An amendment to the state’s constitution approved by voters last month left some city officials with lingering questions.
Known as Calhoun County Amendment 2 on the November ballot, a 64 percent “yes” vote limited cities not entirely within Calhoun County – mainly Southside – from exercising authority in parts of Calhoun County just past the city limits. The amendment could also impact Glencoe and Piedmont, though Piedmont city leaders this week said they were unsure of the amendment’s effect on their town.
“We’ve not changed anything on it as far as the way we patrol,” Piedmont police Chief Freddie Norton said. “I was told it doesn’t affect us.”
Norton said Piedmont’s mayor, city clerk and city attorney concluded last month the amendment would not affect the city.
Piedmont attorney Ron Allen on Thursday said the amendment’s impact came down to whether a sliver of Piedmont’s city limits crosses into Cherokee County. He said he wasn’t sure exactly where the city limits lie.
Piedmont Mayor Bill Baker in October said part of his city is in Cherokee County; then he and Norton later said the entirety of the city sat in Calhoun County. Baker also in October provided The Star with a 2010 map of Piedmont showing Goshen Cemetery and a nearby lot just past the Cherokee County line. Attempts to reach Baker on Wednesday and Thursday were unsuccessful.
Alabama law allows cities to provide services and collect some taxes past their corporate limits. For cities of more than 6,000 people, what’s known as the police jurisdiction reaches 3 miles past the city limits; for those with fewer than 6,000 residents, the zone extends a mile and a half.
The amendment, sponsored by Rep. K.L. Brown, initially began as a response to problems with Lincoln’s police jurisdiction expanding toward Calhoun County. Voters in 2016 passed an amendment stopping Lincoln at the Calhoun County line, but another target was missed – Southside.
The amendment limited authority in Calhoun County territory to municipalities “located wholly or partially in Calhoun County.” But a small portion of Southside sits in Calhoun County, so the 2016 amendment didn’t stop Southside police from patrolling and the city from taxing within Southside’s police jurisdiction in Calhoun County.
After the vote, Calhoun County residents living in and near Southside’s police jurisdiction sent complaints to Brown, so he had a second amendment written up for this year’s election.
Brown in October said Southside was “the main culprit” he aimed to confront with each of the amendments. Both amendments passed, though a number of questions remain about who exactly is affected. Brown said Piedmont was “probably not” considered when writing the amendment.
The amendment makes an exception for the city of Oxford, which governs land in Calhoun, Talladega and Cleburne counties.
As for Southside, the city’s police Chief Chris Jones said his officers have made the necessary adjustments to patrols and said it’s been a “smooth transition.”
“We’re not responsible for it anymore,” he said of Southside’s police jurisdiction in Calhoun County. “So we’ll stay on this side of the mountain for the time being.”
Jones said his officers since Nov. 6 have continued patrolling Southside’s city limits in Calhoun County, but have forfeited the additional few miles of police jurisdiction. He said the department hasn’t had to turn down or redirect any calls in the area since the vote.
“I’m sure everyone pretty much knows what’s going on, especially those who are affected,” Jones said. “People move out into the county for a reason, and that’s fine.