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Annexation order should be filed with court soon

A court order authorizing Brookhaven’s annexation of 14.4 squaremiles of territory appears closer to being filed in Lincoln CountyChancery Court, attorneys said.

“It’s being circulated to all parties to be signed,” said CityAttorney Joe Fernald.

Since the May 3 opinion by Special Chancellor John C. Ross,attorneys for the city have been working on the annexation order inaccordance with the judge’s ruling.

The city originally sought to annex 16.6-square aroundBrookhaven, but Ross reduced that amount by excluding areas west ofInterstate 55. A private landowner’s property in the extremenortheastern corner of the proposed annexation area was alsoexcluded.

Getting a legal description of the approved annexation area wasone aspect of preparing the court order.

Attorney Carlisle Henderson, who represented more than 200objectors during a trial last year and earlier this year, said theorder had been sent to Jerry Evans, a Hattiesburg attorney whorepresented several private individuals. Objectors questioned thecity’s ability to meet its obligations for such a large annexationarea.

Henderson, who is not participating in a planned appeal, saidFernald and attorney Jerry Mills, who represented the city, hadsigned the order. Ed Lobrano, attorney for a single objectinglandowner, will also need to sign the order before it heads to Rossfor his signature.

Once the order is returned to chancery court, it will becomeeffective in 10 days and some city services will start beingprovided to the annexed areas.

Objectors will have 30 days to file an appeal to the annexation.An appeal would halt implementation of the annexation.

Field Lark Lane resident Sandra Gerald, who is leading objectorsin their efforts to challenge the annexation, said the will toappeal remains strong.

“There’s really not been any change on our part,” Gerald said.”We’re still trying to collect money.”

Objectors are trying to raise $20,000 to $25,000 for theirappeal. An attorney for the appeal has not been formally retained,pending the fund-raising effort.

Gerald said she had received pledges for support for the courtchallenge. However, citing a general lack of public discussionabout the annexation issue, she indicated progress was slowlymoving forward.

“The effort is still on and the desire not to be annexed isstill there,” Gerald said. “That feeling has not changed.”

According to demographic data presented at a recent city boardof aldermen meeting, the annexed area would boost the city’spopulation from the current 9,861 to 12,964.

Instead of five members if the population remains under 10,000,the increase would allow the board of aldermen to maintain itscurrent seven-member makeup. In preparations for next year’sregular elections, annexation consultants have been working on wardredistricting plans for both possibilities.

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

The 14.4-square mile approved annexation area would almosttriple the city’s current 7.3 square miles to 21.7 squaremiles.