Judge sets new date for Helena vote related to Indian Ford Fire District

Published 1:16 pm Wednesday, August 16, 2023

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By DONALD MOTTERN | Staff Writer 

HELENA – Probate Judge James Naftel II of the Circuit Court of Jefferson County has set the new date for an election that will decide if the city of Helena is to annex the Indian Ford Fire District.

The vote, originally set for last week, will now take place on Tuesday, Sept. 12 with polls open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.

This scheduled vote comes following the delay of the previously scheduled election meant to have occurred on Aug. 8. This initial election, meant for residents of the fire district to approve or deny their annexation, was delayed due to a battle for portions of the land with the city of Hoover.

Had the initial election approved the annexation attempt, it would have brought the entirety of the fire district into Helena’s fold and its roughly 2,000 residents along with it.

Helena Mayor Brian Puckett said a big reason for the vote is that the city is more than capable of providing the necessary resources and management to account for the increase and the safety of the residents, which remains the priority.

The annexation request, coming from the fire district’s board of directors, was backed by a petition of at least 200 signatures from the district’s residents, which made up at least 60 percent of the owners of property in the district, as is required by law.

However, what began during a meeting of the Helena City Council related to the annexation turned into a court dispute between both cities, which Hoover has attempted to take as far as the Alabama Supreme Court.

This legal battle has left the residents of the Indian Ford Fire District in the crossfire.

“Firstly, earlier this summer, we were approached by the Jefferson County Indian Ford Fire District by a petition of qualified electors asking the city of Helena to take over the struggling Fire District to protect the citizens of the district from losing essential fire and first responder protection,” Puckett said. “We recognize(d) the significance of fire safety and emergency services and endeavored to move forward to ensure no citizens were left without protection.”

Hoover has sought to annex specific and individual properties along Morgan Road, which falls within the fire district, that it feels are not only contiguous to its borders but are economically viable. These properties, which include a new Chevron gas station owned by Holdon Energy, would serve as a major boom for Hoover. One that is expected to present roughly $15.3 million in sales tax collection over the next 10 years should it be brought into Hoover.

However, this annexation attempt stands directly in conflict with Helena’s planned annexation of the district in its entirety. Hoover’s attempt, which followed Helena’s resolution, has since been halted until after the residents of the fire district can vote on their potential annexation into Helena.

Naftel’s decision to extend Helena’s ability to hold the election and the subsequent restraining order on Hoover’s own annexation attempts has officially allowed Helena to move forward with the vote.

“An election will be held on Sept. 12 for the citizens of that district to decide,” Puckett said. “If the people of the Indian Ford Fire District vote yes, our goal will be to enhance emergency response times, improve service quality, and provide greater peace of mind to the residents of the district.”

As previously decided, the election for the resident of the Indian Ford Fire District, will be held at the Southcrest Baptist Church at 4317 South Shades Crest Road.