News

Annexation vote fails, 3-2

It was a wild one Monday at civic center
By MIKE BROWN
Reporter Editor


(L-R), councilmen Nathan Bland, Colby Fisher, Doug Calame listen. 
Reporter/Mike Brown (L-R), councilmen Nathan Bland, Colby Fisher, Doug Calame listen. Reporter/Mike Brown It was Passion vs. Procedure Monday before a vocal crowd of 200 in the Patterson Civic Center.

Passion won, at least for six months.

On a 3-2 vote the Rockdale City Council decided not to proceed with research on four annexation sites identified as “short term” possibilities

(3-5 years) by its annexation consultant.

The vote came after 15 persons addressed the meeting, all but one opposing annexation.

No agenda item which has been decided on may be re-considered by the council for six months.

‘RAISING CANE’—The meeting was punctuated with interruptions, catcalls, and occasional confrontations.

Police Chief Thomas Harris rose and warned the audience several times. After one outburst Harris addressed persons who were loudly commenting without being recognized by Mayor John King.

“We are going to have order,” Harris said. “If these outbursts continue, the people who are raising cane are going to be escorted out.”

VOTE—Following the “passion” came the procedural question of how, and whether, the council would proceed on annexation.

A town hall meeting on the subject two weeks ago produced a similar, equally raucous, session in the same civic center. (Monday’s council meeting was moved there from City Hall due to the correctly-anticipated large turnout.)

Consultant Gabe Rojas, in a 20-minute visual presentation, went through the process used to prioritize the 18 possible areas of annexation he had previously identified adjacent to, or near, the city limits.

Rojas said “benefits vs. cost” was one factor used to make his conclusions. “This (study) is so you (the council) can know what you’re doing when you decide to annex,” he said.

He said input from persons who filled out forms at the town hall was another factor.

All listed the two industrial blocs as the highest priority for annexation and the two Allday Street blocs as the lowest.

Rojas’s short term prioritization study listed Industrial 2 (includes the industrial park on FM 487), Airport 1, North Rockdale 2 and Ham Branch.

The other 14 were listed as mid-term (5-10 years) or long term (10-plus).

Calame made a motion to “approve the four suggested areas in the short-term annexation strategy” and Bland seconded.

That motion failed 3-2 with Calame and Bland voting in favor and Colby Fisher, Joyce Dalley and Denise Holmes-Wallace voting against. Councilman Willie Phillips was absent.

Many in the full-house crowd stood to see the vote of raised hands and the venue erupted in cheers when it was announced the motion had failed.

‘DON’T NEED’—The crowd saved some of its loudest applause for Gordon Todd, owner of Texas Propane, who said he had been in business for 34 years on a site just outside the city limits.

“I have succeeded with zero help from the city,” he said. “I didn’t ask for it and I don’t need the city. I’ve got my own road and own water well.”

Todd referenced SB 6, which goes into effect Dec. 1 and gives residents outside larger jurisdictions the right to vote on proposed annexations. Rockdale and Milam County are too small for the law to be in effect here.

The legislature kept amending the population required to come under the law’s jurisdiction downward before it passed in August and Todd cited that trend.

“They are reducing the numbers instead of increasing them,” he said. Todd termed the Rockdale situation “taxation without representation.”

FIREWORKS—Comments prior to the vote included:

• Jeff Pevehouse—“I have presented you with a petition signed by 101 persons who don’t want to be in the city limits...don’t want to be under your strict rules.”

• Linda Owens—“My mother and I live on her Social Security. Your added taxes will break our backs. We will lose our home. My mother is wheelchair-bound. If we are annexed, I will come into this city with the Americans With Disabilities Act.”

• D. J. Magee— “Something like this is just short of theft. What you’re doing is unlawful.” Magee said if annexation occurs “a class action lawsuit is going to come from these people (the audience) and you’re going to have to pay back every tax dollar.”

• Collier Perry was the only person to speak in favor of annexation although Perry said his comments referenced annexation in general and not necessarily the current strategy.

“ The ability to annex is very important,” he said. “If the MDD is able to secure a business (for Rockdale) a lot of people will need places to live. (Without annexation authority) Rockdale will lose.”

Perry was confronted with feedback and questions by some, which eased as Pevehouse urged “give him the respect he’s due.”


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