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2 Murray annexation foes start campaigns

The drive to annex the Millcreek area into Murray City may have shifted into neutral this past month, but it hasn't been parked as an election issue.

A controversial proposal to annex the 1.5-square-mile area is still on the table after the City Council agreed Sept. 24 to indefinitely extend the time for gathering annexation petitions.And that situation has persuaded two Murray residents who say they strongly oppose annexation to launch the first write-in campaigns for Murray city office in more than two decades.

Sherry Madsen, currently president of the Murray Board of Education, announced last week she will run a write-in campaign against mayoral candidates Leon Robertson and Dan Snarr.

Communications consultant John Ward stepped up last month as a write-in candidate in District 2, where he will challenge Council Chairman Lynn Turner, the incumbent.

Turner was running unopposed in his district until Ward decided to enter the race.

Both Madsen and Ward cite the annexation issue as their primary reason for running for office, saying the large number of Murray residents who oppose bringing the Millcreek area into the city need to be represented.

Shannon Smith, city council executive director, said volunteers collected enough signatures to meet the requirement that petitioners must own more than one-third of the assessed valuation in the Millcreek area.

But they fell far short of meeting the requirement that parties seeking annexation also must own at least 51 percent of the land area.

Council members agreed petitioners could take whatever time needed to get the necessary signatures. However, that work is going slowly in the wake of a 4-1 vote by the Murray School Board to oppose the Millcreek annexation.

"The petition volunteers have indicated they will attempt to get more petitions, particularly those (from land owners) who have more significant acreage," said Smith. "But no petitions (representing property) of any significant size have come in."

To date, the petitions only account for about 38 percent of the property ownership.

"Until the petitions meet requirements for certification, the council will not consider taking any action," Smith said. "There is no active petition before the council at this time."

That sentiment is echoed by Turner, who says the annexation is "a non-issue" at this point in time.

But that doesn't deter Madsen and Ward, who have been taking their write-in campaigns door-to-door.

"I am frustrated, discouraged and dissatisfied with the stand on annexation taken by the two mayoral candidates that came out of the primary election," said Madsen, who has served nine years on the city school board. She also works in a noneditorial capacity at the Deseret News in the Newspaper in Education program.

"There is no room in our district for the children in the proposed annexation area," she added. "And I have a great concern that the annexation would dilute the existing services we've enjoyed in Murray for many years."

Ward, who joined battle over the proposed annexation last summer by organizing the Murray Kids' Future Coalition, said he's convinced the council is "out of touch with the desires of Murray residents. Ward is a self-employed public relations specialist.

"A write-in campaign is certainly an uphill battle," he conceded, "but allowing Councilman Turner to run unopposed risks sending the message that people are pleased with his performance. This campaign will show that people definitely are not pleased."

Ward also said his decision to run for the council is not solely related to the annexation issue.

"The council's handling of the annexation issue is just a symptom of a much larger problem," he added. "We need city leaders who will consider how their decisions affect other valued institutions - like our schools, business and community organizations."