01/12/09 — Pikeville council looks to force annexing

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Pikeville council looks to force annexing

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on January 12, 2009 1:46 PM

Faced with a $5 million debt to ElectriCities, Pikeville's town council and its 719 residents may look for more landowners to share the financial burden, the town's mayor said.

Saying that the town will explore its annexation options, Mayor Herbert Sieger did not rule out the forced annexation of neighboring properties.

But that's dependent on whether the town board takes such action, and at least one councilman, Dennis Lewis, said he would never vote for forced annexation of any kind.

The process to extend a town's boundaries can take two years, officials said.

But whatever the town does, Sieger maintains that the cost of services provided by the town need a broader base of customers.

"It's all areas, it's sewage, electric, water -- the whole gamut," he said. "You've got to have enough money to operate, and the cost of operation keeps going higher and higher, and the mandates from the state come in higher and higher."

He described it as a dire situation.

"We've got to look at it (annexation), otherwise, the cost of operation will be so high nobody can survive," Sieger said.

Lewis, though, said he would not vote for any forced annexation proposal.

"People say we've got to have more revenue, so therefore, their solution is to annex more people and increase the tax base," Lewis said. "So you're taking these people in to pay the bills of government, when you're only going to have increasing bills in the government."

Lewis said he wondered whether annexation would cease only when cities ran out of unincorporated areas to add to their boundaries.

The people of Pikeville owe more than $5 million to ElectriCities, a municipal power corporation that includes many cities in this area, including Pikeville, Fremont, Kinston, Clayton, LaGrange, Lumberton and New Bern.

Member cities purchased shares of power plants owned by Progress Energy of Raleigh.

The cities collectively have about $2.5 billion in debt for their shares of the plants, including one nuclear plant -- the regulations on which, ElectriCities officials say is a primary reason for the high debt.