Leader Blues

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

TOP STORY > > Gravel Ridge votes to join Sherwood

Leader staff writer

Gravel Ridge residents decided Tuesday by a 3-to-1 margin to become part of Sherwood.

Tuesday’s vote brings to an end a four-month effort by both Jacksonville and Sherwood to annex the 2,500-acre community of 3,500.

According the Pulaski County Election Commission, 632 residents, or 74 percent, voted to join Sherwood, while 221, or 26 percent, voted to become part of Jacksonville.

Seventy-five Gravel Ridge residents took advantage of early voting, with 59 siding with Sherwood and 19 for Jacksonville. Of the three absentee ballots cast, two were for Sherwood and one was for Jacksonville.

“We are so excited to have our neighbors in Gravel Ridge joining us,” said Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman.

Once the vote is certified, which the mayor said should be Friday, then the city will have to pass an ordinance bringing Gravel Ridge into the city. The council’s next meeting is scheduled for April 28, but a specially called meeting to approve the annexation is a possibility.

“We are overwhelmed with the outcome,” she said at a watch party at the Meat Shoppe in Gravel Ridge.

Mayor Tommy Swaim, who was at Jack-sonville City Hall awaiting the results, congratulated Sherwood and Gravel Ridge on the vote. “The residents had the wonderful opportunity to voice their opinion and sided with Sherwood. We’ll just move on,” he said.

In the week leading up to Tuesday’s vote, both cities sent out fliers and knocked on doors.

Jacksonville was the first to vote to annex Gravel Ridge back in December and set a February election date. Sherwood soon followed suit and set a March election vote.

When cities initiate annexation procedures as Jacksonville and Sherwood did, both the city and the affected area must vote on the issue.

Jacksonville’s annexation vote—which included Jacksonville and Gravel Ridge voters only—was Feb. 5. In that election, 3,319 votes, or 66 percent, were for the annexation, and 1,733 votes, or 34 percent, against annexation, but about 70 percent of the

Gravel Ridge voters were against the idea.

Sherwood’s vote to annex Gravel Ridge—which included Sherwood and Gravel Ridge voters only—was March 11. In that election, 1,764 votes, or 82 percent, were for annexation and 386, or 18 percent, against. Even the Gravel Ridge residents approved of the annexation.

Except for the excitement and enthusiasm pouring out of the Meat Shoppe Tuesday night, most residents won’t notice many changes.

Addresses and utilities will remain the same. There’ll be a smooth transition from county deputies patrolling the area to Sherwood police taking over. Sherwood will make use of the county’s substation in Gravel Ridge.

The volunteer fire department will remain intact and be the primary responder for emergency calls in the area.

Once Sherwood’s City Council approves the ordinance bringing Gravel Ridge into the city, restaurants and other businesses serving prepared foods will have to charge an extra two cents per dollar to comply with Sherwood’s hamburger-tax ordinance.

Money collected through this tax is split between the city’s parks and recreation department and the advertising and promotion commission.

Sales tax on nonfood items will stay the same.