Aldermen put annexation on front burner

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, July 18, 2001

Brookhaven aldermen Tuesday gave a green light to a preliminaryannexation plan that would almost triple the city’s land area andboost its population total by more than 3,000.

According to data from annexation consultants Bridge andSlaughter, of Oxford, the proposed plan would enlarge the city’sland size from the current 7.3 square miles to 21.6 square milesand increase population from 9,861 to 13,123. The plan discussedTuesday is smaller than one originally put forward by Mayor BillGodbold that would have enlarged the city to 36 square miles.

Consultant Mike Slaughter said the new plan is more reasonableand would allow city to meet its burden of proof in justifying theannexation in chancery court and with the U.S. Justice Department.He said the plan had a “well-balanced annexation area.”

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“It’s very, very close,” Slaughter said, adding that the planhas room to allow further city growth in all areas: residential,commercial and industrial.

In racial composition, the black majority population percentagewould decrease from the current 51.4 percent to the 50.5 percent inthe enlarged city. In actual numbers of people, that means about118 citizens.

“I don’t think that would be a problem,” Slaughter said aboutthe reduction in the black voting percentage.

As with voting issues, annexation plans must be pre-cleared bythe U.S. Department of Justice, Slaughter said. Ward 2 AldermanTerry Bates focused his comments on making sure the plan winsfederal approval.

“We don’t to get into wasting money,” Bates said. “We wantsomething that will be solid.”

Slaughter said he could not second guess black citizens’concerns about the percentage reduction.

“If they don’t have any concerns with the nine-tenths of 1percent, I don’t think the justice department will,” Slaughtersaid.

New totals were not broken down by voting age population. Ward 3Alderman the Rev. Jerry L. Wilson commented on citizen movement,how some citizens were “stacked and packed” in homes, and he wantedto see voting age totals.

“That’s my main concern,” Wilson said.

Slaughter was expected to send those totals to the cityWednesday.

A major difference in the plan presented Tuesday and a cityexpansion map distributed at the July 3 board meeting is that theBrignall community north of town is included. Responding to aquestion from Alderman-at-large Les Bumgarner about theconsultants’ success with annexation, Slaughter indicated theBrignall area is vital to the Brookhaven plan’s chances.

“If we didn’t have Brignall in, the answer to your question isthere’s no way this would fly,” Slaughter told Bumgarner.

In addition to Brignall in the north, other populated areas thatwould be taken in include Lakewood Village and South First Streetarea on the south, Tanglewood and Virginia Avenue to the west,Union Street Extension and Highway 51 to the northwest, and the OldWesson Road and Williams Street areas to the east.

Slaughter said his company has not lost an annexation case andhe did not want Brookhaven to be the first.

Although totals were not available for distribution to cityofficials, Slaughter also discussed additional personnel, equipmentand related costs.

“When we revisit with department heads, that could changesomewhat,” Slaughter said.

Slaughter said he has has a good feeling the annexation will beself-supporting, meaning revenue generated from annexed areas wouldpay the cost of providing services.

With the 2000 census dropping the city’s population under10,000, officials were urged to move quickly with annexation.

The under-10,000 population means the city has to redraw wardlines for five aldermen instead of the current seven. However, ifJustice Department officials see the city moving toward anannexation, City Attorney Joe Fernald said some leeway could begiven on drawing new ward lines.

“The quicker we can get annexation out of the way, the quickerwe can get redistricting out of the way,” Slaughter said, addingthat the two could possibly be done at the same time.

City Engineer Carl Ray Furr offered another reason to speed upannexation efforts. He predicted a legislative change to allowcitizens in proposed annexation areas to vote on whether they wantto join a city, and that could doom city expansion plans.

“I smell it coming one day. . .,” Furr said.”There won’t beanymore annexations.”

Aldermen voted unanimously to proceed with the preliminaryannexation plan.

Fernald said vote would allow Slaughter to finalizeannexation-related totals and solidify the plan for final boardapproval before submission to chancery court.