The annexation election was set for August 12th, 2008, and was canceled. This web page has news of the progress of the Salem Community's fight against annexation.
Some Benton officials have expressed the belief (and many residents accept it as fact) that if Benton does not annex the Salem area and beyond, that Bryant will. Perhaps this was the justification for Benton's hasty and ill-planned annexation attempt -- Benton was trying to annex the area before Bryant does.
The Arkansas Democrat Gazette wrote that Marsha Guffey, director of community development for the city of Benton, said of the canceled Salem annexation election; the "vocal minority" prevailed. If a vocal minority could convince the Benton City Council to cancel or postpone an annexation election, just imagine what a vocal majority could do.
Prior to the annexation election being canceled, Marsha Guffey was quoted by the Benton Courier as saying; "This annexation will make it possible for the city to annex the commercial area of Salem, which will increase sales tax revenue to the city."
Actually the commercial area of Salem (Harvest Foods shopping center, doctor's office, two gas station / convenience stores, the Salem Dairy Bar, and a small strip mall) were all outside of the proposed annexation area. Perhaps that area would have done a voluntary annexation if the election had proceeded and passed.
When there is another annexation attempt, the city will surely have learned from this ill-fated annexation attempt, and will try to avoid repeating the same mistakes. The next fight against annexation will probably be more difficult. However, we have learned how to work together for a common goal, and will put up a valiant fight.
Benton, Arkansas in Saline County proposed to annex a large part of the unincorporated area north of the city limits including much of the Salem Community (map) – an area with several stores, churches, and one of the best volunteer fire departments in the state.
Why would the city of Benton have even consider taking over a large area where the residents do not want to be part of the city? A public hearing on July 7th provided a few answers -- many of which seemed unsatisfactory and incomplete. MORE
Benton Alderman, Greg White is critical of the Benton annexation attempt -- says the lack of planning is embarrassing.
A group of Salem Community residents organized to fight this unwelcome takeover by our neighbor to the south. The reasons we were opposed to annexation, and reasons that city residents should also be opposed are listed here.
Fire Department: The main Salem Fire station would have been in the city if the annexation had passed. The Salem Fire Department would have continued to operate their Salem fire station as long as there were clients near the fire station. MORE
Schools: The proposed annexation area was in the Bryant School District and included two Bryant schools; Salem Elementary School and the Hurricane Creek Elementary School on Alcoa Road. Benton said school district boundaries will not change. There was talk that similar annexations have eventually resulted in school district changes.
Cost: Can Benton afford to take in this large area of land?
The Police Department is presently 8 officers short, and with the new annexed area they will be shorter. Besides needing to replace their existing police cars and modernize their other equipment, they will need to buy more of everything.
Sewer: There are several areas in Benton that have poor sewage service. Benton residents think that the city should be dealing with these problems before taking on a large sewer project that by law must be completed within 3 years or else the area can vote to de-annex. Where do you think Benton's priority will lie? We think the city will be concentrating on building out the new sewer system in the annexed area.
Jerry Plant wrote a more detailed paper on this subject. You can view it and download a printer-friendly version to share with others.