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Judge favors Eutaw annexation

Judge Reese ruled Wednesday in favor of Eutaw annexation in Montgomery County Circuit Court.

The local bill was signed into law June 17, 2003, by Governor Bob Riley. A suit was filed June 25 by Shelia Hann against the bill.

Mayor Raymond Steele who had raised money to defend the annexation was obviously pleased. The Eutaw City Council had opposed the move and not allowed city attorney Mike Smith to help defend the bill. Citizens in Eutaw contributed funds toward the defense of the bill, Steele said.

The mayor doesn’t look at the struggle as himself against the council. “This is a people issue; this is not my issue,” he said Thursday. “This is not my fight. The majority of the people won.

“The entire purpose for this whole annexation is because Eutaw was not in a healthy state. We did not have much room to grow.

“…The lack of population was an issue,” the mayor said. The annexation will bring the city population to approximately 3,000 people, which puts us close to our sister city to the south of us (Livingston).”

Increased population will help Eutaw be in the position for larger amounts of grant money.

The next step is for a new redistricting map to be developed and approved by the U.S. Justice Department before the August city elections. Steele hopes to start the process at the next council meeting on April 27.

The areas being brought in include a section across Interstate 20/59 on Highway 14 West, the Eutaw Airport off Highway 14 East, Lock 7 area, and M&M subdivisions.

Steele has previously said officials from the University of West Alabama and the West Alabama Regional Commission had approved his annexation proposal. The mayor was doing all the legwork, he said, but the council didn’t trust his figures.

The proposal was tabled continually. Steele called a special meeting last year to vote on the proposal. “It failed for the lack of a second,” he said. “If the council was not willing to make a decision – then as mayor I felt like I had to make a decision for the city as a whole.”

Two versions of the bill were advertised in the two Eutaw newspapers. The version, which called for the public to vote on the annexation, did not make it into the final bill sent to the state legislature.

The bill was signed into law June 17 by Governor Bob Riley. A suit was filed June 25 by Shelia Hann against the bill.

Mayor Steele hopes the council will now move forward with him on annexation. “It’s time for us to really look at the importance of the city and the importance of the community,” he said. “Some of the opponents of annexation had not come up with any feasible plans to make any meaningful changes in the city.”