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‘Knifing me
in the back’

Limestone chair blasts Madison’s annexation

By Holly Hollman · 340-2445

ATHENS — The city of Madison’s annexation in March into eastern Limestone County is the “height of hypocrisy,” Limestone County Commission Chairman David Seibert said Friday at a press conference.

Madison’s mayor, however, disagrees.

Madison annexed 187.5 acres north and south of Hardiman Road and east and west of Segers Road, near where Huntsville annexed 120 acres in December.

Seibert said the irony is that Madison Mayor Sandy Kirkindall has solicited support to fight the de-annexation of 263 acres in Madison so property owner Louis Breland can ask Huntsville to annex it.

During a meeting this week with U.S. Rep. Bud Cramer and area officials, Seibert said, Kirkindall told him and Decatur Mayor Don Kyle that he appreciated the support.

“I told him, ‘Nobody wants their land taken away,’ ” Seibert said. “He was probably laughing all the way to Madison because he knew that his council had annexed more than 100 acres in Limestone County. I didn’t get notice of the annexation until (Friday).”

Seibert said the intent of the meeting with Cramer was regional planning for development partnerships.

“It’s very difficult for the Limestone County Commission to see any validity to it with this type action taking place,” Seibert said.

Kirkindall said Seibert is comparing apples to oranges. He said the de-annexation of Madison was a surprise to the city and would take away tax money from Madison.

Kirkindall said Limestone’s tax assessors office knew about Madison’s annexation into Limestone because it reviewed the eight tracts of property. The property is mostly farmland, and Kirkindall said he did not know if a subdivision or something is planned for the acreage.

Requested by owners

Property owners Charles and Sharon Williams, Lawrence Oliver Williams and Claire Meshot, and Ralph and Carol Kimball asked for the annexation.

“The biggest difference between the two situations is even though we annexed, Limestone still gets its property tax share,” Kirkindall said. “It has its tax base forever.”

Seibert said the problem with annexation is that it keeps the commission from maintaining “the integrity of the county.” For example, county residents have opted to remain dry, yet Huntsville was able to vote in alcohol sales in its annexed area.

Seibert and Probate Judge Mike Davis said annexations from municipalities in other counties also confuse residents and burden county workers.

“It’s controlled chaos is what it is,” Davis said.

“Look at the electoral process. Areas are divided among precincts, senate districts, commission districts, school districts and municipal boundaries. You put those lines on a map and get a maze. Not a rat in the world I know of could get out of that mess.”

Davis said he wasn’t insinuating that Madison was a rat, but Seibert interjected, “I’ll say it.”

‘Knifing me in the back’

“I don’t know how to fight it with the courts upholding it, but they’re talking about attempting partnerships and then knifing me in the back,” Seibert said.

Other confusion that erupts is where to vote. Annexed residents have different polling places for county and municipal elections. Davis said that violates the law, but no one has challenged it.

All felony court cases, even in annexed areas, go through the county’s court system. Misdemeanors go through the respective municipal courts unless the cases are appealed, when, Limestone Circuit Court Clerk Charles Page said, the cases go to Limestone.

Traffic cases go to either the county or municipal court based on which law enforcement agency that issued the citation.

Sheriff Mike Blakely said annexed residents tend to call his office to report crimes, and he answers those calls because “anything in the county is in my jurisdiction.”

“We have a great working relationship with Decatur, Huntsville and Madison police, but it does lead to confusion, and of course their cities’ taxes aren’t coming to me to help with my manpower needs,” Blakely said.

In most cases, Davis said, Limestone’s employees are left to deal with how revenue is split, where votes take place and where court cases are handled.

Davis and Seibert said Madison and Huntsville, and possibly Decatur, are eyeing the Tanner interchange under way on Interstate 65 at Huntsville-Browns Ferry Road. Cramer has predicted that area will become a Tennessee Valley Authority megasite and bring industrial, commercial and residential growth. Athens has a small area where the exits will be for the interchange, but the remainder is in the county.

Kirkindall said the interchange spurred his council to move Madison’s boundary beyond Burgreen Road.

“But going six more miles to the interchange doesn’t make much sense,” he said.

However, Kirkindall also said the Madison City Council is looking further west and has not settled on how far.

Legally, there is no way for Limestone to fight it. The state’s Supreme Court upheld annexations in the 1980s. Limestone also is at a disadvantage should it want to change state law. All of its legislative representatives live in Morgan and Madison counties except one.

“They’re living in the counties that are home to the municipalities annexing us, so we don’t have a chance there,” Davis said.

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