— By JUDY SHERIDAN
ANNETTA – A special meeting of the Annetta Town Council — held last Thursday to consider holding public hearings related to a proposed annexation — ended with the same failure to act Deer Creek petitioners encountered when they raised the issue with the council last month.
This meeting, however, included an additional petition signed by 64 Annetta residents urging the council to accept and consider the petition signed by Deer Creek water customers. The petition was presented by Mayor Bruce Pinckard.
“We, the residents of Annetta, believe the customers of the Deer Creek Water System have the right and should be afforded the opportunity to become residents of the Town of Annetta in order that they may participate in the governance of Annetta and have the opportunity to elect those officials charged with the management and operation of the water system and the direction this community takes,” the petition states.
“We are all neighbors and [future development] will affect their neighborhood and their property values as much as it affects ours.”
A motion to approve the resolution, made by council member Chuck Sheridan, died for lack of a second. Sheridan also made the motion to begin the public input process on the proposed annexation in December.
Council members Farrar Patterson, Bruce Moore and Mayor Pro Tem Larry Wood attended Thursday’s meeting, conducted by Pinckard. Council member Richard Machak was absent.
About 500 Parker County residents — users of the Deer Creek water system owned by Annetta — have signed a petition requesting to be annexed into Annetta. They have asked the council to vote in their favor before Feb. 7, so those who live in unincorporated areas will be eligible to vote in May elections.
At the heart of the issue is representation; Deer Creek residents have no vote to determine what their water and sewer rates are or how revenues are spent.
The Annetta South council voted Dec. 13 to release land inside their extraterritorial jurisdiction to accommodate the annexation, but the Annetta council has declined — twice now — to schedule public hearings on the issue.
Nine area residents spoke at Thursday’s meeting, even though the agenda had no portion for public comment. City attorney Drew Larkin told Pinckard he had the authority to acknowledge the speakers.
First up was council member Wood, who accused Pinckard of sending a letter that misrepresented the views of Annetta citizens who spoke at the December meeting.
“The mayor sent out a letter that said, ‘of those who spoke on behalf of the proceedings, the majority were citizens of Annetta and pleaded with the council to proceed with the public hearings,’” he said.
“I have two letters — one from Mike Brasovan and one from John Reding. Both categorically denied that they said they were in favor of the meeting. What they said is, ‘you should proceed very cautiously.’”
Leslie Wood worried aloud that the annexation might trigger a property tax.
“I am concerned if the city can handle doubling its size in 30 days,” she said. “We don’t have enough in the budget to fix the roads now.”
Aledo ISD school board president Bobby Rigues, an Annetta resident, encouraged the council to follow protocol and the process of democracy.
“At the end of the day, we let the public decide, let the process follow through,” he said.
Dennis Thompson, who lives in Deer Creek, said the city could more than double its revenue from franchise fees paid by utilities — about $65,000 — if it went forward with annexation, money which could be used to repair roads.
He said Commissioner Dusty Renfro told him the county would bring all the roads and intersections in the area to be annexed up to county standards before they turned them over to the city.
“The roads that get the most traffic are already in the town of Annetta,” he said. “and this year zero dollars were spent on road repair.”
Wood countered that the city spent $15,000 on Airport Road.
Harry Wynne, an Annetta resident, asked the council to assemble a fact sheet listing the costs, potential liabilities and potential revenues, while Mike Staggs, of Deer Creek, asked for a separate audit, “so Deer Creek residents can see how their money is being spent.”
“This is not a debate to annex us,” Tracy Farnborough interjected. “It’s a debate on whether to open the public process.”