GALLIPOLIS — Gallipolis City Commissioners met for their regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday and discussed the possibility of sending letters to residents and organizations in the Spring Valley area to gauge interest in being annexed into Gallipolis limits.
The Gallipolis Daily Tribune utilized privilege of the floor at the meeting to ask questions of commissioners.
“It’s something that’s been kicked around for several years,” said Commissioner Mike Fulks. “We want to approach folks and pitch it out and see if there is an interest or not.”
“We need the money,” said Commissioner Tony Gallagher. “Basically, we don’t want to say that but it’s what we’re looking at because we don’t have enough money to run the city right now.”
“The way it is right now,” said Commissioner Beau Sang,”the money we do receive from residents in the area that we’re looking at has to stay in the enterprises. If we do this, money can go to the general fund to give us more flexibility to do things that those people use every day, like roads and the infrastructure of the city. It can help make things better for everybody. The common misconception I think that people will see is that we’re going after their money. We’ve done numbers that will accompany the letter that we’ll send out that will help explain it. What they’ll find is in some cases, some people will actually keep more money in their pockets, but it’s all based on individual circumstances.”
Sang said residents and businesses in what has been called the Spring Valley area, colloquially, would see drops in their water and sewer rates. Many in the area already utilize city water and waste water access and reportedly pay more for out-of-municipality rates. Those who work and live in the municipality do have to pay a one percent income tax. Money raised by water and waste water efforts must legally stay within respective enterprise funds and be utilized for those enterprises. Any revenue from an income tax would go into the Gallipolis general fund and could then be appropriated to various departments as needed by official directive, such as police services. Gallipolis currently has a one percent income tax for those who work and live within its limits.
Those who live within Gallipolis limits can also benefit from power and gas aggregation rates due to agreements Gallipolis has with utility companies, commissioners said. Residents also reportedly benefit from reduced rates for trash collection.
According to City Manager Gene Greene, Gallipolis water access extends out as far as Mitchell Road in connection with Jackson Pike. Water lines attached to the city also extend along McCormick Road.
Much of what is informally called Spring Valley by area residents is recognized as the shopping plazas, businesses, organizations and homes along Jackson Pike and its connecting streets. What commissioners may look to annex is still being discussed, however, it would focus in areas with municipal water service.
“We’ve been looking at it on an individual basis at this point and I think we’re (commissioners) all in agreement that it will be a great benefit for the individuals in most cases,” said Sang when asked if the city had an estimate on revenue generated from an income tax. “Unless you’re making a half million dollars a year, it may not be, but for the normal average Joe out there, in some cases, they’re going to be putting money in their pocket.”
Individuals who benefit from retirement, Social Security or disability income, the one percent income tax does not apply to them, said commissioners, but they still would benefit from reduction in water and sewer rates.
“The median salary for Gallia County is around $46,000,” said Sang. “So the numbers that we’ve worked with here are based on a conservative number of $50,000. In that case, the majority of people with these numbers will be putting more money in their pockets, but every individual circumstance will be different.”
“It’s preliminary with the whole thing (the letter and annexation discussion),” said Fulks. “It’s one of those things where we’re piecing together (information) and hope it’s attractive enough to (the residents and organizations of Spring Valley) that they would want to be part of Gallipolis and what we can offer them.”
“This has been talked about for probably as long as I’ve been alive,” said Commissioner Steven Wallis. “It keeps coming back up about once a year or twice a year…There are a lot of services that we provide in the city, so we want to give them an opportunity to take advantage of those things that we do. I just felt like there were probably some numbers that we never got to the point of running (in previous commissions). Well, we’ve run those numbers and, surprisingly enough, I wish we’d run them several years ago.”
Wallis said he felt the reduction in rates, figures studied by officials and increased access to city services could appeal to individuals in the area, despite the income tax discussion. Those living within municipal limits may also have the ability to run for Gallipolis City Commission office.
“Potentially, we can expand our services to them while it might take the county a little longer to deliver assistance,” said Commissioner Cody Caldwell.
Gallipolis officials have said while deputies in the county might be patrolling a distant part of Gallia County, a Gallipolis police officer may respond faster in a crisis due to a smaller jurisdiction of responsibility.
Those living within municipal limits would be subject to its ordinances and code enforcement laws.
“The first thing annexation would do is that it would help protect the services that the city provides to out-of-city residents on a long term scale,” said City Solicitor Adam Salisbury. “Annexation is not a five-year solution or 10-year. It’s more of a hundred year solution. The city provides water and sewer services to people in and outside of the city. The city provides fire services for multiple townships outside the city limits. Those three services in particular are something that everyone in this county is going to need going forward… One thing annexation allows us, it allows us to make a long term plan for the provision of those vital services for everyone (by increasing the tax base for Gallipolis). The other thing we can do, if we annex that space, is that we can more adequately and in a coordinated way can control the growth of that section of the county through zoning, through code enforcement and urban planning. You have sections of the county that are growing there in an urban way and becoming densely populated.”
Salisbury said certain powers available to municipal government are also not available to county government and that may benefit the area.
Officials stated it was possible in the future with additional funding that a substation for police and fire services could be placed within Spring Valley. This could potentially lower insurance rates for organizations and residents. Officials have said in past commission meetings that they would like to hire more officers to combat the opioid epidemic among other issues.
Salisbury emphasized that fire protection agreements made with surrounding areas would still be upheld and continued regardless of what happens as the annexation discussion continues.
The commission does not currently have an estimate on what it thinks might be raised through an income tax in the Spring Valley area. It does, however, have an annual cost and benefits savings analysis for residents that will be published in a future edition of the Gallipolis Daily Tribune.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.