North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

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February 26, 2014

Now what? Mt. Olive residents ponder what's next after compromise fails and annexation is rejected

(Continued)

MT. OLIVE —

Opponents of the annexation were loosely organized, coming together for a forum at the Mt. Olive Community Center that was financed by a collection basket at the door. Yard signs were similarly paid for out-of-pocket. The closest thing that opponents had to a leader was Gene Paul Branham, who served as moderator of the forum.

Branham was glad that the issue of annexation appears to be dead, but sympathizes with Mt. Olive families who still want their children to attend Gardendale schools after the new system breaks away from the Jefferson County Schools.

“I was tickled that they said they were not going to annex, but I was not surprised that the [Gardendale mayor] said that they couldn’t afford it,” Branham said. “I said the whole time that I didn’t see how they thought they could afford it when they couldn’t afford fire protection over in the New Castle area as it is.”

Branham had been skeptical all along that the city could make the numbers work for annexation.

“Doing the math in my head, I just didn’t see how they could afford to provide the city services. With the lack of businesses [to provide sales tax revenue], I didn’t see how it was financially feasible,” he said.

The end of the annexation efforts, at least by any method other than traditional parcel-by-parcel annexation, brings the MO Matters group to a crossroads. For now, they must hope that the new Gardendale Board of Education, whose members have yet to be appointed, will be willing to grandfather their schoolchildren into the new system somehow — and that the Jefferson County Board of Education will be willing to let them go.

“We think it is important to note that if the city and our state officials cannot get us to a solution that is permanent and acceptable for our community, the chances of the school boards making it happen are far less,” the MO Matters statement concluded. “As far as next steps for MO Matters, that has not yet been determined. The city leadership has suggested that we work diligently with the yet-to-be-announced Gardendale School Board membership, and the Jefferson County Board membership to help drive a favorable result for Mt. Olive. At this time we have not determined how, or if, to proceed with this suggestion.”

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