By CHRISTIN COYNE
ANNETTA – A month after Town of Annetta voters elected a slate of candidates who voiced support for annexation, the city council took the first steps Thursday night toward an annexation that could nearly double the city’s population.
Responding to the second official request in the past year from neighboring residents served by Annetta’s water and sewer systems, the council voted to hold public hearings on the issue next month and take other legal steps necessary to vote on annexation in upcoming weeks.
A total of 506 voters in the petitioning area, or an average of 61 percent of registered voters, signed the three petitions, Mayor Bruce Pinckard told the council Thursday night.
Pinckard said he received a fourth petition in support of the annexation petition signed by 77 Annetta residents.
The areas included in the petitions are the Deer Creek Plantation residents served by the city water system but not within city limits, as well as the adjacent Meadow Park area also served by the city’s Deer Creek water system.
The areas were split into three petitions due to requirements that an annexation can not include more than a half-mile at a time, Pinckard said.
Annetta also reached an agreement with Annetta South to release for annexation the Town of Annetta-owned property at Thunderhead Lane and Farm-to-Market Road 5, Pinckard said.
Pinckard believes at least 700 homes, possibly as many as 750 households, are included in the total area.
Annexation supporters note that the majority of customers served by the city’s Deer Creek water system have no representation on the city council and that the city would be in a better position to control development in the area.
Petitioners began gathering the hundreds of signatures about two weeks prior to the meeting, according to Pinckard, and the number of signatures grew since the first petition drive nearly eight months ago.
Pinckard said he believes it is “symbolic of people tired of being treated as second-class citizens.”
“I’m excited to see that the city council is moving forward by listening to the requests of the petitioners,” Pinckard said. “This is overdue in my opinion.”
In December and January, the former council, with the exception of council member Chuck Sheridan, declined to accept a similar annexation petition signed by hundreds of surrounding residents.
Opponents have voiced concerns the city may be taking on too much responsibility, such as adding roads that need upkeep the city can’t afford.
One council member has also voiced concerns the annexation might not be legal.
Council member Bruce Moore asked the mayor Thursday when Annetta and Annetta South agreed to an extraterritorial jurisdiction change.
Pinckard told him that for purposes of the annexation, Annetta South had released their claim to their ETJ. The city attorney also verified that he had seen the documentation.
With Moore abstaining, the council voted to accept the petition and scheduled public hearings for July 16 and July 18.
The move towards a possible annexation comes as Annetta is facing significant growth challenges, many that will affect the petitioning residents.
The city council voted Thursday night to allow the mayor and council member George Ripley to immediately begin working out a plan to transition operations of the city’s water and sewer systems from the City of Hudson Oaks to Annetta, a plan that council members agreed should be worked out prior to renewing the contract with Hudson Oaks. Hudson Oaks has managed Annetta’s system since the city purchased it in 2010 from the City of Willow Park.
The city is also attempting to drill two new wells and finish other improvements to allow the Deer Creek water system to meet the demand for water.
Funding for road maintenance has also been an issue.
“In order to fix the roads we already have, I think we are going to have to push forward with a tax,” council member Larry Wood, who oversees the city’s roads needs, told the council Thursday night.