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Columbus scales back annexation plans


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Kristin Mamrack



Informed of preliminary expenses associated with annexing six study areas into the city and the estimated cost of providing water and sewer services to the annexed areas, the Columbus City Council Thursday authorized Chris Watson, of Oxford-based Bridge and Watson, to study and present new data on a smaller area of consideration. 


The Columbus City Council earlier advised Chris Watson, of Bridge and Watson, to study annexing areas east of Columbus, north of Columbus, along Highway 45 North and small areas south of Columbus. 


Additionally, Watson was asked to analyze the possibility of annexing the property on Highway 373 on which a new middle school will be located and the property, near the Columbus Riverwalk, where Ruben''s Fish House currently is located. 


Watson also studied the possibility of annexing Columbus Air Force base "from right-of-way to right-of-way," not nearby residential areas. 


Noting the total annexation study area, based on 2000 Census data, is 52 percent white and 43 percent black, Watson presented the preliminary general fund impact -- estimated revenues and net expenditures -- of annexing six areas under consideration. 


Annexing Area 1, which includes areas along Highway 45 North and CAFB, Area 2, which includes areas north of the city limits, Area 3, which includes areas along Lehmberg Road, Areas 4 and 5, both of which include small areas south of the city, and Area 6, which includes the Riverwalk and areas west of the city, would mean a $1.2 million annual deficit for the city, Watson explained, noting the data does not include the costs of providing water and sewer service to the areas. 


"This story does not represent the full impact of annexation," he said. 


Columbus Light and Water Department Executive Director Todd Gale noted a cost of "slightly less than $40 million" to provide water and sewer services to the six areas under consideration. 


Watson noted the council could annex all six areas for an annual cost of $304,310, by reducing the size of Area 2, thus eliminating the need to construct another fire station, and "cutting the Public Works requirements" in half. 


To annex Area 2 farther along Highway 45 North, which the city maintains, would mean additional personnel and equipment for the Public Works Department and require construction of another fire station. 


By reducing the size of Area 2, annexing all six areas would mean an annual expenditure of $1,764,288 and annual revenues of $1,459,978 for an annual deficit of $304,310. 


"Now, you have an annexation you can potentially swallow, if you so desire," Watson said. "The question is, can the city afford $300,000 a year?" 


With the annexation, the city''s population could increase to about 31,000, Watson added, explaining the estimate is based on 2000 Census numbers and some population likely has been "lost" since then. 


"The cost of annexation could be very expensive, based on the level of opposition," he admitted, when questioned about the expense and timeline of a contested annexation. 


"Several months" could pass before the city''s first court hearing on annexation, once a decision to annex has been made, he explained.  


If uncontested, services, like police and fire protection, would begin immediately for annexed areas, once the annexation is approved, but the city would have five years for "major improvements" and two years to build a fire station, if one is necessary. 


The council voted to authorize Watson to gather data related to annexing the six areas, with Area 2 reduced in size, and authorized City Engineer Kevin Stafford and Gale to meet with Watson, at a later date, to further discuss the costs associated with providing water and sewer to annexed areas.




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Reader Comments

Article Comment m commented at 4/9/2010 5:06:00 PM:

i know of no one who wants to be annexed by the city. we will fight it tooth and nail.


Article Comment allen commented at 4/9/2010 7:07:00 PM:

Why not take in what is already in the city. There are a lot of area that has been skirted around just to please the good old boys. Don't just take in an area just for their votes. For example The Lehmberg Road area. We are watching to see how you justify your moves. Be careful.


Article Comment winwallis commented at 4/9/2010 9:00:00 PM:

YES we can!!! We can contest this annexation AND we will!! We moved to the county to escape the city and everything it represents. (REMEMBER HERE, THIS IS A CITY THAT'S BROKE!) There is nothing positive that the CITY of Columbus can give us that we don't already have. Everything they represent is "negative." NO THANKS!!!!


Article Comment donhaddit commented at 4/9/2010 10:32:00 PM:

I could not have said it better Winwallis. They are broke and want our money so we can be in a broke town too. What happen to the city money? No business people on the council. You have to know business to do business! Can't wait till the next Election. Will it get any better? Can be much worst or can it?


Article Comment TD commented at 4/10/2010 1:48:00 PM:

I am firmly against annexation. People buy outside the city to escape the high city tax rates.

No doubt the city wants Bent Tree and other upscale subdivisions annexed. A home valued at $375,000 now pays about $3500 in property taxes. If annexed, the same house gets $1300 in new taxes.

