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Friday, January 31, 2014 - 8:19am

Plans To De-Annex Hutchinson Island From Savannah Are “In Limbo”

A proposal for Chatham County to take over Hutchinson Island from the City of Savannah is on hold until county and city officials can meet to discuss the idea.

State Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) tells GPB that plans to submit legislation to de-annex Hutchinson Island from the city are "in limbo" until city and Chatham County officials can work out their differences.

He says legislators were under the impression that the city had no objection to the county's request to take over the island and has since learned the city "had no clue this was going on."

Stephens says the motivation for the de-annexation proposal was to give a greater voice to residents of the county who live outside Savannah regarding countywide taxes that are expected to help fund development of the island.

He says it would also help to address problems like funding and administration for fire protection services. There is currently no fire station on the island, which is across the Savannah River from the city.

Chatham County Manager Russ Abolt says it was "clearly communicated" to Mayor Edna Jackson at a meeting last summer that the county would take steps to de-annex the island if the city could not provide adequate services.

On Thursday afternoon, the City of Savannah scheduled a Friday-morning press conference to discuss the city's position on the de-annexation proposal. That press conference was quickly canceled Thursday.

Savannah Mayor Edna Jackson has told reporters she is "adamantly opposed" to the idea of de-annexation.

Jackson's spokesman, Bret Bell, says the mayor has "no recollection" of being told about the de-annexation idea. He adds a proposal of that significance should have merited a formal meeting.

Bell says the city is open to meeting with the county to discuss any issues of concern - but he's not sure what those are.

"We really don't know what that means," he says. "We're not aware of any issue at all."

Bell says there is a fire station just on the other side of the river, and the city is planning to build a fire station on the island when the population living there increases.

He says the city has invested in developing water and sewer infrastructure for Hutchinson Island, with an eye toward recouping some of those costs in the form of taxes as the island develops.

"We're in the red with our investment over there at this point," Bell says.