County quizzes city re: annex
Published 10:29 am Friday, December 8, 2017
County quizzes city re: annex
By John Howell
Tuesday’s meeting of Batesville’s mayor and aldermen was occasionally awkward, with Cole Flint seeking information about the city’s plans to annex the Panola County jail, Panola County Airport and Airport Industrial Park.
Flint is president of the Panola County Board of Supervisors. Tuesday’s agenda included a presentation from urban planner Mike Slaughter who is guiding the city towards annexation of three areas, including the northeast quadrant of the I-55/Hwy. 35 intersection that includes the county properties.
“I am coming to this meeting; it’s the only way I can find out what’s going on,” Flint said as he walked into City Hall as the meeting started.
Slaughter, urban planner and founder and principal of Slaughter and Associates of Oxford, said annexation would immediately reduce fire insurance premiums from the present Class 10 to the city’s Class 6 rating without requiring additional equipment or manpower.
Panola Partnership Director Joe Azar said that planning is underway to reduce the fire insurance rating in the unincorporated I-55/Hwy. 35 area and to upgrade sewer and water lines into the Airport Industrial Park.
“We have a plan to move from a Class 10 to a Class 8,” Azar said.
The plan includes approximately $100,000 that would allow the Sardis Lower Lake Fire District’s boundary to extend to the I-55/Hwy. 35 area and reduce its fire insurance rating to Class 8.
“We were told that right now, if we took it in, it would drop from a 10 to a 6 and that was enough right now,” Mayor Jerry Autrey said.
Flint spoke when Autrey asked for comments from the audience.
“I would like for my board to be involved in this. I had to come to this meeting to find out what’s going on,” he said, repeating the statement he made to newspaper as he arrived at the meeting.
Flint’s comments ranged from annexation questions to an August request from supervisors to the city about helping fund a subsidy for ambulance service. He said that the city’s lack of response prompted members of his board to task him with seeking answers from the city.
“We really should have been involved in this,” Flint said, referring to annexation plans at one point during his comments.
“You dealt with Joe (Azar) and we didn’t know anything about it,” Mayor Jerry Autrey countered, referring to Azar’s statement about applications for grants to upgrade fire ratings for the county properties and for additional industrial park infrastructure.
“This is all open,” Alderman Bill Dugger said. “Anyone can come.”
After Flint had made further comments, Dugger said: “We don’t want you taking over our board, either.”
At the conclusion of his remarks, Flint invited the city officials to attend the Monday, December 11, meeting of the county Board of Supervisors.
“Y’all are all invited, Monday morning, 9 o’clock, Batesville,” Flint said.
Expansions along Highway 6/278
During his presentation Slaughter also discussed areas proposed for annexation along Highway 6 at the east and west approaches to Batesville.
The urban planner will provide the city with economic and demographic data for extended corporate limits east past the Good Hope Road intersection and possibly further. The extension would provide a narrow corridor from 1,000 to 1,320 feet wide along the highway, according to Slaughter.
To the west, corporate limits would be extended along Highway 6 past the building that formerly housed Accu-Tech Plastics. The north/south corridor would take in North Delta School.
“Right now, we are just studying annexation,” assistant City Attorney Colmon Mitchell said when the discussion began to stall over details. “We’ve got a lot of work between now and adopting an ordinance.”
City officials asked Slaughter to return to their January 16, 2018 meeting with further information.
Later, after the executive session, Mitchell said that he would recommend the city hold a public hearing prior to adopting an annexation ordinance to hear objections and allow the city to address objections. A public hearing on annexation is optional but not required, according to the attorney.