City, objectors await action on annexation

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Brookhaven officials are awaiting word on submission of anannexation order while objectors are continuing fund-raisingefforts to challenge the city expansion.

A 14.4-square mile annexation was approved last month and thecity’s attorneys have been working on a description of the area.City Attorney Joe Fernald said some survey work related to anexcluded portion had to be done before the order could beprepared.

“They’re satisfied it’s correct,” said Fernald, adding that hehad not heard from annexation attorney Jerry Mills on whether theannexation order had been submitted to Special Chancellor John C.Ross.

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Once the judge signs the order, it will be filed in LincolnCounty Chancery Court and the implementation clock will start torun. The city will have to provide some services to the annexedarea 10 days after the order is entered and objectors will have 30days to file an appeal.

Field Lark Lane resident Sandra Gerald reported some progress inobjectors’ efforts to raise $25,000 for the appeal. She was one ofmore than 200 objectors who challenged the city’s ability to meetannexation obligations.

“It’s coming pretty good,” said Gerald, although she did notwant to discuss a specific dollar amount. “We’re still planning onappealing.”

Gerald said annexation discussions had quieted some.

“I don’t want people to think we don’t need money,” shesaid.

Gerald said objectors had not held any formal fund-raisers, butseveral possibilities have been discussed. She mentioned a raffle,a fish fry and a softball tournament.

“I keep hoping we don’t have to,” said Gerald, hoping thatinformal donations continue to come in. “If we have to, wewill.”

Gerald said the appeal is not a frivolous gesture.

“We’re not going into this to buy time, we’re going in toappeal,” Gerald said. “We feel like we have some grounds for theappeal.”

Gerald said she had spoken to an appellant attorney who willhandle the case. She said he had not been hired yet, pending thefund-raising effort.

Attorney Carlisle Henderson, who represented the majority ofobjectors in the original trial, said he was approached about anappeal but declined. The attorney said he understood objectors’feelings about annexation.

However, Henderson said merits of the city’s case were tested attrial and that resulted in some of the 16.6-square mile requestedannexation being excluded. Territory west of Interstate 55 was notapproved for annexation.

“The court process served its function,” Henderson said. “Theimportant function has been served.”

In another annexation-related issue, Fernald said the city hadnot received an answer regarding the board of aldermen and itscomposition. The question involves whether the city will have fivemembers of the board or maintain the current seven.

A 2000 Census population of 9,861 dictates the board is to fivemembers. However, the annexation would boost the city populationback over 10,000 to almost 13,000 and enough for sevenaldermen.

“It’s an unusual situation,” Fernald said.

The city has to redistrict one way or the other and the planwill have to be pre-cleared by the U.S. Department of Justice.Fernald said it would be better to leave aldermen composition as itis.

“Even if half the annexation is approved, we’ll have over 10,000people,” Fernald said.

Fernald said annexation consultants are preparing for both thefive-member and seven-member board possibilities.

“We’ll be in a position to have an election next June,” Fernaldsaid.