July 3, 2019 9:02:15 AM
STARKVILLE -- A new plan that would eliminate most of University Estates from the city's annexation may have extinguished some of the fiery controversy, but there remained some simmering resentment from a handful of citizens and property owners who will remain part of the annexation area.
At the request of Mayor Lynn Spruill, annexation consultant Mike Slaughter outlined the changes in the plan that would exclude most, but not all, of University Estates, during Tuesday's board of aldermen meeting.
After a public hearing on the proposed changes, the board voted 4-2 to consider an amendment that would include the proposed changes, followed by a third public hearing at its regular board meeting on Aug. 2.
Slaughter outlined how the changes would affect the city in terms of expenditures for services and potential revenue the annexation would create. He estimated that by Year 5, the city would net roughly an additional $200,000 per year in ad valorem and sales tax revenue.
"In my opinion, doing this for almost 30 years, this is a reasonable annexation and financially feasible as well," Slaughter told the board.
That did little to soothe the emotions of many who again filled the board chambers to express their opposition to the annexation. Residents and property owners voiced opposition on several grounds, including coming under the city's code enforcement regulations, the added cost of city taxes and how the annexation might dilute black voting strength in the city.
Vice Mayor Roy A. Perkins, who represents Ward 6, also asked why University Estates was not entirely eliminated from the new plan.
Parts of University Estates along Old Mayhew Road and Edinburgh remain in the annexation area.
"One of the main reasons that stands out the most is from the public safety standpoint," Slaughter said. "Along those areas, which front the annexed area, having both sides of the street make it clear for police that this is in their jurisdiction. It's very common to include frontage in these annexations for public safety."
Residents who attended the meeting whose property is located in the annexation area remained opposed, some bitterly so.
"I wonder why you don't understand why these people don't want to be a part of the city," said Carl Ivy, a statement that drew applause from the audience. "The citizens are overlooked."
"The city annexed another portion of the county 21 years ago and still hasn't done all that's been needed to do there," he added. "And the way you've drawn it up, it's the definition of gerrymandering, drawing crazy lines to bring us in. It's nothing but a land grab to take my tax dollars and spend it in other parts of the city."
Jim Chrisman said the annexation could dilute black voting strength.
"In the annexed area, the shift in the population would decrease the margin of black voters by about 100 people," Chrisman said. "I would remind you that the last election was decided by less than 10 votes. This is a real concern."
James Chamberlain was an exception, citing his support for the annexation.
"I'm actually in support of annexation, generally," he said. "I firmly believe that we need to expand the tax base to provide the services everyone enjoys. I doubt there is any resident in these areas who has not used city services of some kind.
"At the moment, I enjoy those benefits without paying my fair share for the services I enjoy and without any say in what happens as a voter," he added. "There's a lot to be said in favor of this."
Criticisms of 1998 annexation
Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn, along with Perkins, appeared to remain opposed to the annexation effort.
"What these people are saying is that you're just going to take their property and do nothing for them," Vaughn said. "I can't see forcing it on them if they don't want it. There's been too much not completed from the 1998 annexation for me to stick my neck out for this."
The 1998 annexation added 10 miles to the city, mostly undeveloped land to the north and west. Some residents in that area still don't have sewer service and instead use septic tanks. But Spruill previously told The Dispatch that all the services those residents are paying for -- police, fire, access to the courts, voting, planning and zoning, parks, etc. -- are being provided.
Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver, considered to be the swing vote on the matter, appeared to move toward annexation based on the latest changes.
"When I look at the map and the original plan to where we are tonight, I'm much more comfortable with the idea," Carver said. "One of the things this would allow us to do is have every major entry point into the city be in the city limits. I think those are the areas where you are going to see development and long-term growth. And from the size of what we're adding, I believe the city would be easily able to accommodate the things that every citizen should expect."
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]
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