Annexation appeal stalls city efforts

Published 5:00 am Monday, August 16, 2004

Brookhaven annexation efforts were put on hold indefinitelyFriday as objectors filed a formal appeal in Lincoln CountyChancery Court.

The appeal by Citizens Against Annexation came as Brookhavenofficials were preparing to provide police and fire protection tothe proposed annexation area beginning Monday. Sandra Gerald,spokeswoman for more than 250 objectors named in Friday’s filing,indicated the appeal was in keeping with some of their reasons forchallenging the expansion.

“There was no need for the city to provide services that wedon’t desire,” Gerald said. “We’re satisfied with the services wereceive in the county.”

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Objectors had 30 days to file an appeal after the annexationorder was entered in chancery court Aug. 6. However, Gerald saidthe thing to do was to go ahead and file the appeal before the citystarted providing services within 10 days after the order.

“It’s only fair,” Gerald said.

Mayor Bob Massengill said he had spoken with Police Chief PapHenderson and Fire Chief Paul Cartwright and they were prepared toextend their services Monday.

“We were going to go ahead and do that and be well withincompliance of the law,” Massengill said. “Obviously, that will nowbe put on hold until the appeal process is finalized.”

Massengill added, though, that city fire protection to areasoutside the city would continue as it had in the past. Cityfirefighters have a policy of going outside the city when theirassistance is requested and equipment is available.

“We’re going to help people any time we can,” the mayorsaid.

Massengill said city leaders had been anxious to move forwardwith the annexation. However, he was understanding of objectors’desire to challenge the expansion.

“It is their right to file an appeal,” Massengill said. “Wehonor that.”

With the appeal, still up in the air is the composition of thecity’s Board of Aldermen.

With regular elections scheduled for next year, it is unclearwhether the board is to be made up of the current seven aldermen orreduced to five aldermen because the city’s population is now under10,000. Annexation would boost the city’s population from 9,861 toalmost 13,000.

Because of the current population’s closeness to the 10,000threshold and even a reduced annexation’s impact on population,city officials are hopeful that an attorney general’s opinion willallow a seven-member board. Officials said they have not receivedan AG’s ruling on their question yet.

In terms of land size, the 14.4 square-mile approved annexationarea would almost triple the city’s current 7.3 square miles to21.7 square miles. In the trial, the city had sought a 16.6-squaremile area, but some portions were deleted by the judge.

Objectors have retained Jackson attorney T. Jackson Lyons fortheir appeal. Lyons was unavailable for comment Fridayafternoon.

In filing the appeal, Gerald issued a $9,544 check to thechancery clerk’s office. Of that amount, $100 is the docket fee forthe Mississippi Supreme Court, while $5,500 is to get a transcriptof the annexation trial and $3,944 is for court exhibit and recordpreparation by chancery clerk officials.

According to chancery officials, there is a 60-day window forpreparation of the trial transcript. Extensions, however, may begranted.

Following that, the chancery clerk’s office has 30 days toassemble and prepare the court record. Then each side will haveseven days to review the record before it is sent to the state forplacement on the Supreme Court’s docket.

Objectors have been trying to raise $20,000 to $25,000 tofinance their appeal.

“We’re not quite there,” said Gerald, who acknowledged thatlawyers’ fees would be an expense as the case moves forward. “We’restill soliciting funds for any unexpected expenses.”

Gerald did not offer an estimate on objectors’ chances ofsuccess in the appeal.

“We feel like we have a chance. We don’t feel like it was a justdecision,” Gerald said of the trial ruling.

Gerald said objectors believe some areas of the annexation couldbe rejected. She did not identify any specific areas.

“If justice is served at the supreme court, they’ll have tooverturn some of it,” Gerald said. “We feel strongly about it.”