Tryon annexation supporters respond to Arbogast decision

Published 10:05 pm Thursday, December 10, 2009

by Jeff Byrd

Mayor Alan Peoples and the three councilmen who supported annexation were surprised and disappointed to hear that councilman-elect Doug Arbogast had decided, before even attending his first meeting, to vote against continuing the fight.

For their support of annexation, Peoples, along with councilman Roy Miller and outgoing councilmen Jim Scott and Dennis Durham, stood together while taking public abuse and personal attacks for years.

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We fought the good fight, Mayor Peoples said. I didnt put up with all of this for the past two years because I thought I was wrong.

Going back for decades, Tryon Town Councils have discussed the need for annexation. Peoples said he analyzed all the town budgets from 1992, before deciding to finally see it through.

I find it interesting that (Arbogast) can in just the past few months come to a conclusion that we dont need the money, the opposite of the conclusion I reached after I studied the situation for five years, he said. We lose $14,000 a year in buying power, after two years, thats $28,000 and it goes on and on.

Peoples said everyone in the area has to pay, one way or another.

We cut two positions from (emergency services) dispatch and the county immediately put on two (dispatch) positions, he said. It was not a total savings, since everyone pays for the rise in the cost of county services.

Furthermore, Peoples said he knows of many residents in the annexation area who would actually pay less if they were in the town, after paying in-town water and sewer rates, lower insurance rates and receiving city garbage collection services.

I thought he (Arbogast) said he thought we had a good reason, and then he said he wanted to let the courts decide, and then he asked people to show him their tax calculations?

Councilman Roy Miller was equally nonplussed, wondering what exactly changed Arbogasts mind.

He (Arbogast) hasnt even attended the first meeting, Miller said. and he is going to make this important a decision about the future of Tryon? I am talking about the long-standing. We need to be concerned with our future.

Councilman Dennis Durham questioned Arbogasts reasoning regarding the cost of defending the Citizens Against Forced Annexation (CAFA) lawsuit.

The major cost of the annexation lawsuit has been absorbed, Durham said. The final hearing is set for February with an expected $5,000 to $10,000 additional cost to bring it to conclusion. To throw in the towel now is absurd.

The case was set to be heard in September, but CAFA lawyers offered a settlement and the case was postponed. The settlement offer was then withdrawn.

Annexation comes up every ten to 20 years, Durham said. To annex was one of the primary requests from several citizens when I became involved eight years ago. It was not on my agenda. If this is not decided in the courts, it will continue to be an issue and the cost to the town will be recurring.

Councilman Jim Scott said annexation would be good for Tryon.

How can anybody say it is not a good investment to add property that will be on the tax rolls for another 125 years. Thats how often we have annexed in Tryon, Scott said. Tryon is 125 years old this next spring and has never annexed.

As for people in the annexation area and their real estate values and sales, Scott said people moving here from high tax areas do not consider Tryon taxes exhorbitant. Rather, Scott said, town services are an asset and a good sales point.

Scott said in the past he has seen real estate advertisements touting homes in the annexation area as good buys specifically because they receive all the benefits of city utilities, city conveniences and emergency services without paying Tryon taxes.

As for the cost and feasibility of the Gilette Woods sewer system, Peoples said the town had hired an expert in utility construction who had assured council it could be built.

Some express concern that some of the 400 in the annexation area will pay more taxes, Peoples said. My concern is that if there is no other revenue for the town, we will need to raise taxes on 1,800 people. He told Arbogast he continued to believe the annexation area should pay a fair share.