Harlem Mayor John Bentley hopes to expand the city limits of Harlem.
He will start with an essential selling point for the residents of the Campania community - water.
Harlem is completing a final portion to a 10-inch water main that will complete a circle of the city's limits. That final portion is being built close to Campania, and residents already have expressed their eagerness to have water lines extended from the main their way so they can connect to it.
The Harlem City Council is considering that possibility. If the deal occurs, annexation will be placed on the table.
''We'll ask them to sign a letter of intent at that time to be willing to annex,'' Bentley said.
Even if the residents of Campania don't agree to join the city limits of Harlem, Bentley said, the city would still go along with sharing water service.
''We'll generate enough revenue from the people of Campania that we'll be able to pay for that service,'' he said at a recent city council meeting.
Still, Bentley said he would like to see Harlem grow outward toward Campania and Appling-Harlem Road (U.S. Highway 221) within the next three years to five years.
''We're already looking to annex to (Highway) 221,'' he said. ''The bottom line is, we're less than two miles from border to border. We have no room to grow. And you notice that our population dropped in the last census. That's a big issue.''
The reward for an expansion, Bentley said, would be more state funding and city revenue from a larger population.
''We could almost double our population,'' he said.
In Grovetown, Mayor Dennis Trudeau already has seen the benefits that can come from annexation. Grovetown grew from 3,596 residents in 1990 to 6,089 in 2000 - a jump of 69.3 percent, according to recent census figures. Trudeau had attributed that rise to annexation - the city has incorporated several subdivisions, including Summerfield and Liberty Hills, since 1990.
The problem in Harlem is that there are some residents who don't want to become annexed. For an area to be annexed, Bentley said, about 60 percent of the community's property must be available and 60 percent of its landowners must agree.
Right now in areas near Campania and Appling-Harlem Road, Bentley said there are a few people who own large amounts of land who have been against annexation. At the same time, many others nearby with smaller parcels have been for the proposal.
''A lot of people fight annexation because they don't want to pay city taxes. But in many cases, they save money,'' said Bentley, adding that water and fire protection services are typically cheaper within city limits.
Bentley said he is planning a town hall meeting for sometime in November to discuss the idea of annexation with residents. In the meantime, the city will deal with the more pressing issue of the water main.
A town hall meeting about the main for the residents of Campania will take place at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 25 at Harlem Middle School. Residents will be allowed to sign a list stating that they would like to tap on to the service.
City officials will vote at their Oct. 15 meeting on how much to charge as a tap fee. The amount proposed so far is $600, which would be $205 below the normal county rate.
If it is approved, Campania residents would have a 60-day window from the date of the town hall meeting to sign up.
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