ACWORTH — As of June 1, the city of Acworth grew by adding several “islands of land” from unincorporated Cobb County.
Mayor Tommy Allegood and the Board of Alderman approved annexing portions of unincorporated Cobb County into the Acworth city limits at a May council meeting.
Several county residents spoke in opposition to the move, but the board approved the annexation that will bring “islands of land” into the city that confuse emergency responders and road maintenance crews over jurisdiction.
The lone vote against the annexation came from Alderman Butch Price, who said, “It is hard to justify.”
Before approval, City Manager Brian Bulthuis added stipulations that owners or renters who are currently living on the designated properties will receive free trash removal for 10 years, at a savings of $235 a year.
Bulthuis also recommended to the board that they honor current county business licenses paid through 2013 for the six-month gap before Acworth’s next business licensing in June 2014. He said businesses that are part of the annexation will be licensed at half price for the next five years.
Alderman Tim Richardson asked that mailings with this updated information be sent to the property owners this month, which was the only comment from a board member before the vote.
A representative from Cobb County attended to show support from the county, which is the only other party that needed to consent to the city takeover of the land. The county has an agreement to cooperate with Acworth on any actions deemed necessary to end duplication of services. The annexation took effect June 1.
From an audience of more than 50 people, seven individuals spoke during a 25-minute public comment period. Each landowner spoke against another level of government being placed on them.
Commercial property owner Steve McNeel began the quiet rally, saying he admitted the city had the power and was not asking for his vote.
Al Fortney, CEO of Fortney Sales Company Inc., purchased 5.5 acres in December to move his business from Kennesaw, but said that he never received notification from the city about its intention to annex his parcel.
Bulthuis said the certified letters were addressed based on tax filings. “You might have well thrown it out the window,” Fortney said to the board.
Fortney accused the board of having a vested interest in the land grab because of the increase in tax revenue.
“I can tell you roads aren’t cheap,” Bulthuis responded about using part of city property taxes on road maintenance.
Most people who addressed the board said they felt victimized by the mandate, which made them fearful of future property demands by the city, such as adding power lines or fines for nonworking vehicles parked on the properties now part of the city.
Landowner Ben Turner pointed to previously annexed land, which now houses the Lake Park subdivision and which he said caused erosion and flooding to his family’s adjacent property.
A couple of speakers pointed out that the regular scheduled meeting began in the typical fashion, with everyone in the room standing to recite The Pledge of Allegiance, but that there was no “liberty and justice for all” regarding the annexation.
Although Allegood advised the public comment period was not a time for questions, Turner, who has owned 7 acres on Lot 50 since 1955, asked, “Will I be a good citizen if I am forced to be one?”