Ashley Meadows residents ask for annexation into Columbus

Published 6:25 pm Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Council to vote on request in December
Residents of Ashley Meadows at White Oak told Columbus council members last week exactly why they need to be annexed into the town.
One resident on a fixed income said she’s never seen the water bill as high as it’s been lately and it’s difficult, especially considering the rise in food costs. She said she doesn’t have the money to give to the church like she wants to.
“I just hope and pray that things will get better for us,” she said.
Columbus City Council met on Thursday, Nov. 17 and held a public hearing for a voluntary annexation petition from Ashley Meadows, a low-income apartment complex contiguous to the town.
A grandmother said when she first moved to Ashley Meadows her water bill was $62 a month and now it’s up to more than $90. She said she has two grandchildren and when they live with her it’s up to $100 a month.
“I can’t afford it,” she said. “I’m on a fixed income. I like living at Ashley Meadows but the water bill is just too high.”
One woman said she is about to move into Ashley Meadows but what she is hearing about the costs of water bills scares her. She said she just started receiving disability after being out of work for a year and a half and is taking care of her mother in Forest City.
The woman said she was formerly in commercial pest control and made a good living, but because of her disability she said she lost her home to foreclosure and is faced with living on a fixed income.
“I have a Nissan truck that has 257,000 miles on it,” she told council. “It scares me to think about what I’m hearing about the costs (at Ashley Meadows). That money could be spent on helping me get another vehicle so I’m not stranded and to help pay for medical bills.”
Another resident said she came from an abusive relationship and moved to Ashley Meadows from Steps to HOPE. She said it is stressful thinking about how to pay all the bills while still providing her son with a good future.
Ashley Meadows Property Manager April Lathan said 29 of Ashley Meadows families earn less than the 2011 poverty levels; 17 are elderly or disabled; 13 have children under age 18; 12 have three or more children under age 18 and 62 percent of the residents are single parents or single grandparents.
“Some come from abusive relationships. Some residents were homeless or came from shelters and they again are starting over,” Lathan said. “All of our families have faced some kind of challenge in their lives. Please vote ‘yes.’ It’s very hard for residents to pay the water bill with the sewer increase that came in July.”
The apartment complex, which has approximately 115 residents, requested to be voluntarily annexed into town limits last month. At that time Lathan told council that residents need relief on water bills and the development wants the protection of town police services.
Columbus has lower water and sewer rates for inside town customers than for outside. The development would have to pay town taxes, but residents would gain the lower utility rates and town services, such as police.
According to estimates, the town would have a net gain of more than $12,000 annually if it annexed Ashley Meadows. The town would lose more than $25,000 annually in water/sewer revenue, but would gain approximately $38,000 in additional taxes, including $7,025 annually in property taxes and $30,816 in state revenues such as motor vehicle, sales and use, beer and wine taxes, electric franchise fees and Powell Bill revenue.
The Columbus council has recently denied voluntary annexation petitions from Giardini’s restaurant because members felt residents did not want the town to expand any further.
Council agreed to vote on Ashley Meadow’s request during its Dec. 15 meeting.

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