Calhoun Community College isn’t the only institution on Decatur’s border in Limestone County.
Pryor Field Regional Airport lies east of Calhoun’s campus, the Alabama Robotics Technology Park lies west, and the empty Delphi buildings run parallel to it on the west side of U.S. 31. If Calhoun’s upcoming annexation request is approved by the City Council, it could open the door for Decatur’s city limits to encompass them, too.
City Council President Gary Hammon said the city isn’t seeking to annex any of those properties, but would entertain proposals submitted to the council.
“I don’t believe in using sticks, but we do have carrots,” he said, referring to growth in Decatur that could entice entities to request annexation.
“Retail expansion is happening, and industrial expansion and now educational expansion. Most cities just have one of those things at a time.”
The city wouldn’t receive any extra revenue from the college, save for possibly a few dollars of sales tax for things sold on campus. It would also increase area for emergency responders’ jurisdiction.
The main reason for Calhoun’s request was for quicker response times from police, fire and emergency medical services. In an email to city officials, Fire Chief Darwin Clark said annexing could eliminate a 15-minute delay in response time caused by routing emergency calls through Limestone 911.
In July, the city whittled down Decatur EMS’s jurisdiction in Limestone County from 47 square miles to 15.
At the time, Morgan 911 Director Ryan Welty said the reduction was because Decatur had a “limited number of ambulances” and that it would increase response time in the city.
Hammon said he believes the annexation could be beneficial to the city.
He said the city could take advantage of the young student population.
“College kids like T-shirts and pizza,” he said.
“They could get some retail expansion going.”
Decatur is one of the largest cities in Alabama without a college campus.
Hammon said educational expansion is a draw for businesses, industries and potential residents.
He said the Alabama Center for the Arts in downtown Decatur, which Calhoun is involved in, was created with that strategy in mind, although its economic impact has been slow, so far.
“Florence, Huntsville, Athens all have schools,“ he said.
Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks is skeptical of Hammon’s claims that Decatur isn’t seeking annexation, but legally there’s nothing he can do about it. “It’s really up to the land owners,” he said.
Athens leaders have voiced concern over encroaching Huntsville and Madison annexation from the east.
Although Decatur rarely has been named a threat, Marks said it’s still not a good situation for Athens.
“We’re not at war with Decatur,” he said. “But we’re not happy with anyone annexing ... If there’s something coming in, we’ve got to get past this and work for what’s best for all of us.”
Decatur Community and Economic Development Director Wally Terry said the easiest way to annex property is for outside entities to request it, like Calhoun has.
The other two ways involve legislative action or a public vote.
“I’m not aware of any future annexation,” he said. “But if there were, we would consider it just like Calhoun.”
A small cemetery is between Calhoun campus’s south boundary and the north boundary of the city limits.
It’s not clear who owns the cemetery, but if Calhoun owns it, Terry said, it won’t be annexed. The cemetery would be Limestone land surrounded by Decatur land.
Terry said the city hasn’t received a formal annexation plan, but Calhoun likely will only request that its 116,000 square feet of buildings be annexed.
Calhoun has said it can get cheaper insurance rates by being in the city limits, and its annexation plan already has been approved by the state Board of Education.
So, what about Pryor Field as another possibility?
Decatur leaders have said Pryor Field has a positive impact on local economy and is a big draw to industries. The airport is one reason Polyplex is building a polyester film plant here.
Stan Smith, the airport’s manager, said it is jointly owned by Morgan and Limestone counties, Decatur and Athens. The airport receives $30,000 a year from each.
Smith said nobody has directly approached the Airport Authority Board about annexation.
“It’s really up to the board, and I don’t know what they would decide,” he said. “But I’m sure it will be discussed at their next meeting.”
Alabama Robotics Technology Park is a partnership between Calhoun and the Alabama Industrial Development and Training Institute. The deed for the land the park sits on is in AIDT’s name.
Whereas Calhoun is governed by the state Board of Education, the robotics park is governed by the state Department of Commerce. AIDT Executive Director Ed Castile said the governor would have to approve any annexation plan.
“Nobody has talked to me about annexation,” Castile said.
Many of the Delphi buildings are still owned by the Michigan-based company, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The state bought Building 22 in 2001 for a industrial project that never got off the ground.
In February, the state agreed to swap Building 22 for Building 23, which was owned by Florida-based OAX LLC at the time.
In exchange, OAX deeded Building 23 to Carpenter Technology. No money changed hands.
The state deeded Building 22 under the stipulation that it be used only for economic development.
Limestone leaders said OAX’s business model involved buying land, demolishing its buildings and then re-selling the land to developers.
Carpenter is using the Delphi building as a supplement to its steel plant, located on Thomas L. Hammonds Road just off U.S. 31.
Not registered? Click here
|High School Sports||@DecaturPreps|