The Mobile City Council will soon consider the annexation petition from one West Mobile neighborhood, less than a year after the city pulled back ambulance service in the area.
Darby Creek becomes the first of what officials expect to be many neighborhoods making such a request, following the city’s decision to pull back on some of the fire protection and ambulance services offered within Mobile’s police jurisdiction. Per its rules, the council delayed a vote until Tuesday, April 9, at the earliest.
Bess Rich, who represents District 6, seemed excited to welcome the 43 lots into her district.
“I’m all in,” Rich said during a pre-conference meeting Tuesday. “I think it’s a positive sign. We’ve been shrinking … we need to grow.”
Councilman Fred Richardson said he was not in favor of annexing only residences into the city. Using what he called the “Fred Richardson formula,” he questioned if the city could afford the proposal. His argument is that neighborhoods need services, but unlike businesses, don’t pay much in city taxes.
“We don’t have the revenue to service those neighborhoods,” he said. “… We have to go to all those houses and pick up the garbage and the trash … How much revenue will we get off them? None.”
Richardson made it known that in future cases where 100 percent of a neighborhood wanted to be annexed into the city, he would still vote “no” if there was no business tax revenue coming with it.
“We need revenue so we can provide these people the same services we provide other citizens,” he said. “Is revenue coming with them? If there is no revenue, then my vote is no.”
While Finance Director Paul Wesch agreed the majority of the property tax paid within the city limits goes to Mobile County and its schools, the city could still receive more revenue from the specific neighborhood than it would pay out in services, based on a rough estimate.
Wesch said the home values in Darby Creek are such that the tax would bring in about $8,300 per year. As for expenses, Wesch said the city only responded to three ambulance calls in the neighborhood during a 38-month period prior to the pullback. Since the pullback the county ambulance service has responded to one call, he said.
The city is still responding to fire calls in the area of Sollie Road, so that expense won’t change. In addition to the ambulance calls, garbage, trash and other services cost about $130 per household, Wesch said. For 43 lots, the total is about $5,600 in expenses.
While Rich said she was prepared to vote on the petition, Council Vice President Levon Manzie and others were not. Under current council rules, proposed ordinances are held over on their first reading unless the council unanimously agrees to take them up.
In other business, the council discussed but delayed a vote on allowing bars and restaurants within the city’s entertainment district to extend their operating hours to 3 a.m. Monday through Friday. Currently, those establishments can operate until 2 a.m. Monday through Friday.
“Several bar and restaurant owners have brought this to my attention,” Manzie said. “Council attorney Wanda Cochran and I have worked on this for several months.”
Even under the new rules, restaurants and bars can only be open until 2 a.m. on Sunday morning, due to state law, unless an establishment is a private club. Manzie announced a proposed ordinance to be introduced in a few weeks to open a third entertainment district in the city.
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