By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News
GARDENDALE — A group promoting the annexation of parts of Mt. Olive into Gardendale presented its plan to a packed conference room Monday night.
MO Matters, which seeks to keep children on track to attend Bragg Middle and Gardendale High schools as they do currently, proposes to annex only the portion of Mt. Olive involving those children.
It is necessary to ensure those children would continue to attend Gardendale schools once they break away from the Jefferson County Schools system, said group leader Tracy Calvert — called “the driveway lady” by many annexation supporters, in reference to the initial meeting to gather support that was held in her driveway in July.
“There are several different ways that our kids could stay in those schools, but this is the best,” Calvert said. “This way, Mt. Olive will decide its fate.”
The proposed area to be annexed includes almost all of the neighborhoods off of Mt. Olive Road from Interstate 65 west and north to Swann Road and Angela Road. Areas north of that are currently zoned for Corner or Mortimer Jordan high schools.
The area would also include streets branching off of Mt. Olive Brookside Road as far south as the Norfolk Southern Railroad overpass, as well as a group of homes off Joe Nail Road.
The other alternatives to partial annexation — the normal method of annexing property by property, letting the new Gardendale board of education decide if it would allow non-resident students to attend by paying tuition, or annexation through the state legislature, among others — have too many drawbacks, said MO Matters leader Craig Goolsby.
“We’ve been meeting with Mayor Othell Phillips and the city council for three months about this,” Goolsby said. “They want us to decide to do this.... We’re ready for this. We’re prepared for this.”
Attendees asked questions of Goolsby and Calvert for nearly 45 minutes, many of them focusing on what police and fire protection Gardendale would provide, especially since the Mt. Olive Fire and Rescue District’s board of trustees has come out against annexation, according to Goolsby and Calvert.
Calvert and Goolsby said they propose that Gardendale contract with the district to continue to provide fire protection, with the city paying about $350,000 a year in lieu of the fire dues the Mt. Olive residents currently pay. In most cases, those dues equal an ad valorem tax rate of 10 mills — the same as the new property tax being assessed to Gardendale residents to fund the new school system.