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Orr considers Hartselle's request
State senator wants to study other side of issue before introducing police jurisdiction legislation

By Deangelo McDaniel 340-2469

HARTSELLE — Before he introduces legislation to change how municipalities establish police and fire jurisdictions, state Sen. Arthur Orr, R- Decatur, wants to study the issue further.

Hartselle Mayor Dwight Tankersley asked the freshman senator to sponsor a bill to allow Hartselle to extend its jurisdiction 11/2 miles from its corporate limits. Because of its population, existing law requires Hartselle to extend its jurisdiction at least three miles.

Everything relating to Hartselle's request seems favorable, Orr said. But, anything Orr introduces will have implications statewide. That's one of the reasons Orr said he wants to "get the other side" and study the city's request.

"On the face, I'm not opposed to the request," Orr said. "But, I need to get more feedback, and see if there is another side of the issue."

Orr, who will attend his first regular legislative session in March, said he's heard no opposition to Tankersley's request.

"But, before I commit (to introducing the legislation) I need to look at both sides," Orr said.

Tankersley said he has talked with attorneys at the Alabama League of Municipalities, and they are not opposed to the change.

"We want our fire and police jurisdictions to mirror our planning jurisdiction," the mayor said. "We want them to be 11/2 miles each."

No opposition locally

Locally, there's been no opposition to changing the distance requirements. But some volunteer firefighters oppose a Hartselle jurisdiction of any distance because they will lose territory where volunteers are first responders.

Council President Kenny Thompson supports the jurisdiction, but said there are issues Hartselle has to resolve.

"We have to sit down with our attorney to work out some of these things, such as taxes for businesses," he said.

State law requires Hartselle to charge businesses in police jurisdictions one-half the cost of licenses for business inside the city limits. City leaders have the option of increasing sales taxes from 7 cents to 8.5 cents on a dollar.

Thompson said he will not support an increase higher than the 8 cents on a dollar that residents inside the city pay.

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 acreage 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."

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