Gray residents left Johnson City’s Municipal and Safety Building Thursday just a smidgen happier than prior meetings thanks to the City Commission’s decision to extract about 220 acres of agricultural land from the Suncrest Annexation ordinance.
The vote on third reading was 3-1-1.
Mayor Jeff Banyas and Commissioners Jane Myron and Clayton Stout voted for the revised ordinance. Commissioner Ralph Van Brocklin voted no; Vice Mayor Phil Carriger abstained due to a conflict of interest in having family in that area.
Van Brocklin laid out a detailed explanation of what he would liked to have seen happen and an ordered account of how much those potentially affected would have lost or gained due to tax incentives and the city’s superior Insurance Service Office rating when compared to Washington County.
“We’ve tried to look at this critically, but there still may be some paying a little more (in taxes) than what they are paying the county,” he said.
Though he told Gray residents in attendance that his vote Thursday should not be considered as how he intends to vote when future annexation ordinances pop up, he also said that should those being annexed receive protective services that fall short of what is provided in the city, they should call him personally.
“I’ve been a strong proponent of annexation,” Banyas said. “Johnson City has spent millions of dollars in infrastructure improvements in the Gray area, and this is the natural direction of growth. This is a gateway to Johnson City from the airport, and we do have a vested interest.”
Banyas also thanked the people from Gray for staying involved and participating in the process.
The process has been a long one, but affected property owners, as well as those with adjacent property, stuck with their game plan, which included community meetings, protests and making themselves heard at public meetings. Still, as was the case after the April 19 public hearing, the apprehension over future annexation remains high.
“I’m scared,” said Roger Hale, who owns farmland in the area. “I don’t know how long this is going to last.”
Johnny Gray, who owns property that has been in his family since the late 1700s, also expressed concern.
“I didn’t hear anything about future annexations,” he said.
The city last year unveiled plans to annex not only land along Suncrest, but also to expand its jurisdiction, and tax base, past Interstate 26 into the other side of Gray to a point about 4.5 miles northwest on State Route 75. This area of proposed annexation also includes a hefty slice of farmland.
In other business, commissioners:
Unanimously approved the procurement of a new aerial ladder firefighting vehicle for the Johnson City Fire Department to replace a 1992 boom truck.
The city’s application for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant has been approved.
The Department of Homeland Security will be providing $600,000, and the city will match the grant with $300,000 from its general fund. The city recently put in to service a brand new aerial truck that is fitted with a platform.
The cost of this vehicle, including additional equipment and gear, was about $850,000.
Deferred an architectural services agreement with Johnson City’s Beeson Lusk & Street for an eight-classroom addition and optional cafeteria expansion at Indian Trail Middle School until further research is done.
The proposal was for the firm’s services to be used from the schematic design phase through construction.
Base fees for the classroom additions cafeteria expansion are $77,000 and $22,000 respectively. The estimated total cost is $2 million. The city would bear the cost exclusively from its 2013 capital projects budget.