February 7, 2018 10:52:34 AM
Starkville will move ahead with the second phase of an annexation study after a split vote from the board of aldermen on Tuesday.
The board approved moving the study along on a 5-2 vote, with Roy A. Perkins and Henry Vaughn, of wards 6 and 7, respectively, opposing it.
The decision comes after a Friday presentation from consultant Mike Slaughter, of the Oxford-based firm Slaughter and Associates, that concluded the first phase of the two-phase study.
Phase two will focus on the costs that will come with annexation, through providing service, additional staffing and other considerations.
The first phase focused on population and potential ad valorem tax growth that would come in all portions of the proposed annexation area, which includes a stretch of land to the west along Highway 12 that would bring the Links and Sunset subdivision into Starkville; a small piece of land to the north to bring all of Collier Road into the city; and a broad swath of land to the east and south that would bring in Mississippi State University and the surrounding area.
If the city takes in all of the proposed study area, its population could boom to more than 38,000 people, according to the study, and it could pull in more than $1.2 million in additional ad valorem tax revenue.
That is, however, unlikely, as aldermen may trim and fine-tune the study areas as the study progresses. The city has already agreed to remove a portion of the eastern study area that would require a new fire station, truck and firemen to maintain the city's Class 4 fire rating.
During Tuesday's discussion, Vaughn expressed concern about a chart that, based on population from the 2010 census, shows that Starkville's black population would decline somewhat as a percentage within the city and combined study areas.
In 2010, Starkville was 59.6 percent white and 34.6 percent black. The annexation study area alone was 66.9 percent white and 28.8 percent black. In 2010, the combined city and study areas were 61.7 percent white and 32.9 percent black.
Vaughn said he was concerned about "taking away" from the city's black population instead of leveling the playing field.
He also questioned why Mayor Lynn Spruill wanted to push the study along so quickly.
"What is the rush in this?" he asked. "I notice you've been pushing this ever since we've been elected. We ain't been elected a year -- what is the rush in annexation?"
Spruill said she wants an annexation, if one happens, to come before the 2020 census.
"That's 10 years to have that population above 30,000, if we can do it," she said. "And it takes a couple of years to do it, so any rush that we have is still an 18-month to two-year process."
Effects on MSU
Perkins, after Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver asked if the annexation would include MSU, asked for a "rational basis" to include the university.
"The rational basis for me would be their population and the fact that they are between us and that additional area to the east," Spruill said. "That's the area where we are growing and that's an area where they are already partners with us in most things. With the exception of Oxford and Ole Miss, every other university in the state is within the city limits of the city that is its partner."
Spruill added the city is still in talks with MSU to determine if the university may want to come into city limits in a possible annexation. She noted later in the discussion that MSU won't have to be part of the annexation if it does not want to.
At another question from Perkins, Spruill said MSU would maintain control over many services it already provides on its campus.
"They wish to retain control over their streets, over their police, over their buildings as they do now," she said. "They wish to retain control of their landmass and I personally have no problem with that, and would write it into the annexation ordinance if the board was in agreement to do so."
Ward 3 Aldermen David Little said the study is just a study, and not a promise to annex anything. He said he's not certain if he'll support an annexation, but wants to see what else Slaughter and Associates finds in the study.
"That is a big area that I've got concerns with," Little said. "But that's why we've hired these people to come back and tell us what we should or should not do. I definitely don't want to bite off more than we can chew and it'll be 20 years later that we're still trying to provide services. I am very mindful of that."
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