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Hartselle commission wants to eliminate unincorporated islands

By Deangelo McDaniel
dmcdaniel@decaturdaily.com 340-2469

HARTSELLE — Unless the landowners are convinced, it's unlikely that the Planning Commission will be able to eliminate unincorporated islands in Hartselle.

Why?

Because the only alternative is to force property owners in by legislative act.

That isn't likely because Rep. Ronald Grantland, D-Hartselle, and Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, have said they won't sponsor legislation forcing homeowners to annex unless 100 percent of them sign a petition and a unanimous City Council passes a resolution.

"We've been working on this since we've been in office, and they have told us they will not force annexation," said Councilman Bill Smelser, who also serves on the Planning Commission.

For almost 20 minutes Tuesday morning, commission members discussed how to annex homeowners in unincorporated islands surrounded by Hartselle's city limits.

Jeff Johnson said forced annexation is a "political hot potato." He wants the islands eliminated, but said there is no law requiring property owners to be annexed.

"I agree, but at some point they've got to look at the bigger picture," commission member Doug Moss said.

Citing safety concerns, a unanimous commission voted to send the City Council a
letter asking city leaders to take steps to eliminate the problem.

"It's a big problem when we have emergency calls from these areas," commission Chairman Jerry Putman said.

Putman is a volunteer with the Hartselle Fire Department. He said there have been "some confusing situations" when city firefighters have responded to calls in the unincorporated properties.

"It kind of burns you up when these people say they don't want to pay city taxes, but when their house catches on fire, they say come put this out," commission member Bill Evans said.

Johnson said city responders have less confusion now because of laptop computers in emergency vehicles.

"With computers in the trucks, they know if the land is in or out as they respond," Johnson said.

According to City Planner Jeremy Griffith, 20 islands are within Hartselle's corporate limits. Two are the Regional Housing Authority on U.S. 31 and the Morgan County District 2 shop on Kyle Road.

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