MOUNT LAUREL, Ala. (WIAT) – The battle over possible annexation of several communities in unincorporated Shelby County may be put to rest in one community. This comes after leaders held an informational meeting moderated by CBS 42’s Art Franklin to provide annexation answers to those living along Dunnavant Valley.
The announcement came as a shock to a lot of people Monday at the Double Oak Community Church when Chelsea Mayor Tony Picklesimer said it would cost too much to take over the Cahaba Valley Fire Department.
“I see no way forward with six years of annual fire dues that needs to be owed,” Picklesimer said to hundreds at the church Monday.
The mayor was not one of the panelists in the discussion, but he attended the meeting he said to let residents know it’s no longer feasible to do the annexation. Picklesimer said it would cost residents six times their annual dues to get the fire department out of its contract.
“At this point I’m unable to see a path forward to offer annexation,” he said.
This is a statement many residents were in favor of, expressing concerns about overcrowding in schools and a district in Chelsea that doesn’t already exist.
“It just seems like an unnecessary financial hit to the residents of the Dunnavant Valley area,” resident Bonnie Kempke said.
Kempke said if the deal went through, she would owe as much as $6,000 in 60 days of her current fire fees.
“I’m relieved that he stepped back, but I’m going to stay vigilant because I don’t ever really believe that something hasn’t happened until it hasn’t happened,” she said.
Those fees are in place because of a state law to protect fire districts.
“If cities want to come in and annex property that’s in a fire district, then there’s a fee that fire districts can plan,” Cahaba Valley Fire Chief Buddy Wilks said. “They can survive financially until they can gather more resources.”
Picklesimer said the fee is too much to move forward in the Dunnavant Valley, but that won’t stop other efforts of annexing in other communities.
“We don’t need them to be part of it, we just wanted to offer those residents and their students the opportunity to be part of Chelsea City School System should it come to pass,” he said.
Chelsea is still working to complete its feasibility study in other communities and those results will be published in mid-October for the public to see. There will be another meeting at the Double Oak Community Church in Mount Laurel on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. for anyone else who still has questions regarding the issue.