A move to annex portions of unincorporated Cahokia into the village is purely political, according to area residents who showed up for a court hearing Monday morning.
But in spite of the objections they raised, voters in the proposed area of annexation - primarily Parkfield Terrace residents - will likely decide the question at the March 15 primary election.
During the hearing, several property owners represented by O'Fallon attorney Paul Evans asked to be excluded from annexation.
Cahokia Village attorney Robert Sprague appeared agreeable to the request and the two sides drafted a proposed order to that effect.
The most outspoken member of the group opposing annexation - Cahokia trustee Jerry Nichols - said he still has not been given a reason why the village wants to incorporate Parkfield Terrace, which he said is the primary target of the proposal.
Nichols calls the neighborhood the most "blighted" in the county, rife with drug dealing and other violent crimes, and one in which even the Sheriff's Department is reluctant to patrol. He also said that annexing the neighborhood would be a burden to existing village taxpayers.
"It's nothing but trouble," Nichols said. "It is the worst blighted area in St. Clair County."
The Cahokia Board of Trustees on Nov. 12 passed the annexation ordinance 4-1, with Nichols being the sole no vote.
Nichols said the proposed area of annexation includes some businesses, but is particularly aimed at Parkfield Terrace.
He said he believes the political reason for annexation is to regain Democratic votes to offset ones which will be defecting to the Republican Party. He said the defections come in the wake of a new Village administration that took office earlier this year.
In the April election, former Cahokia mayor Gary Cornwell was defeated by Curtis McCall, Jr.
Cornwell has since announced that he will be running for St. Clair County Auditor as a Republican against incumbent Patty Sprague, Democrat, and wife of attorney Sprague, who also is the head of the county Democratic Party.
Nichols said he also is leaving the Democratic Party and will be running as a Republican for County Board District 25 during next year's elections.
At the hearing, St. Clair County Associate Judge Christopher Kolker allowed residents to speak, in spite of their lack of standing because they do not reside within the proposed area of annexation and they did not file objection petitions with the court.
Sprague said that the time to file objections with the court would have been within five days of the ordinance passing. He deflected questions from the audience about the purpose of the annexation by saying that he is not a witness in the case.
In the end, Kolker said that the village's procedures in serving notice and publishing notice had been properly followed. Because matters were properly handled, he said he must follow the law and allow the question to go to the affected electorate.
Calls to Mayor McCall and other village trustees who voted for the ordinance, have not been returned.
Nichols, who has lived in Cahokia 62 years and has served as trustee for six years, had a well-publicized run-in with the new mayor at a village board meeting in late October.
At McCall's request, Nichols was forcibly removed from his seat by police after he refused to heed the mayor's request to be quiet.
Nichols had been asking about the mayor's hiring of new administrators and how the village would pay for the new positions.