) 41, and we'll need to go through them," Parker said. "We don't know after talking to them whether they would want to come in."
He said the town attorney attended the talks because Republic's attorney had legal questions about annexation.
"Anything done will be done according to state statute and in the open," Parker said. "It's not criminal. It's not a conspiracy."
He said he intends to continue informal talks.
"I'm not going to give up that right," Parker said.
Annexing Republic's acreage, which lies along Ind. 2, would put the town closer to U.S. 41 and the stated goal of a pathway to gain access to the proposed Illiana Expressway at U.S. 41 and 165th Avenue, Corns said.
Earley said he sought to put any talks in a public meeting such as a work session because the landfill is a "sensitive, touchy subject" after locals lost efforts to keep it out.
Both Earley and Kuiper said they strongly objected because they were told the talks were negotiations. They said they were willing to discuss annexing the Republic property in an open forum.
Earley and Kuiper continued to object to the presence of the town attorney at the talks with Republic. However, Parker said council presidents in other communities have, for years, had the perogative to use their attorney's services when needed.
Philpot said the attorney's presence was a wise decision and they would have been "stupid" to not include him.