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Decatur Commission recap: domestic partnership registry approved, annexation discussed

Annexation, new cities Decatur

Decatur Commission recap: domestic partnership registry approved, annexation discussed


Icon_GovernmentThe Decatur City Commission unanimously approved a domestic partnership registry and discussed annexation at its regular meeting on Monday, Dec. 16.

Decaturish.com was unable to attend, but followed the proceedings via a live video stream on the city’s website.

Commissioners approved the registry, which would allow the city to recognize same-sex couples living in Decatur. As Decatur Metro noted, the lack of the registry was one of several factors used in the Human Rights Campaign’s recently-released Municipal Equality Index. The Equality Index found Decatur lagged behind its neighbors when it came to protecting the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender residents.

Decaturish.com received a question from a reader about whether the city provides domestic partnership benefits. City spokeswoman Casie Yoder said, “Yes, the city of Decatur does provide domestic partner benefits for city employees who qualify for benefits.”

City Commissioners also spent several minutes talking through “Annexation Plan 2014,” though City Manager Peggy Merriss said calling it a “plan” might be premature. It’s more like a plan for a plan in case the state Legislature decides to move forward with various cityhood proposals for north DeKalb.

There are several proposed cities, including Briarcliff which, if approved, would surround Decatur’s northern border. Merriss said the city is working with other cities through the DeKalb Municipal Association to develop annexation maps to present to the state Legislature.

Merriss said this process will be the city’s chances to annex properties before municipal boundaries are set. If the new cities incorporate around Decatur’s borders, the city won’t be able to annex those areas. To see a map showing what areas the city might consider annexing, click here.

“It’s part self-preservation, it’s part having to have something to hang our hat on to get the conversation started,” Merriss said. “But it’s a conversation I think we’re going to have to take some leadership or direction in or it’s a conversation where we’re going to wonder what happened to us.”

Annexation has been a controversial idea in the past. Many in unincorporated DeKalb aren’t interested in paying the higher taxes in Decatur. Mayor Jim Baskett and other commissioners think by working with other cities through DMA, Decatur might be able to make a more convincing case to its representatives in the General Assembly.

“I do think it will make some of a difference with us working with the DeKalb Municipal Association,” he said.

Baskett said he thinks the proposed city of Lakeside has the best shot at passing in this legislative session because it already has two Republican sponsors.

Baskett said even if the discussion isn’t easy, annexation is something the city must consider. He said adding more residents and geography to the city could strain city services and schools in the short term, but the city must think about the future of Decatur 100 years from now.

“As much as we don’t like the discussion of annexation and as hard as it’s been the last few years to have that discussion, we don’t have any choice,” he said.

Merriss said city staff will present a proposal in January that will “include professional demographic, financial, capital planning and market analysis assistance to review and analyze potential annexation options and the impacts on the community.”