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Hartselle seeks to change law on jurisdictions

By Deangelo McDaniel
dmcdaniel@decaturdaily.com 340-2469

HARTSELLE — Even with some opposition from volunteer firefighters, Hartselle is apparently moving ahead with plans to establish a fire and police jurisdiction.

But how far the City Council extends the jurisdiction may depend on whether Hartselle gets its local legislative leaders to change state law.

Mayor Dwight Tankersley said he has asked state Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, and Rep. Ronald Grantland, D-Hartselle, to introduce a bill to change how municipalities create jurisdictions.

Because of its population, Hartselle must extend its jurisdiction at least three miles beyond its city limits. Tankersley wants Orr and Grantland to introduce legislation that will lower that to 11/2 miles. The Legislature will be in session in March.

"They have told me they will try to get the bill passed," Tankersley said. "We want our police jurisdiction to mirror our planning jurisdiction."

Hartselle is proposing to extend its planning jurisdiction to 11/2 miles beyond its city limits.

Planning Commission Chairman Jerry Putman said last week that some volunteer firefighters were displeased about the council's plan.

"They are protective of their jurisdiction, and they feel like Hartselle is trying to take it from them," Putman said.

If Hartselle adopts the jurisdiction, city firefighters and police officers will be the first responders to emergency calls within the jurisdiction. Responding to questions from Katerina Olinger at Monday's council work session, Council President Kenny Thompson said city leaders must meet with city attorney Larry Madison before determining how to tax businesses in the district.

State law requires Hartselle to charge businesses in a police jurisdiction one-half the cost of licenses for business inside the city limits. As for sales taxes, Tankersley said he will recommend that Hartselle increases the taxes from 7 cents to 8 cents on a dollar.

"I can't see raising them higher than what we charge inside the city," the mayor said.

Plans to reinstate Hartselle's police jurisdiction grew from an annexation issue. In November, the commission recommended that the council deny Taylor and Heather Roberts' annexation application because part of the 101/2 acres on Nance Ford Road is not in the planning jurisdiction.

The city went against the recommendation, which led the council-appointed commission to request a meeting to discuss the city's policy about annexation.

During this process, the commission talked about extending Hartselle's planning jurisdiction 11/2 miles. But, at the same time, the body wanted some direction from the council. This is when the idea of having the same police and planning jurisdictions surfaced.

Fire Chief Steve Shelton and Police Chief Ron Puckett have said they can handle the district without additional manpower.

"But, I worry that we are watering down our ability to show a presence inside the city limits," Councilman Bill Smelser said. "And, I still wonder if we're asking them to do more than what they can handle without additional equipment."

The council can charge business owners up to half the cost of a business license inside the city limits and raise sales taxes in the jurisdiction from 7 percent to as much as 8.5 percent.

As for enforcing building regulations in the proposed 3-mile district, at least one commission member wants enforcement limited to major subdivisions.

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