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— In Tuesday's annexation vote, Sherwood and Gravel Ridge voters overwhelmingly approved Sherwood's annexation bid.

With 2,152 ballots cast, 1,764, or 82 percent, voted for Gravel Ridge's annexation by Sherwood. Only 386 voted against the annexation measure, and the Pulaski County Election Commission recorded two under votes, ballots that did not express a preference for the measure.

Since Jacksonville voters had already approved annexation on Feb. 5, state law hastriggered a third election, this one strictly by voters in Gravel Ridge, and it will be held Tuesday, April 1.

The third vote was somewhat expected.

"I knew it would come to this last election," said William Harris, the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Gravel Ridge. "It will probably go to Sherwood. Of the people I have talked to, I would say two-thirds have said Sherwood. I feel pretty certain that Sherwood will win the election."

Harris grew up around Little Rock and has been the pastor in Gravel Ridge for 14years, but Harris said he can't vote in these elections because he lives in rural north Pulaski County.

"If Sherwood wins, and I think they will," Harris said, "this church will be the First Baptist Church of Gravel Ridge, and it will have a Jacksonville address, and it will be in Sherwood. That is just screwy. And that's true for a lot of other people out here. It is just confusing. They should do something about that."

For Harris, the motives for Jacksonvilleposter with the handle of "Red" wrote, "I will be voting for Sherwood April 1 - less taxes, improvements and money for the [Gravel Ridge] Fire [Department], better police patrols and humane animal services. If we have to be one or the other, Sherwood is the way to go."

Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim was in Washington, D.C., for a mayoral conference and was unavailable for comment.

Jacksonville's director of administration, Jay Whisker, said he wasn't surprised by the vote.

"I think we all thought it would go to a third vote," he said. "I think it is what we all expected."

The positive vote for Sherwood also came after its mayor - Virginia Hillman - spentand Sherwood were both easy to spot.

"For both of them, it is broadening their tax bases to annex," he said. "I know that they won't get any money at first, but if you come out here, you'll see that new businesses are starting to pop up. It is beginning to grow, and it will only get bigger."

Since annexation talk first broke, a Web site, gravelridge. blogspot.com, was started and has since been posting links to news articles, and with a section for comments, it has become a forum for those interested in the annexation.

In the comments section, athe week personally stumping for the measure by going to Sherwood and Gravel Ridge businesses promoting the Tuesday election.

This is the second time this year that Arkansas has had a third vote on a contested annexation.

The first was on Jan. 1 in Washington County between the cities of Farmington and Prairie Grove over the Golf Course at Valley View, a rural community between the two cities.

Pulaski County Election Commission Director Susan Inman said that to her knowledge, this was the first time Pulaski County has had a contested annexation vote.

- jpeppas@ arkansasonline.com

Three Rivers, Pages 110, 117 on 03/16/2008

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