Columbus puts Annexation on hold

August 10, 2010 9:50:00 AM

Kristin Mamrack -

 

The Columbus City Council Monday agreed to postpone further consideration of annexing any areas into Columbus until the city''s budget for next year is completed. 

 

Consultant Chris Watson, of Oxford-based Bridge and Watson, advised the council to annex in phases, instead of all at once, after considering the city''s finances. 

 

Watson Monday met with city officials to discuss the costs associated with annexing seven areas under consideration, including a recently added area west of the city, which is comprised of areas north of Highway 82 and west of the intersections of Highways 45 and 82 to Burkhalter Rigging on Highway 45 South. 

 

The seventh area -- with a population of less than 300 -- mainly is a commercial and industrial mix and vacant land. 

 

Watson noted to annex the seventh area would cost the city about $1,132.796 a year. 

 

To annex all seven areas under consideration would cost the city about $1.49 million a year. 

 

But the city''s current general fund balance only is $4.5 million and the city, should annexation occur, would also be expected to prove "the city has the financial ability to support the costs of annexation," as well as provide city services, including police and fire protection, to annexed areas, Watson said. 

 

"If this thing were to go forward, some deals have to be in place," he added, referring to donations of land for annexation and alternate funding sources. "For this thing to work, there has got to be some participation from other entities or a tax increase." 

 

A phased approach to annexation also would allow the city to potentially restrict areas of annexation to more limited, commercial areas, Watson concluded. 

 

The council earlier advised 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 has been 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-to-way to right-of-way" and not nearby residential areas. 

 

Once a decision is made to annex any areas, "several months" could pass before the city''s first court hearing on annexation, Watson earlier explained. 

 

If uncontested, services like police and fire protection, would begin immediately for annexed areas, once annexation is approved, but the city would have five years for major improvements. 

 

The city''s budget process for the next fiscal year must be completed and a budget adopted by Sept. 15, said the city''s chief administrative officer, David Armstrong.