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Objector : ‘No logic’ to annexation

A Brookhaven citizen Wednesday questioned the city’s ability tohandle annexation-related obligations as objectors began their partof the trial over the city’s expansion effort.

South Jackson Street resident John Perkins said he did notbelieve current citizens of the city were being supplied with thelevel of services they needed to have. He cited street, mosquitocontrol and trash pick up concerns, among others.

“Our services have decayed considerably,” said Perkins, alludingto a drop off in recent years.

Saying “somebody’s not watching the store,” Perkins voicedconcerns over poor resource management and a lack of management bythe city board and department heads.

One example Perkins pointed out was the city employees’ healthinsurance plan, which he called a “deluxe gold-plated Cadillacpolicy.” He said insurance costs amount to about 15 percent of thecity budget and that premiums had risen 25 percent this yearwithout the board seeking competitive bids.

“It seems to be no conduct by the board to contain costs oroptimize resources,” said Perkins.

Perkins said current police and fire protection were adequate,but that level could be affected by the over 16-square mileannexation. The citizen said he was not opposed to a reasonableexpansion.

“I can find no logic in the city proposing an annexation of thismagnitude,” Perkins said.

Perkins said he did not have any information on the financialimpact the annexation could have on current citizens, but hesuggested the possibility of some detrimental effects. Objectors’attorney Jerry Evans questioned Perkins on the impact of a possible30 percent increase in water and sewer rates.

“Some people are having trouble paying their water bills now,”Perkins said. “I think a lot of citizens would find that aburden.”

On cross-examination from annexation attorney Jerry Mills,Perkins faced questions regarding his civic activity. One topic wasPerkins’ concerns and activities in protesting higher train speedsthrough the city.

“That’s a concern shared by a lot of our citizens,” Perkinssaid.

Perkins was also asked about his report regarding Mayor BillGodbold being seen at Wesson liquor store one morning in October.Perkins acknowledged being wrong about seeing the mayor in a cityvehicle at the time, but he maintained his belief that it wasinappropriate for the mayor to be there on city time during theweek.

Responding to another Mills question, Perkins said he had notdone any studies to determine annexation’s impact on citizens.However, he said his beliefs were based on his observations and”common sense.”

Following up on Perkins’ statements over his inability to getannexation-related information from the city, Mills asked thewitness about receiving a copy of the city’s Services andFacilities Plan. Perkins said he was given a copy and had nodispute with its data, which projects the city’s financial abilityto handle the expansion.

Perkins also acknowledged, but downplayed the potentialeffectiveness, of city board efforts regarding the health insuranceplan. Earlier this year, the board modified the plan to saveseveral thousand dollars and this week enacted a policy to requirepre-employment physicals.

The city’s annexation trial was to continue Thursday in LincolnCounty Chancery Court. Field Lark Lane resident Sandra Gerald, oneof the most vocal of the over 200 objectors, was scheduled to bethe first witness today.

After the city rested its case earlier Wednesday, Evans andattorney Carlisle Henderson filed a motion for directed verdict bySpecial Chancellor John C. Ross. Attorney Ed Lobrano also filed amotion on behalf of his client Gordon Redd.

The routine courtroom maneuver alleged the city had not proventhe 12 indicia of reasonableness to justify annexation. It askedthe judge to rule in the objectors’ favor.

In arguing his motion, Evans said the “most glaring” failure wasthe city’s inability to state the financial impact on currentcitizens and those in the annexation area and how the city will payfor the services.

“Repeated requests of witnesses about how the city, financially,will pay for this annexation have been met with a summary of thecity’s financial ability,” Evans said.

Evans said the city had not investigated how much revenue wouldbe generated from water and sewer rates. He pointed higher propertytaxes, but acknowledged the annexed citizens’ ability to deductthat from their income taxes.

“We don’t have a full picture of what the impact will be onpeople in the proposed annexation area,” Evans said.

In an over-20 minute monologue, Lobrano focused his comments onthe situation related to Redd’s 270 acres of forest land in thenortheastern corner of the annexation area. Redd’s home is not inthe annexation area and Lobrano argued that he would receive “nobenefits, merely obligations” from the property being annexed.

“The bottom line is Gordon Redd is getting nothing and paying alot,” Lobrano said.

Ross reserved his ruling on the motions and the trial proceededwith the objectors’ case. It was unclear Wednesday whether thetrial would conclude this week or have to extend into nextweek.