The Richmond Register

January 29, 2014

Richmond begins move to annex White Hall school

By Seth Littrell
Register News Writer

RICHMOND — The Richmond City Commission heard first reading of an ordinance Tuesday that would be the first step in annexing White Hall Elementary School’s property.

According to the ordinance, the school, which sits on about nine acres on the north side of US 25 (Lexington Road), is completely surrounded by the city’s corporate limits and uses many city services, including utilities.

“We have all the schools (that lie) in the city except (White Hall),” Mayor Jim Barnes said. “And everything in the area is the city’s except that.”

Commissioner Laura King was the only commission member to voice opposition to annexation, saying the school had not petitioned to become a part of the city.

“This is us forcing them into the city?” she asked.

Barnes said that while the property owners have not petitioned for or against annexation, city officials have informed Superintendent Elmer Thomas of their intentions.

Under Kentucky law, a city has the right to annex property which contains “city-owned utility infrastructure.”

Barnes said annexation of property within the city limits is important to Richmond’s economic growth.

“If you look at city revenue over the last four to five years, revenue is very stagnant,” Barnes said.

As the city has expanded, he said, several properties like the school have become “gaps.” The occupants of these gaps make use of city services, such as utilities, but don’t pay city taxes. While a school would not pay property taxes, its employees would pay the city’s payroll tax if it is annexed.

Annexation would not deprive county government of tax revenue, Barnes said, because half of the city’s 2-percent would go to the county. White Hall employees now pay the county’s 1-percent payroll tax.

“We feel it behooves the city to fill every gap we can, because that’s revenue,” the mayor said. “We’ve got to grow the community. We can’t stay stagnant.”

Barnes said the city has been working toward the annexation for more than a year, describing it as a lengthy process. After the first reading of an announcement of intent to annex, the city has 14 days to send a letter to the property owner. The owner then has until the second reading to send a reply contesting annexation. If a property owner contests, the issue goes on the ballot in an upcoming city election.

In the recent past, the city commission has moved to involuntarily annex three properties, including the Ford dealership at Boggs Lane and the Eastern Bypass. The dealership’s property owner contested annexation, and the issue will be voted on later this year.

The final decision for the annexation will not be made until a second reading and vote on the ordinance is complete at a future commission meeting.

In other business, the commission:

• Amended the city’s alcohol sales and licenses ordinance to conform to new state requirements. According to City Attorney Garrett Fowles, the changes combine some licenses for categories of alcoholic beverages, such as beer, wine and liquor, into one. Businesses wanting to sell alcohol previously were required to get a separate license for each.

• Amended the city budget to include a $250,000 grant from the Kentucky Department of Local Government for the Liberty Place Recovery Center for Women

• Accepted retirement of Harmon Gene Witt from the Richmond Parks Department

• Accepted the resignation of Samantha Lee from the Section 8 Department

• Hired Heather Paige Rhodus as a seasonal employee in the Planning and Zoning Department

• Declared three items of city property as surplus: A Chickering Grand Piano, which will be donated to the Mount Pleasant property as a display item for a house, a 1996 Galbrath Horizontal Baler to be sold in an online auction and a nonfunctioning 1992 Piqua Vertical Baler, which will be sold for metal scrap.

Seth Littrell can be reached at slittrell@richmondregister.com or 624-6623.