Leader Blues

Thursday, January 17, 2008

TOP STORY >> City still hopes to annex its neighbor

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville’s second meeting Monday night about annexing Gravel Ridge covered the gamut from drainage to streetlights to coyotes.

The crowd was about as large and lively at the second round of Gravel Ridge annexation talks as the first, but a little more accepting of the fact that the rural community will become either part of Jacksonville or Sherwood.

Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim hosted a meeting Jan.7 at First Baptist Church in Gravel Ridge to catcalls of “leave us alone.”
Monday night’s meeting at the Jacksonville Community Center had many of the same people there who were at the first meeting, but more of the questions focused on what Jacksonville had planned for Gravel Ridge and what could it do for the 2,500-acre community of 3,500.

“I think we were able to clarify some concerns,” Swaim said. “There’s no way we can cover everything, and we were careful not to promise what might not be.”

He said patience would be important. “There are some things we can take care of quickly right after annexation, but other concerns could take years,” he said.

Gravel Ridge resident John Mason said he’s been pleased with assistance he’s already received from Jacksonville and believes the annexation would be good. His concern was that he didn’t want either Jacksonville or Sherwood coming in and clear cutting the area. “I want us to remain a community of green spaces,” he said.

Another resident Kenny Gray wanted assurances that the community’s tax money would be spent on good causes.
Streetlights were one of those causes many residents brought up. “We can’t put a street light on every corner, but would work to put them at major intersections,” the mayor said.

Mark Aloway was worried that Jacksonville might come in and force people like his brother-in-law, who lives in a mobile home, to update or improve his lot. It was explained that most structures, signs and streets would be grandfathered in, but definite health or sanitary issues would have to be dealt with.

Did the city’s animal control department just deal with cats and dogs was another question as one resident had concerns about the coyote, deer and snake population in Gravel Ridge. The mayor said the animal control officers respond to calls about all kinds of animals.

Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman has set an annexation meeting for 6:30 p.m. Jan. 21 at First Baptist Church in Gravel Ridge to explain why Gravel Ridge should become part of Sherwood instead of Jacksonville.

Jacksonville and Gravel Ridge residents will go to the polls to vote on whether or not Gravel Ridge should become part of Jacksonville on Feb. 5. The vote ties in with the state’s primary election.

Sherwood and Gravel Ridge residents will go to the polls to vote on whether or not Gravel Ridge should become part of Sherwood on March 11.

If both votes are no, then Gravel Ridge remains an independent community. If one of the votes is yes and one is no, then Gravel Ridge belongs to the city that voted yes.

If both cities say yes, then April 1 has been set aside for a third vote involving only Gravel Ridge residents. The residents will only have two choices on the ballot—to become part of Jacksonville or Sherwood.