Phase 1 of annexation cost about $16 million

Phase 1 of annexation cost about $16 million

September 23rd, 2009 by Cliff Hightower in News

The city's first phase of annexation could cost almost $16 million for sewers, roads and fire services, records show.

On Tuesday, city officials delivered a 1,018-page, 10-pound document to the office of attorney Gary Starnes. A judge last week ordered the city to release all documents related to cost and revenues of the first phase of proposed annexation.

"This should lay to rest the idea the city cannot afford annexation," Mayor Ron Littlefield said Tuesday.

The documents show that $2.4 million of city expenditures after annexation will come from bonds paid back over a number of years, Mr. Littlefield said. A projected $13.2 million in sewers will come from another bond issue and will be paid for by user fees, not the city, he said. The documents show the city expects to gain $2.1 million in revenue annually from the 10 areas proposed for annexation in the first phase. They include Cummings Cove, Ramsgate, Big Ridge, huge parts of Ooltewah and Collegedale and an area east of Morris Hill Road.

The estimated annual operating expenditures for the areas would be $620,639, documents show. The city expects to pay almost $2.4 million for items such as fire stations, roads and traffic signals and about $13.2 million for new sewers, the documents show.

Gary Starnes, attorney for Hamilton County Residents Against Annexation, said Tuesday night during a hearing on annexation that he pored over the documents and doesn't think the city can afford annexation. He said he did the math and came up with a cost of paying for sewers alone through bonds.

"It's $840,000 a year, where's that coming from?" he asked.

PDF: Annexation plan

EXPENSES AND REVENUES

Area Expenses Revenues

Cummings Cove $2 million $385,000

Ramsgate $2.7 million $1.1 million

Big Ridge $751,000 $10,800

Ooltewah/Collegedale $7.4 million $247,857

East of Morris Hill Road $3.1 million $353,422

Total $16 million $2.1 million

Note: Expenses include fire protection, sewers, roads and citywide services.

Source: City of Chattanooga

BY THE NUMBERS

* $13.2 million: Estimated costs of sewers in annexed areas

* $2.4 million: Estimated cost of capital improvements

* $2.1 million: Estimated annual revenues

* $620,639: Estimated operating expenditures

Source: City of Chattanooga

Mr. Littlefield countered that Mr. Starnes was combining capital, sewer and operating budgets together as a tactic to project costs that were considerably higher than city estimates.

But the money the city stands to gain from annexation will still be tied up in other areas, Mr. Littlefield said. He said that money will be used for hiring more police officers and firefighters over the next several years.

"That's just not free money for the city," he said.

'THEY CANNOT AFFORD THIS'

Kyle Holden, president of Hamilton County Residents Against Annexation, which filed the lawsuit that led to the city releasing the documents, said Tuesday that he didn't think the numbers add up to a financial windfall for the city.

"They just don't have the financial capability to be able to carry out this annexation," Mr. Holden said.

The anti-annexation group sued the city last week to see documents relating to cost and revenues of annexation. Mr. Starnes represents the group.

Chancery Court Judge Frank Brown ruled in their favor Friday and ordered the city to have the documents at Mr. Starnes' office by 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Mr. Starnes said he spent almost five hours devouring the 1,000-page document.

"There are some glaring figures that show they cannot afford this," he said. "One is the sewers."

The city charged the group $179.95 for copying expenses and $1,020.82 for city employee time. City officials said it took 27 hours and 17 minutes to compile the documents.

Mr. Holden argued Tuesday that even though most of the city's expenses would be financed through bonds, city taxpayers - present and future - would have to pay them back, with interest.

"It's going to cost everybody," he said. "They still cost money and all that is doing is what families are doing right now and that's living on credit."

costS of annexation

The documents released Tuesday show the city expects to pay $1.3 million for a new fire station and $700,000 for fire trucks at Cummings Cove. The city expects new fire hydrants in Ramsgate and east of Morris Hill Road to cost about $391,500, according to documents.

The city also plans for $256,800 in road improvements, with most being made in the Ramsgate subdivision.

The largest costs will be sewers, with $4.1 million in new sewer lines around the Summit of Softball complex area in Apison. The city also expects costs of $2.8 million for sewer improvements in the area east of Morris Hill Road, $2.7 million for sewers off Old Lee Highway and $2.4 million for sewers in Ramsgate.

According to the documents, all of the improvements will take place within three years.