Leader Blues

Friday, February 08, 2008

TOP STORY > >Businesses react to vote on annexation

By RAY BENTON
Leader managing editor

Among Gravel Ridge business owners, the choice for annexation is almost unanimous. When the choice between Jacksonville and Sherwood is clearly laid out, businesses prefer Sherwood.

The main reason given for choosing Sherwood is the widely held belief that Sherwood would provide better police protection.
Jacksonville held its annexation vote last Tuesday, with that city voting about 2-1 for annexation. Sherwood residents will vote on the issue on March 11. If that vote also goes for annexation, then Gravel Ridge residents will vote alone on April 1 to decide which city to join.

Rob Gregory, owner of Gregory Polaris, a motorcycle and ATV dealership, already has experience with the Sherwood Police Department. His business was hit by robbers who took $48,000 worth of equipment a little over a year ago.

He called the county to ask for extra protection, and also called Sherwood since the dealership’s property nearly reaches Sherwood city limits.

“The county told me they would help us out,” Gregory said. “Their substation is right behind our property so I thought that would be a plus. I also called the city of Sherwood to ask them to be on the lookout for any of these machines. They told me that since my property goes pretty much up to their line, they’d just make our lot a turnaround and give us a presence that way. We got our cameras fixed and in the following month, the county came by twice, and Sherwood came 52 times.”

Gregory estimates the annexation will cost him $500 per year, but says he’ll gladly pay it for the extra protection. The major concern is the increased sales tax for his customers.

“It will be a little less sales tax going with Sherwood,” Gregory said. “At the price of the equipment I sell, that’s a big hit. When you’re talking about a $10,000 Ranger, and that’s a starting point, a 1 percent difference is pretty major. The worry is, there are tons of customers that shop final price. I hope they can understand why things are going up.”

William Hum of Hum Hard-ware has a positive take on the whole ordeal.

“I guess we all love it because it’s coming,” Hum said. “One way or another it’s coming.”
Since it’s coming, Hum would also rather see a Sherwood annexation instead of Jacksonville.

“I really think the fire and police protection will be better from Sherwood. I also think Sherwood will be able to handle the growth in this area better.”

One place that’s never been hit by burglars is Gravel Ridge Small Engine Repair. The main reason is likely because it is just across the street from the north Pulaski sheriff’s substation, but management there also prefers Sherwood because of the increased crime in the area in recent years.

“Sherwood just seems to have such a police presence,” parts manager Linda Langley said. “I’ve been in this community for a long time, over 20 years, and it just seems like Sherwood has police everywhere. You can’t drive anywhere in that community and not see police.”

Langley said most of the other business owners she has talked with would prefer no annexation, but having to choose, they would choose Sherwood. Langley, though, welcomes annexation.

“Whoever we get annexed by, I’ll be all for it,” she said. “A lot of businesses around here have been broken into and we’re looking forward to more police.”

Christy Organ, whose family-owned business Sherwood Marble just moved into Gravel Ridge about three years ago, says their preference is no annexation.

“We would really prefer not to be annexed,” Organ said. “Our customers will have to start paying that extra sales tax, and that’s one of the advantages we had by moving out here when we did.”

Organ knows that annexation is coming, and doesn’t prefer one town over another, she simply wants the city that gets Gravel Ridge to provide the services they’ve promised.

“The extra police protection would be nice,” Organ said. “I don’t really know (which city would be better). We used to be in Sherwood and they patrolled that area pretty well. Either way, the extra protection would be great because we are in sort of a crime area.”

In the three years that Sherwood Marble has been in Gravel Ridge, its trucks have been broken into twice.
“It’s well known that around Hatcher Road and that area, there’s a lot of crystal meth and other drugs, so it’s not surprising that places around here are being hit.”

Rob Gregory believes strongly that Sherwood would address that problem better than Jacksonville.

“Jacksonville already has some slummy areas, and Sherwood does not,” Gregory said. “I think Sherwood’s not going to allow it. And I believe some of the slum areas already in the Gravel Ridge area would be under control pretty quick. I’m fine with Sherwood.”