Harlem officials are looking to extend their city's boundaries, but they first want to find out who's on their side.
"We're looking for where the most interest will be," said Jean Dove, Harlem's city manager.
To do so, the city will hold a public meeting on the possibility of annexation at 6:30 p.m. today at Harlem Middle School. Mrs. Dove said that the meeting is strictly for informational purposes and that more meetings will be held on the issue. Additional meetings have been needed, Mrs. Dove said, because of the turnout at an annexation meeting in August at the city's library.
"The last time, we had so many that turned out, the place was not big enough," Mrs. Dove said.
The ultimate goal is to expand the city's population to have more of a voice in the county, city officials say, adding that further growth within Harlem's current boundaries would be difficult.
"There's not a lot of undeveloped land left in the city, so in order to really grow, we're going to have to expand the city limits," Mrs. Dove said.
Harlem has about 2,500 residents, Mrs. Dove said. She said the city's goal is to gain about 1,000 residents.
So far, the feelings of county residents who live on the outskirts of Harlem have been mixed. Some have said they don't want to join Harlem because they would then have to pay a city and county tax. However, those in favor of being annexed say the benefits from being part of the city outweigh the city tax, adding that garbage service and water bills are cheaper within the city.
"If you add it all together, what you're saving will pay your city tax," said Cissy Moody, who lives on Logan Place Road and favors being annexed. Mrs. Moody said being within city limits also would ensure fire service from the city, which is closer than county services.
She said everyone in her neighborhood except one family has signed on for annexation.
To annex outside land, Harlem first must hold public meetings to see who is in favor and then must receive either 100 percent approval of residents in an area or approval of landowners who represent 60 percent of the area's land. The city then is to inform the county of the annexation.
Reach Preston Sparks at 868-1222, ext. 115, or firstname.lastname@example.org.