With the $12 million water system upgrade moving forward as a result of last week's vote by the Keyser City Council to increase water rates, the extension of long-awaited water service to more than three dozen homes on Hollywood Road also moves closer to reality.
While a relatively small part of the project, at $650,000, the Hollywood water line has proved to be one of the most controversial aspects of the upgrade, with water customers both inside and outside the city saying they should not be made to pay for that project, as it does not directly benefit the water system itself.
To help ease the concerns of city residents, members of the Council have twice asked Hollywood Road residents in public meetings whether they would be willing to come into the city through annexation. While residents generally seemed agreeable to such a proposal – in essence saying they would do anything to be relieved of their contaminated, low-producing wells – the city needs to step back from the annexation discussion before it proceeds any further. Annexing Hollywood Road would only increase the strain on an already burdened budget.
The city has indeed considered annexation along Route 220 south of the city as a way to increase revenue for city coffers, however, there's a big difference between the two areas.
Route 220 features several businesses that would add to the Business & Occupation Tax, representing the main target of the annexation bid in that part of town. While the annexation would likely include residential areas, including parts of Airport Addition, those homes are relatively high-cost, with paved streets and other amenities that add to their value. In addition, the entire area buts the current city limits, so that annexation would offer a rational expansion of municipal borders.
By contrast, virtually no businesses exist in the Hollywood Road area, and the homes tend to be older, with lower property values, so that tax returns would be relatively modest. The area is also isolated from the city off of Limestone Road, so that provision of city services like police protection, street maintenance and snow plowing would be especially costly.
Annexing Hollywood Road might make it easier to “sell” the extension of water service to existing city residents, but it would be a losing proposition for Keyser taxpayers.