Last Thursday, the Mayor and City Council’s Annexation Committee met for the third time in three months. This final meeting on the Been Ridge, Bell Road and Highway 96 area was short with only four items on the agenda. Members of the committee were to discuss the current and future contributions the area under study would make to the City of Greenwood. Also, they would discuss the pros and cons of the annexation of the properties into the city. A vote was to be taken to decide their recommendation to the City Council.
Chairman Robert McKinney called the meeting to order and announced there would be a time for comments from the audience after the committee finished its discussion of the annexation study. The audience, consisting of over 60 people, was then asked, "How many of you are against annexation?" A large majority of the audience raised their hands. McKinney explained that each person would have two minutes to speak, but that only two to three people would be allowed to talk about the same issue, to avoid hearing the same argument over and over.
McKinney then turned the floor over to committee member, Steve Ratterree. Ratterree had developed a spreadsheet showing that the revenues would not exceed the expenses if the area were annexed into the city. Two different sources of revenue were used for the study, State turn-back money and real estate taxes. The State of Arkansas distributes turn-back money each month based on the City’s population. Real estate taxes are based on millage. The total amount for the City of Greenwood would be 8 mills, with 3 mills going to the Street Department. These numbers equate to 0.8% of the assessed value of all property multiplied by the 20% base assessment value. Ratterree stated that his information was obtained from the county and his figures were estimated based on data he collected from Ratterree’s total estimated revenues for the city amounted to be around $53,000.
The expenses calculated on Ratterree’s spreadsheet were compiled from conversations he had with various city officials. The committee was concerned with two expense items on the spreadsheet. The first was the budget for street overlays. On the spreadsheet, this item was listed as $600,000. Planning Director Sonny Bell stated that the county recently overlaid the streets in question and they would not need to be overlaid again for at least ten years. Mr. Bell noted that the cost of construction and materials increase at the rate of 10% per year and this would result in the project costing around $1.3 million. Committee member Jim Newcomb agreed with Bell stating he felt the expenses were a little light and net revenues were not enough to justify the annexation. Ratterree stated the committee could discuss the issue if they felt it needed to be adjusted.
The second item under question was the cost of a $300,000 tanker truck for the Fire Department. Committee member Newcomb questioned whether this cost should even be on the spreadsheet as an expense of the annexation. The city has been considering and discussing the purchase of a tanker truck for years and it would probably be purchased with or without the annexation. Ratterree stated he had spread the cost of a fire tanker truck over four parts of the city. He then took 25% of the total value of the tanker and amortized the amount over a 15-year period. A member of the audience stated that the area in question for annexation represented less than 5% of the population of the northeast quarter of Greenwood. Ratterree stated that his figures were only estimates and up for discussion. His total expenses were estimated at $27,000.
McKinney returned to the podium and announced that after great thought, he had decided to change the committee from a combination of voting and non-voting members to a more transparent and fair system of group consensus. He then presented the committee with a checklist style system to use as a guideline to determine the feasibility of the proposed annexation. The presented checklist included: water, sewer, streets, police, fire, parks, planning, revenue, commercial, population, populace and urgency of the issue. Each item was give a score of negative, neutral or positive to the city. Of the twelve checklist items, seven were scored as neutral, five as negative and no positives. Committee member Garry Campbell stated he felt annexing this area would be a strain on the police department, having more area to cover with the current staff. Sonny Bell noted that there were no requests for residential development in the area under study and that the corridor along Highway 96 was not zoned commercial. Since water rights belong to Milltown/Washburn Water District, Committee member Craig Hamilton voiced concerns as to the fate of the water rights of the area if Milltown/Washburn ever ceased to exist.
Chairman McKinney stated that it was his opinion that the annexation of the areas under this study did not need to go further and would not benefit the City of Greenwood. The committee agreed with him. McKinney announced that he would forward a letter summarizing the findings of the committee to both the Planning Commission and to the City Council.
McKinney asked if anyone from the audience would like to address the committee. Attorney Michael Harry came to the podium and introduced himself as a lawyer with Walters, Gaston, Allison and Parker. He stated he had been asked to speak by the people involved with the annexation but did not feel a lengthy discussion was needed since the committee had made a fair and informed decision. He then thanked the Committee. The meeting was then adjourned.
The next area to be studied by the annexation committee will be the land north of Greenwood stretching west through Shadow Lake to Highway 71. The committee plans to study every area around the City of Greenwood. McKinney explained, "The goal is not necessarily to annex anyone, but to have the data on hand if annexation does become an issue at some point in the future."
The next annexation committee meeting has been announced for August 22 at 6 p.m.