03/01/11 — Legislators could take new look at controversial annexation case

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Legislators could take new look at controversial annexation case

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on March 1, 2011 1:46 PM

State Rep. Efton Sager, R-Wayne, is once again trying to deannex the Buck Swamp and Falling Brook areas that were brought into Goldsboro in 2008.

"It's the same bill I put in back in 2009 that was never heard in committee," Sager said of House Bill 196, which was filed Monday. "So basically I'm re-entering the bill, and this time it'll be heard."

The difference, of course, is the fact that the Republicans now control the state House, its committees and all the proceedings. And one thing that the party had pledged to do when it took over and implemented a cap on the number of bills each legislator could introduce, was that every bill filed would at least be heard in committee.

"The annexation, even though it was heard by a judge (after going through the appeals process), I do not think the people were properly listened to," Sager said. "I've got a real good expectation that at least it will be heard in committee and the people will be able to present their case. And I think it stands a fair chance of getting passed."

The problem with this annexation, he said, was that few in those communities wanted it, the city could only connect to them via a small strip of land, and not all of the services promised to them -- primarily sewer -- have been delivered.

"I don't represent just the municipalities and the county government, I represent the people who live in my district, and a large contingent of them are unhappy with the way this was done," he said.

Sager said he did not tell city officials Monday he would be filing this bill again, but that based on earlier discussions with them, they should not be surprised.

"I think they knew it would be coming," he said.

Besides, he said, since the city has not begun running sewer lines to the communities, this would also give it the opportunity to shed some of that financial obligation.

"There were a lot of things done, not done in the best interests of anybody," he said. "I know that with the exception of one or two councilmen, they're opposed to it, but if they look at the millions of dollars it'll cost them, they ought to want the deannexation."

Currently, the city is providing such services as street lights, solid waste collection, police, road signs and mosquito control to the area, and is in the engineering and right-of-way acquisition process of extending sewer service, although no earth has been moved on that yet.

And that's the reason -- along with the "gerrymandering" of the city's lines -- that fellow state Rep. Stephen LaRoque, R-Lenoir, also has joined in as a cosponsor of the bill.

"It's been two-and-a-half years and they're not providing all the services out there. Goldsboro was not prepared to do what they were statutorily obligated to do. It needs to be deannexed," LaRoque said.

The pair also expects state Sens. Louis Pate, R-Wayne, and David Rouzer, R-Johnston, to support the bill in the Senate.

And at the very least, Sager said, this bill and the discussion on it will contribute to the larger effort to rewrite the state's involuntary annexation laws this year.

"Several bills have already been filed in committee," he said. "I think this will have a big effect. The laws governing annexation are going to be rewritten during this session."