Critics surface as annex plan aired

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WALLA WALLA — A proposed 871-acre annexation on the south end of the city got its first review at a regular City Council meeting, and its first public outcry opposing it.

“What is the purpose of this annexation? There isn’t much growth going on as far as we know. So why is the annexation occurring? Is it for more income?” McCorkle Lane homeowner Mary Campbell asked.

On Wednesday night, the Council unanimously voted to begin the process of annexation, though the Council was also clear to point out that they were only starting a process that will lead to further public meetings, fact-finding sessions and possibly a future vote.

Council members Shane Laib and Conrado Cavazos were absent.

About 20 residents of the area were in attendance, with public testimony given by several residents against annexation and the fact that they were not previously contacted about the city’s plans.

“I know this is just the first meeting, but I feel we should have been notified. I feel I should have gotten at least an email to know this was going to be taken up,” Cottonwood Road resident Sandra Richardson said.

The issue of a lack of notice was also brought up by Laib, who was not present but still sent an email regarding the matter.

“The first that these citizens heard of this was through an article in the Union-Bulletin. We have failed in our duties with regard to communication,” Laib wrote, and then later questioned the city’s motives.

“This annexation is a budget gimmick. This annexation has been proposed so that we might balance our budget … We shouldn’t use these kind of gimmicks to kick the can down the road any further,” Laib wrote.

In budget meetings last year, city officials noted one of the outcomes of the annexation would be a net gain of $200,000 in additional property and utility taxes starting in 2014.

City officials also noted they already have enough signed annexation agreements from property owners to cover a supermajority of the total property value for the 871 acres. What that means is no further petitioning of residents is required, and the annexation can occur by Council approval.

A number of public meetings would first have to take place. The first scheduled for April 10.

Council Member Jerry Cummins suggested that meeting be held in a larger venue, noting that in the past annexation meetings have been well attended.

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