03/29/09 — Deannexation could cost city up to $600,000

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Deannexation could cost city up to $600,000

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on March 29, 2009 2:00 AM

If the deannexation bill introduced by two Wayne County legislators passes into law, reversing the annexation of the Buck Swamp and Falling Brook areas could cost the city of Goldsboro more than half a million dollars.

Since the annexation in 2008, the city has spent approximately $592,000 to cover costs for providing mosquito control, street lights, sanitation, police, road signs and other services to the annexed areas. Also included in that figure are $180,720 in legal fees related to the annexation, which sparked a legal battle that was eventually settled when the state Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

There are other potentially irretrievable costs, including $517,600 already obligated to the Stearns & Wheeler Engineering firm for extending sewer services to the Buck Swamp and Falling Brook areas, said City Manager Joe Huffman.

"This is money that has been spent," Huffman said. "Those costs have already been included."

Some of the items already purchased, such as trash cans, could be reused elsewhere, but the amount of money dedicated to the annexation is significant to the city, he said.

Rep. Efton Saeger, D-Wayne, said the city will likely get some compensation from taxes paid by people in the annexed areas.

"I think the residents will probably be willing to pay those taxes," he said.

According to the annexation report, the planning department calculated that Buck Swamp and Falling Brook areas would bring in about $384,284 in tax revenue every year.

However, there are currently no provisions included in the proposed deannexation legislation that would repay Goldsboro for the money already spent.

"There's a lot of details to be worked out," Saeger said. "I understand it (deannexation) could be a difficult process."

But with more than 500 signatures on the petition against the annexation, the citizens of the areas were clear in their message, he said.

Since Saeger and Sen. David Rouzer, R-Johnston, introduced the deannexation bill, other annexation-related bills have been introduced. Reps. Jimmy L. Love Sr., Edgar Starnes, Kelly Alexander and Lucy Allen, and Sens. Vernon Malone and Tony Rand introduced bills in both the House and Senate that would revise the state's annexation statutes.

House Bill 727 and Senate Bill 472 are among several that propose changes that would affect how cities communicate with citizens during the annexation process, the requirements and standards for cities to annex an area, ways to address concerns of low-wealth areas that need municipal services and other issues.

Huffman and Saeger both said they believe cities and citizens would support revising the state's current annexation legislation.

"I think there's a lot of people interested in seeing those revised," Saeger said.

Most of those bills have been tied up in the rules committee, but that may change in coming weeks, he added.

And Huffman said, there are some that most municipalities could support.