Annexation papers filed with court

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, December 18, 2002

The City of Brookhaven filed papers Tuesday in Lincoln CountyChancery Court seeking permission to annex more than 16.5 miles,said City Attorney Joe Fernald during last night’s meeting of themayor and board of aldermen.

Fernald said a March 4 return date was scheduled to hear thecity’s case. Fernald said the city could present its case then, butany annexation opposition would result in a later date beingscheduled for the judge to hear testimony and other concernsrelated to city expansion plans.

“I anticipate we’ll have to put it off,” Fernald said aboutexpected opposition.

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Notice of the hearing date, which has to be at least 30 daysafter the annexation complaint is filed, and annexation data mustbe published three times in the newspaper and posted in at leastthree public places. Fernald said he and annexation consultants hadidentified 12 public places where the March 4 hearing date noticewill be posted.

Fernald’s announcement followed an earlier presentation by GaryWilson, president of the Lakewood Village Homeowners Association.Residents of Lakewood Village, which is included in the annexationarea, have filed a petition and retained an attorney to challengecity expansion plans.

Wilson challenged the 12 indicia of reasonableness that the citymust prove in order to allowed to annex. They include such items aspath of growth considerations, the need for planning and zoning inthe proposed area, minority voting strength factors, impact onannexation area residents, and “fair share” issues related tocitizens benefiting from city services while living outside thecity limits.

Wilson characterized Lakewood Village as a mixture of bluecollar workers and older residents on fixed incomes who could notafford the tax increase or costs associated with new water serviceconnections.

While acknowledging a great city need for growth, Wilson saiddevelopment was not happening in the Lakewood Village area becauseit is surrounded by swamp land, hills and hollows and junk yards.He also mentioned a nearby waste water treatment plant and odorsthat come from a treatment lagoon.

Regarding city services, Wilson said Lakewood Village has noneed for them. Water service is provided by the Topisaw Creek WaterAssociation, fire protection by the Hog Chain Volunteer FireDepartment, law enforcement by the sheriff’s department, and BFIprovides excellent garbage pick up service at a reasonablecost.

Wilson said the city benefits through tax collections fromLakewood Village residents’ activity in the city. Therefore, thereare no “fair share” issues to bring forth in an annexation claim,he said.

Wilson said the association intends to pursue annexationopposition through the court hearings before the chancery courtjudge. He also offered a comment on the new city population shouldannexation become a reality.

“You’re going to have a new public … and they will be able tovote,” Wilson said.

Aldermen did not respond to Wilson’s presentation.

“I’m scared to death,” Mayor Bill Godbold said as Wilson leftthe boardroom last night.

According to preliminary demographic data about the annexation,the expansion would increase the city’s land area from 7.3 squaremiles to 23.9 square miles.

In terms of population, the total would rise from the current9,861 to 13,198. In racial breakdown, the city is currently 47.6percent white and 51.4 black; if annexation is approved, thepercentages would be 48.7 percent white and 50.2 percent black.

In other business during Tuesday’s meeting, engineer Jeff Greenupdated city officials on the First and Second Street storm drainproject and the Whitworth Fire Loop project.

Green said some minor items needed to be address on the stormdrain project, and the fire loop project is nearing completion. Hehoped final inspections on both projects could be done inJanuary.

Regarding the First and Second Street project, aldermen voted torevise the budget by $194,000 to cover some unexpected cityexpenses. Of the total, the city is expected to be reimbursed$106,000 but the city will have to cover $88,000 in engineeringfees.

Several city officials said they were under the impression theproject was 100-percent funded through accumulated federaltransportation money. For the future, they approved a resolutionrequiring up front notification of city costs before a project ispursued.

“We need to know ahead of time,” said Ward 4 Alderman BobMassengill.

Michael Barranco, architect for the Brookhaven High Schoolrenovation and expansion project, updated city officials on adrainage project under way on High School Street.

Barranco said a water retention area will be built to hold waterand allow it to drain slowly following periods of heavy rain. Theretention area is expected to be built where temporary classroomswere used during the renovation and expansion project.

Also Tuesday, Fernald announced that Godbold was chosen toreceive the “Ageless Hero” Award from Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Themayor was chosen from among 400 nominations and recognized becauseof his role in bringing the Mississippi School of the Arts toBrookhaven, Fernald said.

Godbold will be honored during a Jan. 28 reception inHattiesburg, Fernald said.