County amends lawsuit against city

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Claim targets legality of ‘purported’ Fort Mitchell and Ladonia annexations, police jurisdictions

County Attorney estimates Russell County owed ‘multi millions’ in revenue

By Blenda Copeland




A January-filed Russell County lawsuit over water and sewer jurisdiction rights has been amended to challenge deeper issues surfacing from the police jurisdiction areas in Ft. Mitchell and Ladonia.

The amendment challenges what the county views as an intrusion by the City of Phenix City into areas where the county claims it has sole authority to levy taxes, enforce codes and issue business licenses, permits and the like.

The amendment questions the legality of what it calls “purported” land annexations in the Ft. Mitchell and Ladonia communities of Russell County.

If the annexations are ruled invalid, it could affect those areas’ associated police jurisdiction bounds.

The amendment claims the city doesn’t have the authority to levy business license fees, building permit fees, issue certificates of occupancy, and collect certain percentages of sales taxes in the specific areas of Ft. Mitchell and Ladonia mentioned in the court document.

The document defines those areas as “[…] outside of its (Phenix City’s) corporate limits, […],” in the vicinities mentioned “and otherwise more than one and one-half miles beyond the corporate limits of the City […]” The vicinities mentioned include various land tracts lumped into sub groups A1, A2, A3 (the Ladonia area) and B1, B2 and B3 (the Ft. Mitchell area).

The amendment, filed March 23, links the Ft. Mitchell and Ladonia annexations to the subject of the county’s January court filing: the Ladonia Commercial Subdivision.

The county seeks preliminary and permanent injunctions, claiming the city’s authority is limited in the Ft. Mitchell and Ladonia areas by Code of Alabama, Section 11-40-10 (f), which states: “[W]hen any noncontiguous property has been annexed or is annexed into a municipality, the municipal governing body shall not exercise any jurisdiction or authority in any portion of the police jurisdiction extended as a result of the annexation, notwithstanding any other law to the contrary.”

The county is also asking the court to award it “the total amount collected by the city, plus interest,” leaving the court to determine what is the appropriate amount of interest. The mentioned collections refer to certain amounts of sales taxes, business permit fees and other such costs that the county says the city should not have been collecting in the described Ft. Mitchell and Ladonia areas.

In an interview March 26, County Attorney Kenneth Funderburk said this case is, “Complicated, but necessary, in our view.” He said this case could potentially ascend to the Supreme Court and could possibly have a bearing on what goes on in the state. According to Funderburk’s estimation, he says the county is owed “multi millions.”

Funderburk said a scheduling conference regarding the lawsuit was set for this week, and at this point, given the case’s magnitude, it’s impossible to predict a timeline regarding the future.

As for the city’s stance on the county’s recently filed amendment, City Attorney Jimmy Graham told The Citizen Monday, “We’re going to respond.” He did not wish to further elaborate.

City Manager Wallace Hunter indicated during Monday’s work session that the city council would likely discuss the case in executive session.