Council denies church’s annexation request

Dec. 20, 2013 @ 10:37 AM

Thomasville City Council denied a voluntary satellite annexation request from Rich Fork Baptist Church.
Council on Dec. 16 voted 4-2 against the annexation request, which was made by the church to increase response times for police and fire services. Rich Fork Baptist Church currently receives its sewer services from the city and annexation would drastically reduce what it has to pay.
Churches do not pay property taxes. The city tax rate of 56 cents per $100 valuation covers sanitation, police and fire services.
“It’s financial,” Councilman Neal Grimes said. “The public works and the public safety expense would be up which we don’t have now, and the revenue from the water would be down.”
Bob James, minister of administration and education at Rich Fork Baptist Church, told council that response times have yet to be an issue at the church, but administrators are trying to be proactive.
“We want to think ahead,” James said. “It’s kind of like having insurance, you can’t buy it afterward.”
Rich Fork is served by the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office and Pilot Fire Department, which is mainly volunteer. James feels the Thomasville Fire Department on Lexington Avenue and the Thomasville Police Department would provide that security.
Councilman Raleigh York, who voted against the annexation request, recommended entering into a mutual aid agreement with the church where Thomasillve fire and police departments would respond on first call to the 911 center. 
“I think we could accomplish what you want to accomplish without annexation,” said York. “If we could accomplish your purpose without it being a cost to our taxpayers, it would be a win-win for both sides. That’s what I prefer we try to do in this case and see if we could work those arrangements out.”
Councilman Scott Styers, who also voted against the request, said that while he was happy the church wants to be part of Thomasville, annexation may not be the most cost effective move for the city.
“One of the things I’m really struggling with, and I’m torn about the issue, is the response time,” Styers said. “We’ve got a list of the calls for service in the past couple years and there seems to be quite a few. That itself concerns me as to whether or not we would be able to respond that number of times without it being a drain financially.”
James said he is in favor of York’s idea involving a mutual aid agreement. Thomasville resident Barney Hill during a public hearing said annexation would result in the church paying 55 percent less for its utility services.
“The new resident would be an unmitigated drain on the General Fund from now on,” said Hill. “[The preference for the response times] is a feather in the cap of [TPD Chief Jeff] Insley, but it will do nothing to repair the fiscal imbalance. I reluctantly oppose the Rich Fork request.”


Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or duke@tvilletimes.com.