Annexation vote delayed

Published 9:22 pm Wednesday, November 29, 2006

By Staff
Kerry Whipple Bean – Publisher
A crowd of mainly county residents gathered at the community center Tuesday afternoon with a simple message for the City of Brewton: &#8220Leave us alone.”
But city officials said they had already got the message and plan to postpone any decision about annexation until they can review public opinion about the issue.
The public hearing on a proposed plan to grow the city limits by 70 percent through annexation of three areas in north Brewton made for a full house at the community center - and most in attendance had concerns about the proposal.
Brewton Mayor Ted Jennings said the city has decided to abandon its earlier timeline that would have put the annexation proposal on the state Legislature's agenda next spring.
City council members had considered voting on the proposal by Dec. 12.
Jennings said it's possible county residents could have a chance to vote on the annexation proposal - and he said it's likely that proposal will change based on public input.
School concerns
One of the main concerns about annexation that has arisen since the proposal was initiated two weeks ago is how it would affect both the Escambia County and Brewton City school systems.
Escambia County Superintendent Billy Hines said his three East Brewton schools could stand to lose at least 96 students, which would result in the loss of nine employees - two bus drivers and seven teachers.
Jennings said the city should have considered the impact on schools - and that is one reason for the delay in taking a council vote on the issue.
The city and county school systems currently have a gentleman's agreement that, for the most part, allows city district residents to attend county schools if they choose, and vice versa.
But Hines noted that his county school district cannot legally send buses into the city district - so even if the cross-district enrollment continues, parents would have to find a way to take children to East Brewton schools.
Will growth come?
Some in the audience questioned the need for annexation. City officials have said they expect growth in coming years, and annexation would allow control over zoning in the areas surrounding Brewton.
The city's annexation committee, which studied the idea for more than a year with the help of the South Alabama Regional Planning Commission, has proposed annexing three areas in north Brewton, including the area surrounding the Brewton Country Club. The current proposal would add about 1,300 people to the city's population and increase the size of Brewton by 8.62 square miles.
Attorney Broox Garrett, who chaired the annexation committee, said the current tax revenue from the area would not justify annexation, but the committee expects commercial growth in the area to increase.
Like Jennings, Garrett emphasized that the annexation plan could be changed.
County resident Linda Burch encouraged residents to talk about the issue calmly.
Residents are encouraged to fill out a comment card about the proposal. The forms can be found at city hall and should be returned by 5 p.m. Friday.

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