To annex, or not to annex ... that is the question faced by many growing municipalities, including Fayetteville.
At a joint meeting between the the Fayetteville City Council and the Cumberland County Commissioners held Tuesday, Oct. 28, a visiting state official gave our elected leaders a lesson on the reasons for annexation, as well as other items concerning city and county government.
    David Lawrence, who teaches public law and government at the School of Government at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, gave two reasons for annexation: money and munificence.
   {mosimage} “It’s been shown in studies that people often move into the proximity of an urban center, such as Fayetteville, because of the advantages it offers,” said Lawrence. “So, it’s only fair that these new residents help pay some of the costs for the services they take advantage of.”
    “Secondly, cities should annex areas in need of basic services,” said Lawrence, “such as good, clean water, sewage and trash pickup.”
    Lawrence made those remarks in answer to a question posed by Fayetteville City Councilman Ted Mohn: “Should we annex areas to add communities that can bring us more tax revenues or annex communities that badly need services such as water and sewer, or a little of both,” asked Mohn.
    The council recently voted to involuntarily annex the Gates Four community — a gated community of 600 homes located off Lakewood Drive. However, there have been questions as to why the city hasn’t annexed the Shaw Heights community — a neighborhood that is predominately African-American and which suffers some infrastructure problems. The annexation of Gates Four is expected to bring tax revenues of more than $2.5 million to the city over the next five years.
    While some residents of Shaw Heights — which takes up 340 acres and is bordered by Fort Bragg on three sides, forming an “island” adjacent to the city — have said they would welcome annexation by the city to repair some of the infrastructure issues, most Gates Four homeowners vehemently opposed annexation proceedings; North Carolina is one of only four states that allows forced annexation with the approval of voters.
In addition to annexation, Lawrence also addressed issues such as the combining of city and county services in order to save money. However, he pointed out that the pooling of city and county resources can be problematic, such as combining city and county law enforcement.
    “The police provide law enforcement in the City of Fayetteville,” said Lawrence. “The sheriff provides law enforcement outside the City of Fayetteville. Unless you want to argue that one or the other is overfunded and has more people than it needs and you merge the two (to save money), it’s hard to see how you’re going to cut very many patrol officers.”
    On the subject of the division of county and city services, Dr. Jeannette Council, vice chairman of the Cumberland County Commissioners, had an issue with the poor job she says local media has done delineating the differences between services provided by the city and those provided by county.
    “This is not a slap at you (Up and Coming Weekly) ... We don’t have this problem with your publication,” said Council. “Mainly, we are not, in the county, trying to shirk a responsibility when it is suggested that we fund this, we fund that, we fund the other ... It’s almost as if we have an unlimited pool of resources for anything that anybody brings up just off the top of their heads and I think if citizens knew, and editorial boards knew and understood more, the function of city government and the function of county government, that we would have fewer controversies.
    “Sometimes when parties disagree, then you have a big editorial that says what we ought to be doing and we can’t defend ourselves without sounding defensive,” said Council. “We (the county) provide the bread, the meat, the vegetables and the potatoes; municipalities are only mandated to provide dessert. I just want to shout it to the rooftops to have everybody working together.”

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