Somerset Mayor Alan Keck announced Tuesday night that he has opted to end the controversial discussion on annexation that has sparked debate throughout the county for the past three weeks.
Keck issued a statement and also released a video on the City of Somerset page.
"I initiated a discussion within the community to determine the interest level of expanding Somerset’s city limits. My intent was to invite folks who lived near the city to join in and expand the city’s population," Keck said in a statement Tuesday night. "I feel city growth is important for the increased visibility, economic growth, and a better quality of life for our community at large. Remember, when I campaigned for Mayor I promised to lead in new and bold way. I assure you, Alan Keck will never run for office, do the minimum when elected, and then hope for re-election by maintaining the status quo."
Keck offered up a major annexation plan as a quick way for the city to reach 15,000-18,000 people. Somerset has had a population of around 12,000 for four decades.
But the new mayor got some pushback from county government and county citizens who feared higher taxes and more restrictions to their property without immediately being able to have natural gas and sewer service from the city.
"I also campaigned on listening to the people. Listening is hard when you personally disagree. With that said, I recognize the recent discussion has been used to cause a lot of fear, anxiety, and community discord," Keck said. "So today, I want to put an end to the argument that has divided our community. We will only entertain the possibility of annexation in small areas or neighborhoods that demonstrate a large majority of those affected who voluntarily want to join the city. If anyone should reach out to my office, we will be happy to discuss the possibility of such a process."
Keck thanked Pulaski County Judge-Executive Steve Kelley and magistrate Jason Turpen for sitting down and discussing the issue — even though they ultimately came out against annexation.
"They appreciated the vision, but they said it simply wasn't right for Pulaski County at this time," Keck said. "I appreciate that approach."
Keck did not, however, appreciate some naysayers who he feels were bent on "creating division."
"Others have tried to create fear and division. They tried to create an 'us vs. them' mentality," Keck said. "I don't want that for Somerset and I don't want that for Pulaski County."
Keck said he halted discussion on annexation in an effort to "bring us back together."
"I would ask that we re-focus on bringing our community together and move forward aggressively in the manner," Keck said.