Leader Blues

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

TOP STORY > >Gravel Ridge leans toward Sherwood

Leader staff writer

Gravel Ridge voters, by a 2-to-1 margin, favor annexation with Sherwood, but it will take one more election to close the deal.

Overall, Sherwood and Gravel Ridge voters said yes to annexation Tuesday by a large margin. With all precincts in, the unofficial vote totals from all 10 precincts were 1,764, or 82 percent, for annexation and 386, or 18 percent, against.

The early voting numbers set the tone for the vote as 381 residents cast their vote before Tuesday and 326, or 86 percent, were for annexation, while 54, or 14 percent, were against.

“We are very, very pleased,” said Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman. “Even in Gravel Ridge, the vote was two-to-one in our favor,” she said.

But this doesn’t mean Gravel Ridge becomes part of Sherwood just yet. It means one more election on the issue next month in Gravel Ridge, which will decide its future.

Jacksonville and Gravel Ridge voters approved the idea of annexing Gravel Ridge into Jacksonville on Feb. 5 by a 3,342 to 1,752—but two-thirds of Gravel Ridge said no —just the reverse of Tuesday’s voting.

But that yes vote didn’t mean Gravel Ridge was going to be swallowed up by Jacksonville because Sherwood had also laid claim to the rural community.

Now with both elections approving the annexation, residents of Gravel Ridge will get their say April 1. On that date only Gravel Ridge residents will go to the polls and the question on the ballot will simply be: do they want to be part of Jacksonville or Sherwood?

Whichever city comes out on top in that election will get the 2,500-acre community of about 3,500 residents.

“We are excited with the outcome, and now the real work starts to get Gravel Ridge residents to vote for us once more,” Hillman said.

In the Feb. 5 election, 4,711 Jacksonville residents voted, and 2,958, or 63 percent, favored bringing Gravel Ridge into the city, while 1,182 Gravel Ridge residents voted and only 384, or 32 percent, favored annexation.

After that Feb. 5 election, Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim said, “We are excited about the numbers.” Jacksonville Alderman Kenny Elliott added, “Now we’ve got to get to work to convince those other Gravel Ridge voters that we are best for them.”

Hillman, who canceled her trip to the National League of Cities meeting in Washington for the vote, said, “This is a great vote for us. The feedback from both Sherwood and Gravel Ridge residents has been very positive. We can offer Gravel Ridge lower taxes and better services.”