With the last week, a small group of village residents have begun circulating a petition to gather signatures in order to place the cityhood issue on the election ballot.
The 45-day referendum period is the next legal step in the process of Dexter becoming a city. If citizens are able to obtain valid signatures of 5 percent of registered voters, or roughly 137 signatures, the question of whether the cityhood incorporation process should continue will be put on ballot for a yes or no vote.
"I've said from the very beginning that this should be a decision that people need to vote on," resident Jim Smith said. "If we wait until the city charter is written, a lot of people won't speak up because they will think it's already a done deal."
Dexter's cityhood plans have been the focus of ongoing debate for the past two years, including a recent , of which Smith is a member.
"Instead of spending anymore money, let's take this opportunity to find out what the people think. If we are sucessful in obtaining a referendum vote, then we can discuss the pros and cons of becoming a city."
If a referendum isn’t filed or there aren’t enough valid signatures, village voters will be asked to elect a charter commission, which will be comprised of nine members, who would write the governing document for the new city of Dexter.
Once the charter is drafted, it is sent to the state attorney general's office. If found in compliance with Michigan law, village voters will vote on whether to accept the charter. If the charter is approved, the village officially becomes a city and a new slate of elected officials are chosen simultaneously.
Resident Paul Cousins, who has been a strong advocate for cityhood, said holding an election before a charter can be drafted does not make sense.
"Obviously anyone has a right to seek a referendum, but I think they are pursuing it without all of the facts," Cousins said. "The biggest concern I've heard from people is that they are afraid taxes will go up if we become a city. Let the tax issue be addressed during the charter process, then we we will have a clearer understanding and people will know what they're voting for."
Cousins said there are many advantages if Dexter became a city. Among other things, it could control its own property assessments, hold its own elections, maintain its own roads, levy a tax up to 20 mills for general operations and have the option of a city income tax.
"When you look at our population growth, we're at the top of the list of villages in the country that aren't a city yet," he said. "Either way we're going to have a vote on this issue, and I support the due process."
Smith said he began collecting signatures on Saturday and feels confident he will have the required 137 signatures by the Aug. 27 deadline. All signatures will then be sent to the State Boundary Commission, which will ask the Scio and Webster township clerks to validate the signatures.
More information on the cityhood process can be viewed online at http://villageofdexter.org/city_study_committee/cityhood_index_page.htm.