What does the city offer in exchange (other than a mayor that packs a mean right hook)


Article Comment Phil commented at 4/10/2010 6:34:00 PM:

First of all, the city is not broke. So you use the cites streets, parks or other facilities and don't want to help pay for it? Property vales will decline in the county without a growing city. There is no more land to develop inside the current city limits. How do you think Starkville and Tupelo have grown, they've annexed. Tupelo has taken a progressive stance thru the years to annex and it's paid off, we can and should do the same. Additional taxes are offset by lower insurance rates.


Article Comment Dave commented at 4/10/2010 8:54:00 PM:

PHIL First I don't use the parks and I don't like to use the so called streets. If the roads in the county looked like the city there would be fewer people living there also. Clean up and repair the city and we might think about coming to the city. From what I can tell the city in on the way down. I have lived here 6 years and hoping for a job change to GA.


Article Comment Curt commented at 4/10/2010 9:10:00 PM:

"From what you can tell"...LOL. From what I can tell (sic) you appear quite uninformed. There are thousands who do use the city streets and parks, but don't want to help fund it. So you don't like to use the "so called" streets, what does that even mean? It's a street or it's not, so where do you buy your groceries, do you have a garden? Don't be such a rube.


Article Comment Thom Geiger commented at 4/11/2010 8:19:00 AM:

When the last hard fought and strongly opposed annexation came up, the Dispatch printed a bigoted editorial about county residents that served only to inflame, to provoke anger and divide the residents of the community.
That editorial made much mention of the use of city streets, along with the protection of city police officers, by county residents while they are in the city. The term I believe they used in the piece was "freeloaders". I disagreed with the intent, the message, the mindset and the characterizations in that editorial and I still disagree with them. I am surprised that the prejudice and animosity towards county residents is still alive and kicking after all these years.
County residents don't depend on or use city resources unless they are in the city, as in shopping, dining out, going to a movie, attending one of our much touted and frequent festivals, etc. In short they are no different than the tourists we (city taxpayers) spend hundreds of thousands of dollars (millions, if you count the money spent on our parks and the private money spent on renovations and preservation) to attract to our city every year. In fact, they ARE tourists, every time they come into the city to shop and spend money...and this is how we treat our closest source of tourism?
Why do we even try to keep locals from spending money elsewhere, as in Tupelo, Tuscaloosa or Birmingham, Meridian and Jackson? Why do we continually hear the "buy local" or "shop local" jingles? I've always thought that included our county neighbors, but anyone taking the Dispatch and bigoted city residents seriously would have to think otherwise.
The argument about there not being any areas for building in the city are false and misinformation. There are areas in our city that have been cast on the scrap pile by ineffectual and incompetent city leadership. Do we need a list? Shall we start with the island? No extensive driving needed, just stay on old 82 and see how much area and how much old business/space has been let go and ignored.
What about the Bosch plant? No matter how many times people ask about the place, no one gets an answer. That's a constant theme for city officials touting the "no space" argument. We have more of a turtle leadership than a brave and bold one in our city. That needs to stop.
Why hasn't a remedy been found for the K/M site yet? With a Democrat in the White House, one the Dispatch promoted in the election and one (supposed) environmentally friendly political party in control of both congressional houses, why is it so difficult to get government's attention on the space? Is it a Superfund site or not? Does it need a cleanup or not?
We still have space on Hwy45N that is not sold, space on Hwy69S, space in east Columbus and on the south side, but again, no answers from the proponents of the "no space" argument. Just more of the typical turtle response. Why is that? Simply pulling your heads in isn't going to make the questions go away.
So it should be obvious that I am opposed to annexation. It took the city 20 years to deliver the last services to the people of the Masonic subdivision after they were annexed and we still haven't fixed their flooding problems yet. The most we can give them are bloated and unfulfilled promises. We need to make things right for all the citizens we have ignored for years, clean and market up all the spaces we already have and stop listening to people who promote division and bigotry.

I don't agree with Mr. Brown much, but I believe he was right when he said Columbus has a bright future. A *possible* future, in my opinion. One possible future, but there are other possible futures where we don't do very well as a city. Look at the recent papers, read the crime reports, read the blogs where citizens express their opinions and frustrations. It doesn't look like we are headed into a bright future at the moment and that is on our heads.


Article Comment Thom Geiger commented at 4/11/2010 8:16:00 PM:

I see my buddy is still marking my messages as inappropriate, no doubt to prevent other readers from reading an opinion different from that held by annexation supporters and the staff of the Dispatch. If that is what it takes to try and win a debate, you've admitted your position is weak and you're losing the debate.


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