06/29/05 — Most speak against city annexation

View Archive

Most speak against city annexation

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on June 29, 2005 1:45 PM

Annexation opponents accused the Goldsboro City Council Tuesday night of wanting to collect their tax dollars to patch problems in poorer, inner-city neighborhoods.

"They are wanting our tax money to revive what has been destroyed in this city," said Susan Mintz, of Plantation Road, to enthusiastic applause. "You should take the money you've got and work on building back what you've lost."

Real estate agent Judith McMillen said homebuyers are fleeing the city because of concerns about crime and schools. Annexation would stretch the Police Department even further, she said.

And James Vernon Felts, of Hines Run Drive, said he had been shocked by the apathy of Goldsboro taxpayers, even with multi-million-dollar projects like the Paramount Theater replacement pending.

"They care more about that burned-out theater than they do about their wasted tax dollars," Felts said.

Around 270 people attended the hearing at Herman Park Center. More than 30 people spoke, nearly all against the city's proposal to annex nearly 475 acres and about 380 homes in neighborhoods along Salem Church Road and Buck Swamp Road.

Mayor Al King closed the hearing after three hours and 15 minutes. The City Council could vote on annexation at its meeting next Tuesday night, beginning at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

The atmosphere was tense most of the night. One person's sign mocked Councilman Chuck Allen's late payment of his county property taxes this year, and three speakers also mentioned it.

After Neal Stitt, who spoke for the annexation, called Goldsboro "the City of Friendly People," one audience member shouted out, "What city are you living in?"

That was too much for King, who asked police officers to keep a closer eye on the crowd. "The first person who speaks out in a rude manner, I want them out of here," he said.

But Ms. Mintz, the next speaker, told King, "The only person being rude here is you, Mayor." She went on to call the mayor "racist" for allowing Stitt, another African-American, to speak while stifling the mostly white neighbors.

After the meeting, some annexation opponents felt the police, who were stationed at every door and in the parking lot, were meant to intimidate them.

"We were insulted that the place was crawling with police officers, especially those in SWAT uniforms," said Bill Burnette, a spokesman for the neighbors. "This was not a local high school football game where fights are commonplace. This was a meeting of law-abiding, responsible citizens, not a bunch of hooligans trying to create unrest."

Most of the evening, speakers were not held to any time limit.

After City Planner Jimmy Rowe laid out how the city proposes to serve the annexation area, Burnette made a lengthy statement on why the residents do not want to be brought into the city limits.

Other areas outside Goldsboro have a much greater need for the city services, but those homes have a lower tax value, Burnette said.

Former city manager Richard Slozak testified in court last year that the main reason for the annexation was trying to bring in as much tax revenues as possible, he said. "Areas that do not meet the 'bang for the buck' criteria established by the city are left out."

The city would gain more state revenues if it increased its population, but some of that money would come from Wayne County's funding, he said. "Robbing Peter to pay Paul doesn't make sense, especially when the county has to make up for that lost revenue by increasing taxes."

Bob Pleasants of Plantation Road presented a statement opposing the annexation, which was signed by 996 people.

Pleasants said he opposes the annexation mostly for the secretive way the city has conducted it. It's wrong also for a small group of people like the City Council to dictate to a larger group that didn't vote for them, he said. "That's simply immoral and un-American."

Tuesday's hearing was taped by PACC-10 and will be broadcast on Channel 10, Time-Warner Cable, at 8 p.m. Thursday.