WARNER ROBINS — City Council was met with opposition from more than a dozen members of a community the council plans to annex into the city limits.
The mayor broke a tie vote during Monday’s meeting to approve annexation of about 100 residences. The council is expected to hold a called meeting Wednesday for the second reading of the ordinance. A move to waive the second reading failed to receive a unanimous vote.
Residents of the area, located off Corder Road, spoke about not being involved in the process of bringing them into the city. At times during the debate, residents spoke out of turn in council chambers during council discussion of the resolution. One man was removed from the meeting.
“We haven’t had a vote,” said Ron McWilliams, who lives in the Hillandale Estates area. “No one’s asking for a vote, and we didn’t vote for any member of this council. And I don’t believe in taxing without representation.”
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McWilliams told the council that 70 of the residential members affected by the annexation signed a letter objecting to annexation by the city. City officials, including Councilman Paul Shealy, said the group would receive many benefits by being part of the city.
“When you are annexed into the city with this vote, you’ll have a vote. I’ll be your councilman,” Shealy said.
“I don’t wanna go in,” McWilliams said. “You’re missing the point if you think it’s good for me after I go in.”
Councilman Bob Wilbanks, who voted against the action, said hearing the dissent from the residents affected his vote.
“I don’t want to vote against the will of the citizens in this case,” he said.
Councilman Tom Simms Jr. agreed.
“Just because we can (annex) doesn’t mean we should,” he said.
Legislation allows for the annexation of so-called islands, which, in this case, includes parts of unincorporated Houston County surrounded by Warner Robins on all sides. Advantages to the islands being annexed into the city include residences being afforded use of city emergency services such as police, fire and animal control. They may also see decreased insurance ratings and premiums.
Residents from the Jefferson Hills subdivision were also back in council chambers, expressing their disappointment with the mayor and council about not getting answers to them about the use of land which had been bought and prepared for a sports complex.
Jeanne Duncan, who has represented the neighborhood at council meetings, said she was shocked to learn the park was not intended for children. It was information she said would have been helpful when the neighbors came before the council a month ago.
“Now somebody comes along and says (the park) wasn’t meant for children,” she said of a conversation she had with Warner Robins Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Gary Lee Monday. “We’re just kind of concerned. If you didn’t know what was going on, you could have told us the first time we came to the council.”
Shaheen said he met with several people, including Councilman Mike Daley and Recreation Department director James Dodson, about the future of the land off Wellborn Road near Huntington Middle School. Dodson said the plans for the land lacked several essentials to make it suitable for use as a sporting facility.
“When the city decides to build a complex, it should have multiple recreation uses,” said Dodson, who said he was never involved in talks about the complex. “I’d like to see a multipurpose use facillity. Some ball fields. A pavilion with picnic tables. I’m not criticizing anybody, but (workers) went in and they clear-cut it. They took out all the trees. You need those. As director of recreation, I’m telling you that’s how I see it.”
Dean Cowart, who was on the council when planning for the sports complex began, said he was disappointed to see city officials holding discussions without anyone who was involved in the planning process for the facility. He also said plans look a bit different from what had been decided upon.
Cowart mentioned that the late Mayor Donald Walker had the plans and was supposed to share them with public works officials, but did not know whether that actually took place. He said as a large city with a central location in the state, Warner Robins needed a facility to hold sporting events. That was the intended purpose for the land, he said.
“We took a piece of property that nobody wanted ... that you could do nothing with,” Cowart said, “and turned into something that the city needed.”
To contact writer Marlon A. Walker, call 256-9685.