Somerville annexation bill awaits Riley’s signature
By M.J. Ellington
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MONTGOMERY — A bill to extend Somerville corporate limits to eight businesses passed the Legislature.
The measure now needs Gov. Bob Riley’s signature to become law.
The annexation bill that sparked controversy locally would extend Somerville’s corporate limits 1.5 miles past a four-way stop at Alabama 67 and Alabama 36. The change would bring eight businesses that requested incorporation into the town.
If Riley signs the bill, the new corporate limits will take effect three months after that date.
Unless property owners in the area requested the annexation, their land is not included in the parcels being annexed, said Rep. Ronald Grantland, D-Hartselle.
Sewer lines needed
Owners who requested annexation say they need sewer lines that could come in the future if they are part of the town. Area businesses rely now on septic tanks and at least one business, Jack’s Family Restaurant, must pay $250 twice a week to have the septic tank emptied, Grantland said.
Some people who objected to the bill said they did not want a tax increase that would come if the town extended its police jurisdiction to cover the area.
No police jurisdiction
Grantland and Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, who tracked the bill in the Senate, worked with Somerville Town Council to remove the provision for police jurisdiction for 10 years.
With police jurisdiction, Somerville police would provide police protection, but the coverage would raise sales tax from 7.5 cents to 8 cents per dollar. Grantland said Morgan County Sheriff’s Department will provide law enforcement protection.
“There has been a lot of misinformation about this issue out there,” Grantland said. “A lot of people thought the tax would go up a lot. Some people thought they would be annexed whether they wanted it or not.”
Neither statement is correct, he said.
Orr said he had contact from people who objected to the way Somerville approached the annexation issue.
“Some of them thought it just kind of happened,” Orr said.
But Grantland said the town did everything it was supposed to do to notify the public.
“This was a bill that Somerville wanted,” Grantland said. “They advertised it. They gave notice.”
Grantland said the annexation required legislative approval because the land does not directly abut land already in the town limits. If the property is not contiguous, the state requires that the changes go through the Legislature.
Grantland and Orr said people voiced concern about an early version of the bill that extended police jurisdiction to the area. The town agreed to remove police jurisdiction from the bill.
The legislators said if Somerville attempted to reinstate police jurisdiction to the area before the 10-year time frame in the bill, then they would object.
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