Columbus scales back annexation plans

April 9, 2010 10:53:00 AM

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.