Annexation of industries worry some

Published 4:08 pm Thursday, February 7, 2019

Sardis would lose jobs with move, Azar says

By Jeremy Weldon

Representatives from several industries in the J.C. Sexton Industrial Park are expected to attend the regular meeting of the Sardis Mayor and Board today in opposition to the town’s move to study the possible annexation of the industrial area.

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Tim Durkin, CEO of G2 Capital Advisors, the parent company of United Solutions, Inc., said in a telephone interview Monday his company will definitely re-think recently announced expansion plans if the town goes ahead with any annexation studies.

Also in strong opposition to annexation and expected to be at the board meeting to question aldermen about the study are officials from Inca Presswood Pallets, Chromecraft, and Bo Holloway Trucking.

Those business leaders contend that the added burden of city taxes would be too costly for their operations, and would stunt any prospect of added jobs in an area that desperately needs to retain the current level of available positions for the local workforce while constantly seeking new opportunities.

“We acquired this company and committed a major investment there, and suddenly there is talk of annexing. It makes us consider where we want to invest our time and equipment, and I don’t understand the logic of it,” said Durkin. “They should be trying to give incentives for industry to move there and build. People there need these types of jobs.”

Panola Partnership CEO Joe Azar, who has had a rocky relationship with the Sardis board during the past year, said he is angry the town would even consider talking of annexing the industrial park when they know the few industries currently employing about 130 workers would balk at any type of encroachment from the town.

“The Partnership has a duty to act in the best interest of Panola County, the Town of Sardis, and all the citizens of the county,” Azar said. “There is not an upside for anyone involved when we have to confront the threat of an annexation and the drastic negative effect it would have on our industries. What worries me is the possibility of losing what jobs we do have, and the ones the industries are trying to add. We simply can’t afford to lose any job. They are all important, every one of them.”

Mayor Lula Palmer echoed Azar’s remarks at a meeting of the Panola County Board of Supervisors Monday. “It’s not the right thing at this time,” she said. “I have to protect jobs, and I hope that the board members see this also.”

Palmer said she included Azar on the agenda when he asked to make an appeal before the board, citing the research he has collected about the potential costs of an annexation. “We will hear from the Partnership and discuss this on Tuesday,” she said.

One Sardis alderman said Azar and others shouldn’t conclude that annexation efforts will begin anytime soon. “This is fake news,” said Michael Price. “All we have done is said that we would like to have a study performed to see what is feasible for the best interest of the Town of Sardis.”

Price said he believes industry leaders should wait for the study results before assuming the town will proceed with annexation. “What we are doing is what our tourism director Greg Davis suggested and that is to get a study and then make an educated guess on what we need to do.”

Azar countered that any discussion of  annexation could be enough to make industry owners back away from further expansion plans, and would discourage potential business from locating in the Sardis area.

“If you look at the existing industries and the amount of money they already provide to the North Panola School District budget it’s easy to see how devastating it would be to lose any of those contributions,” Azar said.

Davis said the only thing he has suggested to the board is they gain information before they act, something that deserves no criticism. “It’s frustrating to see such turmoil over something that hasn’t even happened,” Davis said. “All the Sardis board is trying to do is make a decision based on facts and not fears.”

“It’s amazing to me that some individuals, including our mayor, are criticizing the board for trying to gain information before they make a decision,” he said.