Commonwealth Journal

Local News

August 20, 2013

Annexation connected to Stringer is questioned

Somerset — City officials have been annexing properties, both commercial and residential, since it took in more than 45 miles of roadway in 2012 as part of an effort to increase the city’s population and since the city effectively became “wet” after a June 2012 vote.

But one annexation east of Somerset has raised some questions.

During the June 24 Somerset City Council meeting, the second reading of Ordinance 13-10 was held that annexed a property located at 225 Barnesburg Road. It was during that reading that Somerset City Attorney Carrie Wiese announced that the property was that of Councilor Linda Stringer’s mother, and she stated she’d advised Stringer not to vote due to a possible conflict of interest.

The ordinance passed, with Councilors Jim Rutherford and John Ricky Minton voting “no.”

Wiese said the annexation was a consent annexation, meaning the property owner had filed a request asking to be taken into the city.

“Her (Stringer’s) mother just filled out a request form, and we handled that like we did everyone else,” said Wiese.

Consent annexations are made possible after an entity takes in a roadway by means of corridor annexation. It essentially allows property owners living adjacent to the annexed roadway to choose to come into the entity’s corporate limits.

The city has taken in around 48 miles of roadway, thanks to a March 2012 passing of a resolution that was brought up as an effort to increase the city’s population. Somerset’s population is 11,196, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. Officials hope to increase the city’s population to more than 15,000 on its journey to reaching more than 20,000 people.

The city had already annexed East Ky. 80 out to the Barnesburg area as part of the corridor annexation process.

“We were out there anyway,” said Wiese. “We’re actually getting ready to do a bunch more out that way.”

City councilors recently voted on another ordinance that took property easements containing the city’s utility lines — including sewer, water and natural gas — into its jurisdiction as part of the city’s goal to eventually reach the Ky. 461 industrial and technology complex. That ordinance is 13-09, and its second reading was held during the June 24 meeting as well. Minton and Rutherford voted against that ordinance, along with Councilor Jimmy Eastham.

“We’ve had businesses request that we get out there,” said Wiese.

Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler had those same sentiments, and he said Stringer’s mother “kindly helped” the city out by asking to be annexed.

“We encourage anybody to submit a request for voluntary annexation,” said Girdler. “We applaud (Stringer) working with her mom to get annexed into Somerset.

“We’re trying to encourage more residences than commercial businesses, because commercial businesses don’t increase our population base,” added Girdler. “ ... Should we exclude people from annexation, regardless of the reasons?”

Girdler said the city is actively working to extend its limits to the Ky. 461 corridor, and he said doing so requires the city to take property in along the Barnesburg road area.

“We’re going to follow that route,” said Girdler. “We’re not doing anything special for (Stringer) or that property that we wouldn’t do for everyone.”

But there’s another facet to the situation that has raised some eyebrows.

Wiese said Stringer was looking at the possibility of moving out to Barnesburg to better care for her ailing mother. Stringer was absent during the Monday, Aug. 12 meeting because she was with her mother, according to the other councilors, who asked that others keep Stringer in their thoughts during the traditional moment of silence.

Before the annexation, Stringer’s mother’s home would have been located outside of the city limits. A city councilor cannot reside in a home outside of those limits to remain eligible to serve on the council.

Girdler said he couldn’t speak for Stringer, and said he doesn’t know her personal reasons behind the request.

“What (Stringer’s) situation is, I don’t know,” said Girdler.

Girdler said that, no matter the reason, the city is glad to take more residences into its limits as part of the effort to expand outward.

“ ... Along the way, we encourage people ... we need more residences to get our population up,” said Girdler. “We have to get more and more people to come into the city.

“Eventually, our long-range goal is to take Ky. 461 in,” Girdler added. “That requires Old Barnesburg Road.”

Minton, one of two councilors who voted against the ordinance, said on Monday he was told that Stringer would was moving into her mother’s home.

“I don’t think this is right,” said Minton. “To me, it’s an ethics problem.”

Minton said he’s consistently voted against annexations out along the East Ky. 80 corridor anyway, and he said “there was no sense in us going out there and annexing that.

“ ... I didn’t feel like it was the proper thing to do,” said Minton. “I’ll stick to my guns and do what’s right.”

Rutherford, who also voted against the ordinance, said on Monday he would’ve voted against an annexation out that way, no matter the reason.

“I’ve never voted for anything out there,” said Rutherford, who has stated in past meetings that annexation is straining the city’s resources and spreading thin its emergency services, such as police, fire and EMS. “I’m trying to be consistent on my views ... Barnesburg is a little too far out there for me.

“ ... Regardless of if it was (Stringer’s) mother or not, I wasn’t going to vote for it,” Rutherford later said.

Stringer, when reached by phone on Monday, said she began checking on her mother’s property soon after the city passed corridor annexation out east.

“The road was annexed in, so I checked things out to see if the house could be annexed in,” said Stringer. “It was just a convenient thing to do right then.”

Stringer said the possibility of moving out to Barnesburg Road to care for her mother was “a part of” the reason why the consent annexation was requested.

“Some of the council objected to it, and that’s fine,” said Stringer.

Stringer also stated that she has since moved out to her mother’s home on Barnesburg Road.

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