Become informed about East Gainesville annexation

East Gainesville Annexation meetings


Published: Thursday, October 1, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at 3:32 p.m.

The city of Gainesville will host two community meetings to educate registered voters who live in an 1,100-acre section of unincorporated Alachua County about an east Gainesville annexation referendum that will be voted on next month.

Facts

East Gainesville Annexation meetings

What: A meeting hosted by city of Gainesville officials to educate residents about annexation.
Where: Eastside High School, 1201 SE 43rd St.
When: 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 3 and 6:30 p.m. Oct. 6.
Information: Call (352) 334-5010.

The first forum will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Eastside High School and the second will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 6 at Eastside.

The state Legislature passed a statue within the last two years preventing local government officials from advocating for or against annexation, so these meetings are being held to simply educate voters about annexation.

Gainesville City Commissioner Scherwin Henry, whose District 1 seat will represent the proposed annexation area if the referendum passes, said though officials can't endorse the referendum in any way, he said the meetings "will derail a lot of misinformation about annexation."

Gainesville City Manager Russ Blackburn said if approved, the annexed area will add 3,000 residents to the population of Gainesville, which is now 130,000.

"The east Gainesville referendum will give citizens a chance to stay in unincorporated Alachua County or become a part of the city," Blackburn said, adding that officials from numerous city departments will be at the meetings to answer questions residents may have.

The overwhelming majority of the land proposed for annexation will become part of southeast Gainesville while a much smaller piece of land just east of Morningside Nature Center Park will become part of northeast Gainesville if the referendum passes.

Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Pam Carpenter said 2,070 information packets were sent out to registered voters who live in the proposed annexation area early last week. Carpenter said actual voting ballots will be mailed out Oct. 21, and must be returned to the elections office by 7 p.m. Tuesday Nov. 10.

She also said Oct. 12 is the deadline for residents in the proposed annexation area who are not registered to vote to register in order to receive a ballot. The elections office is located at 111 SE 1st. Ave.

Karen Billings, strategic planning manager for the city of Gainesville, said the forums are not only being held to educate voters about the issue, but also to increase voter turnout.

"This is a single-ballot issue, and the number of people interested in this is low because only registered voters whose current addresses are in the designated annexation area can vote on this issue," Billings said. "Our biggest concern is that we want as many people to vote as possible, and we want to give people information so they can have time to research the issue."

Billings said the referendum is being voted on because of an inter-local agreement reached between the City of Gainesville and Alachua County commissions two years ago. The agreement is that voters who live in areas west and east of Gainesville will vote on annexation in alternate years. Voters in an area west of Gainesville approved an annexation referendum last year.

Henry said residents should attend the meetings because they are the ones who will be directly affected by the outcome of the referendum.

Some of the changes that will come with annexation if the referendum is approved include the Gainesville Police Department patrolling the annexed areas rather than the Alachua County Sheriff's Office, residents will no longer have to pay the 25 percent utility surcharge tax GRU charges customers who do not live within the city and they will get mosquito control service.

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