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Hartselle mayor opposes forced annexation of islands

By Deangelo McDaniel 340-2469

HARTSELLE — Regardless of the situation or what the Planning Commission says, it's unlikely that city leaders here will force residents to annex, Mayor Dwight Tankersley said.

In an attempt to eliminate unincorporated islands in Hartselle, a unanimous commission authorized Chairman Jerry Putman to forward a letter to the council about the situation.

"This is a mess," Putman said, about the 20 unincorporated islands at Tuesday's commission meeting.

Unless the landowners agree to annexation, the only way to force the property owners inside the city is by legislative act.

"I don't see asking our legislative delegates to do something they don't feel comfortable doing," Tankersley said.

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 council passes a resolution.

Councilman Bill Smelser, who serves also on the Planning Commission, voted for Putman to appear before the council.

But he expresses doubt about whether Orr and Grantland will introduce the legislation.

"We've been trying to do this since we took office, and they have told us they will not force annexation," he said.

Commission members Doug Moss, Bill Lee, Johnny Howell and Bill Evans joined Putman and Smelser in approving a letter that will go to the council.

In discussion and in the letter, the commission is using safety as a reason to force annexation.

Putman said five volunteer fire departments are responsible for house fires on islands west of U.S. 31.

Priceville, Somerville and Falkville volunteer departments are first responders to islands east of U.S. 31.

"If the city goes to one of these fires, and then there is a call in the city limits, I wonder about our residents and the liability to the city," said Putman, who is a volunteer with the Hartselle Fire Department.

Tankersley said he's not dismissing the safety concerns.

But, he added, Hartselle has cooperative agreements with all the volunteer fire departments.

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