Annexation Controversy

Anti-annexation spokesperson Mary Lou Brown (left) addresses Pulaski Fiscal Court during Tuesday morning’s meeting. A resolution that would have killed the annexation of Pulaski Park was sent into limbo when Pulaski County Judge- Executive Steve Kelley cast a tying vote.

The Pulaski County Park annexation plan is moving forward, thanks to a tying vote cast by County Judge-Executive Steve Kelley in front of a standing-room only crowd at Tuesday’s meeting of Fiscal Court.

And to residents of the Nancy area affected by the annexation, that vote amounted to a broken promise.

Kelley’s vote killed a proposed resolution that would have forbidden the annexation. It was read aloud by District 2 Magistrate Jason Turpen, who represents the residents affected by the proposal.

Turpen, Jimmy Wheeldon and Mike Wilson all cast “yes” votes supporting the resolution. Mike Strunk and Glenn Maxey voted “no.” Kelley then cast a tying vote to send the resolution into limbo.

“Most of the people in my district are against the annexation,” said Turpen, explaining his vote. “Those are the people I represent.”

Nancy residents are incensed that the City of Burnside could annex Pulaski Park so that a proposed country music concert could be held there. Alcoholic beverages would have to be served for the concert event to come off.

In this proposed plan, Burnside would go along the shoreline they already have to Pulaski County Park, so the land there would fall under Burnside’s alcohol policy. This would allow Pulaski County Government — which would continue to own and oversee the park itself — to woo a potential big-time concert promoter and bring an event there where vendors could serve alcohol.

“This isn’t about alcohol, this is about our rights being stripped from us,” said Jonathan Fox, one of the spokesmen for the anti-annexation group. “There’s a system in place for an area to vote on whether or not they want alcohol served. We’re not getting a chance to vote. We’re having this rammed down our throats.”

The Nancy crowd was upset yesterday when Kelley seemed to reverse himself by casting his tying vote.

At last week’s public meeting in Nancy on the annexation issue, the judge indicated he would not vote on the issue.

“It’ll be (the magistrates’) vote,” Kelley said during the meeting. “I won’t have a vote. (The magistrates) are your elected officials.”

When pressed by Nancy resident Tim Daulton on where he stood personally on the annexation issue, Kelley responded: ”I don’t vote on this.”

But then he did.

Kelley cast his vote as irate citizens screamed their displeasure. Kelley quickly adjourned the meeting and retreated into his adjoining office.

“You can’t run away from this, Steve,” yelled a citizen from the crowd.

Kelley said later on Tuesday that he opted to cast his tying vote after reflecing on the issue.

“I had a week (since the public meeting) to think about the situation and what was at stake for the county,” Kelley said. “I felt obligated to exercise my right to vote.”

“He just lied to the people,” Daulton said after yesterday’s Fiscal Court meeting. “He told us all he wouldn’t be involved ... that the magistrates would decide the issue.”

Prior to the vote Tuesday, Kelley assured those in attendance that Pulaski Fiscal Court ”would retain control” of the park, no matter what happened with the annexation plan.

Kelley said after Tuesday’s meeting that he sent a letter to the Corps of Engineers stating Pulaski County Government “had no official position for or against annexation.”.

Burnside Mayor Ron Jones said his city would drop the annexation plan if Pulaski Fiscal Court didn’t approve of it.

“The only reason we were doing it was to facilitate something the county wanted to do,” Jones said last week.

So far, Pulaski County Government has not named who they are working with to bring this proposed concert to the park.

“The promoter has asked to not be named until we negotiate a contract,” Kelley said.