The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

October 11, 2012

Calhoun seeking Decatur's benefits

By Jean Cole
jean@athensnews-courier.com

— Calhoun Community College hopes to move from Limestone County to Decatur soon by annexing from the county into the city.

Full-service fire protection, stronger police protection and better insurance rates are the reasons.

Limestone County Commission Chairman Stanley Menefee announced Calhoun’s intentions during a commission work session Wednesday. A Decatur city official informed Menefee on Tuesday for the first time of Calhoun’s intent to move.

“We can object but we have no authority (to oppose the move),” Menefee said during the work session.

He said the county receives no income from the college.

The proposed annexation would include all Calhoun property, including surrounding side roads, which Decatur will now have to maintain. The two-year college fronts U.S. 31 in Limestone County, just outside the Decatur city limits.

Calhoun Community College President Marilyn Beck was in Montgomery today where she will make her case for annexation today to the state Board of Education. (Calhoun is the property of the state board.) If the board is amenable, it would grant Beck permission to ask Decatur to annex the college property. The Decatur City Council would have to approve the request.

No timetable has been set for the process.

Board member Dr. Charles Elliott, R-Decatur, told The News Courier Wednesday he asked Beck to consider annexation sometime this summer.

“I served on the Decatur school board for years (between 1996-2008), and around that time, the shootings at Columbine (High School in Colorado) occurred,” Elliott said.

At the same time, he had discussions with former City Councilman Phil Hastings, who was director of student safety about the safety of Calhoun.

“I have been very in tune with that (student safety) for a long time, and this has always been in the back of my mind,” Elliott said. “Seeing how spread out Calhoun is and that the city of Decatur adjoins Calhoun’s campus, I looked at services, did some homework and it was clear Decatur had the services for what we needed.”

He said the decision was not in any way a reflection on the quality of service from volunteer fire departments (South Limestone and Tanner) or the Limestone County Sheriff’s Department.

“Decatur can just respond quicker to Calhoun,” he said. “These are unusual times we are living in — people have a grievance and they get a gun. Look at UAH.”

In 2009, University of Alabama Huntsville Professor Amy Bishop fatally shot three university employees and wounded three others after she had been denied tenure.

“While we can see the signs and respond to those people, we need to know that emergency service is available quickly, if needed,” Elliott said. “Decatur has a SWAT team, full emergency medical service and HAZMAT (hazardous materials response) and can respond in force.”