By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News
GARDENDALE — Just days after a group opposed to annexing parts of unincorporated Mt. Olive into Gardendale grilled local politicians in a forum, a pro-annexation group will do the same.
MO Matters, a group which wants to annex the area of Mt. Olive where students are zoned to attend Bragg Middle and Gardendale High schools, will hold a public forum Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Gardendale Civic Center.
Craig Goolsby, one of MO Matters' organizers, said that most of the same politicians who attended the anti-annexation meeting will be at the Sunday event, including State Sen. Scott Beason, State Rep. Allen Treadaway, Gardendale Mayor Othell Phillips and members of the city council. He did not say if a representative from the Jefferson County Board of Education would attend; board member Oscar Mann of Gardendale was at the anti-annexation meeting as a representative of the board.
The public is welcome to Sunday's event. Goolsby said, no matter what their stance is on the annexation issue. "We do not intend to turn anyone away," he said.
Organizers of Tuesday's forum for annexation opponents billed it as a private event, and required those attending to show identification and to sign a petition against the annexation drive, if they had not done so previously. Several people who refused to sign the petition or had come out in favor of the issue were denied admission, though some people posted on Facebook pages supporting annexation that they had been able to sneak in, even posting video of the event from YouTube.
The annexation movement stems from Gardendale's decision to break away from the county schools and form its own city school system. Phillips and other city officials have stated on several occasions that students attending Mt. Olive Elementary who are zoned for Bragg — those in the "red box," as shown on MO Matters' map — may or may not be grandfathered into the new system, depending on the what action the new school board takes; that board has not been appointed yet, with applications still being taken through Jan. 15.
Phillips and council president Stan Hogeland reiterated in Sunday's meeting that the only way to guarantee that those students would continue to attend Bragg would be to annex themselves into Gardendale, since the boundaries of the new school district will coincide with the city limits as prescribed by state law.
[Edited at 4:54 p.m. to correct the day of the anti-annexation meeting.]