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City gets new annexation data

Brookhaven officials Tuesday night received a look at reviseddemographics data after a judge approved a reduced annexation arealast month.

During Tuesday’s board meeting, annexation consultant MikeBridge discussed the new population and land area data as well asthe potential impact of an appeal. Objectors recently voted toappeal the annexation decision once a court order is entered, whichBridge estimated should be within the next 30 days.

One question related to an appeal is composition of the board ofaldermen.

With the city’s current population under 10,000, the board is tohave five aldermen instead of the current seven members. Theannexation would boost the population back over 10,000, thusallowing the city to keep seven aldermen.

City elections are next year and ward lines have to be redrawneither for seven or five members. Annexation consultants have beenworking on redistricting plans for both instances.

An appeal would halt implementation of the annexation, thusleaving the city with a population of 9,861 and having to have fivealdermen. Bridge said consultants are attempting to clarify thelegal situation surrounding the possibility of five aldermen.

Citing earlier conversations with the Secretary of State’soffice, City Attorney Joe Fernald said there is a question ofwhether the city has a “good faith exception” to allow it toproceed with seven aldermen.

“We don’t have a clear answer on that,” Fernald said.

Fernald said he expected to have an answer before an appealwould be filed.

“Even if part of that (annexation) is approved, we’d still beover 10,000,” Fernald said.

In the event of an appeal, Bridge said objectors would beresponsible for producing a record of the trial.

Bridge estimated that cost would be $15,000 to $18,000, with atotal cost of an appeal estimated at $50,000 or more. Objectorshave targeted to raise $25,000 for an appeal.

Bridge said the judge’s annexation ruling was sound and heexpected an appeal would be unsuccessful.

“If an appeal is taken, we feel confident the state SupremeCourt will uphold the decision,” Bridge said.

According to demographic data presented Tuesday, the annexedarea would boost the city’s population to 12,964. The 14.4-squaremile approved annexation area would almost triple the city’scurrent 7.3 square miles to 21.7 square miles.

Responding to some comments from Ward Two Alderman Terry Bates,Bridge said the racial breakdown would be acceptable. In annexing,he said the city consciously sought to take in all surroundingareas, regardless of racial composition, and that racial make up ofthe board of aldermen could be maintained.

According to 2000 totals, the enlarged city’s population wouldbe 50.6 percent black and 48.2 percent white. Among voting agepopulation, the total would be 52.5 percent white and 46.3 percentblack.

While census data would increase the official population by3,103, consultants estimated the population of the annexation areato be 3,608. Bridge said that was based on house count and othergrowth data since the 2000 census.

Citing a conflict between state law and Rules of CivilProcedure, Bridge said the city will have to start providingservices to the newly-annexed areas only 10 days after theexpansion is approved. Objectors have a 30-day window to appeal theannexation after the court order is entered.

Bridge said it is possible the city would start providingservices to annexed areas and then have to pull back once an appealis filed.

The consultant touted some benefits newly-annexed residentswould receive. He cited lower fire insurance premiums due to thecity’s Class Six fire rating.

“In many instances, the savings on insurance will exceed thetaxes that are imposed upon them,” Bridge said.

For the city, Bridge said lower revenue projections from thereduced annexation area were not significant. He said there wouldbe a net positive result in savings due to the city not having tospend money to extend services to the rejected areas.

“The annexation that was approved will result in a strongerfinancial position for the city than had the entire annexation areabeen approved,” Bridge said.