Residents of the small, unincorporated Spartanburg County community of Startex voiced concerns Thursday night about several properties being annexed into the nearby city of Wellford.
About 60 people gathered at the Startex Fire Department — the crowd spilled outside — in a meeting organized by residents Jim and Michelle McMillan, who said any decision on whether people should be annexed should be a community decision. Jim McMillan said residents have many questions but have received few answers so far from Wellford.
Many residents at the fire station said if they agree to be annexed, they would get city services like trash pickup, street lighting and police protection. But they said they weren't told how much, if at all, their tax bills would go up.
Republican state Sen. Scott Talley, an attorney, explained the annexation process to the crowd, more than a dozen of whom said they signed a petition to be annexed by Wellford.
When Talley asked those residents if they had been shown a map and informed of the costs of being annexed, they said no.
Wellford Police Chief David Green, who recently went door-to-door to obtain signatures for the petition, told the residents no one was forced to sign.
One Startex resident said she was told by a city official that there would be no new taxes if they were annexed. Talley said he has asked Wellford officials to provide him information about their annexation plans.
Talley said residents who signed the petition to be annexed can ask to be removed, but they need to do so by June 10.
Startex Fire Chief Barry Ward said Green asked him if the fire district would be willing to be annexed. Ward said the fire district board voted a resounding "no."
In the meantime, Ward said the fire district is concerned that every home annexed by Wellford means less tax revenue for the district — which means less money to support the fire department.
Earlier Thursday, Wellford City Administrator Chris Guy said owners of more than 40 properties have asked to be annexed by the city, which in 2010 had a population of 2,378. Startex had a population of 859 that year.
“These homeowners have approached us about improved services,” Guy said. “Several properties have already been annexed at the request of those homeowners. We’re not forcing anyone to be annexed.”
The Wellford City Council will hold a special meeting at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday to consider approving the latest round of annexations.
More than 50 Startex properties have been annexed by Wellford so far this year, according to the Greer Citizen.