Annexation talk builds tension

Published 4:59 pm Monday, February 11, 2019

By Myra Bean

As reported in Tuesday’s Panolian, the Sardis Board met that afternoon and listened to various industrial members about a possible annexation.

The Town of Sardis Mayor and Board of Aldermen had a tension-filled meeting Tuesday as they listened to various voices about the possible annexation of the J.C. Sexton Industrial Park into the town limits.

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The board had previously authorized a comprehensive study of the town and its current zoning

breakdowns, including the feasibility of annexing the industrial park, according to Tourism and Community Development Director Greg Davis.

Alderman-at-large Michael Price made it clear to the public that the board has not made any motions towards annexation except to order a study.

Panola Partnership executive director Joe Azar led the contingent of industrial park representatives in addressing the board about canceling the study. Azar told board members he believes even the idea of studying annexation is dangerous because it would interfere with current industries there and might affect others who could come to the park.

Alderman JoJo Still made a motion to cancel the study by Bridge and Watson. The motion died for lack of a second.

Alderman Clarence “Boo Boo” Jones reminded Azar it was only a study that had been ordered, and not a direct annexation at this point.  “We didn’t say we would do it. We said we are looking at this. We are studying it,” he said.

Azar said, “That is why I am here. I need you to understand the ramifications of this study.”

As for the possibility of getting an off ramp from the interstate for the industrial park, Azar read a letter he had from Congressman Bennie Thompson that indicated it would be very difficult for that to happen. “To say or offer that we will get a ramp here is preposterous,” Azar said.

Azar also brought up some property not listed in the annexation like the apartment complex, the Price house and Martin Brothers. The apartment complex was listed, along with some houses, in the initial annexation talks in December.

Alderman Michael Price later said that all those issues will be addressed later because the only thing being done now is a study, and not anything that is voted on. “It’s just a study. It’s something that we can look at and decide what is best for the people of Sardis. The Town of Sardis has been passed by too many time and we just want to find out why.”

Price said he has no hard feelings for anybody in Panola County and wants Sardis to work with the county and all officials. “As a board we need to know the pros and cons of annexation, and then we can make a decision.”

Turner Hughey, general manager with Chromcraft-Remington-Douglas in industrial park, spoke. Chromcraft bought the Spring building years ago and has doubled employment in two years. They are a multi-state business and is a national distribution center.

“It is important we keep growing here. We have a good business environment. That’s why we came here and we want to continue to be here. We have about $2.5 million in improvements on our drawing boards. That’s all subject to a good business environment which allows us to stay competitive and be in the marketplace,” said.

Hughey read a letter from the corporate office to back Azar’s claim of businesses being against the study and the annexation. The business has plans to continue expansion. “These plans are subject to change if the business environment and expenses become more unfavorable to our Mississippi operation.”

Even the 10-year tax incentive the board is contemplating extending to present companies was not enough as United Solutions said they are planning 20 years down the road and in 10 years they would have to start paying taxes.

United Solutions and Inca Presswood Pallets are planning millions of dollars of improvements and said those plans have been put on hold until they know what they city will do.

That is why they ask that the study be halted. They are operating in limbo.

As Azar finished his presentation, he told the board the industrial park tenants wanted to know “why they were getting picked on.”

“I do not want to be the economic development officer who loses these businesses,” Azar said.

“We don’t want to be the board who loses businesses either,” said alderwoman Bonnie Smith.

During public comments, one of the citizen/business owner expressed displeasure of how Azar appeared before the board. She does not feel that Azar likes Sardis and she was insulted in the way he spoke to the board. She also said Azar is “holding the town of Sardis hostage.”

The board received letters and a packet put together by Azar expressing the wishes, desires and threats of closures from the industries.

In other board business in the two-and-a-half hour meeting, Engineer David Evans had several projects to come before the board. He needed their signature on the $450,000 CDBG FY 18 facilities engineering agreement which covered from the railroad track west to Greenhill, Hernando Street Extended, Atkins St., Percyville and Juanita Street.

The BP Senate Bill 2002 engineering agreement and pay request were tabled, along with the DRA Edwin Circle sewer project pay request.

The board voted to appoint Davis over the administration of the BP 2002 project to save $18,750 in engineering fees and to use that on the roads.

The board also tabled choosing the color of the water tank.

Southern Security Federal Credit Union offered the board membership for its employees. The issue was tabled until they checked into the offering from Red River Credit Union in Batesville, formerly Shreveport Credit Union.

Clyde C. Scott Insurance invoice went from over $20,000 to $13,918 when nine vehicles’ collision coverage was dropped.

Maintenance manager Quinn West asked the board to approve pay to put up street lights on East Frontage where Communicare and the Dialysis clinic are and to consider paving that road.

The lights were $110.71 per month. Both issues were tabled.

The board voted to send Price and Mayor Lula Palmer to Washington to meet with Senators Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith and Representative Bennie Thompson to discuss the Sardis Lake Project. They will visit Feb. 12 and 13.

The Sardis Lake Project includes leasing the land for another 25 years or purchasing the land.

Angela Hayward was given permission to attend Certified Municipal Clerk classes in Oxford for three days. The board tabled the payment of the last unemployment insurance payment to Cost Solutions of $1,457.33.

Davis introduced the subject of the city hosting a bass tournament at Sardis Lake in the summer of 2020. He will bring back more information at a later date and the cost of sponsorship.

Davis’ contract was amended and approved with more duties. There were no specific duties outlined to the public.

A special work session was set for Friday, Feb. 15 at 11 a.m. for the comprehensive plan and annexation study updates which includes the Sardis Lake project.

•In the Mayor’s report, since Polynesian Association did not start on the renovations of the police department, the board canceled any obligations that were promised.

Palmer reported the Municipal Government Week was a success with the 16 students from Greenhill visiting.

They got to go in the boardroom and pretend to be board members, mayor, city clerk and attorney. They asked Quinn West many questions about the water tower and how the water got up there, according to Palmer.

She gave an update about the grocery store that may be coming to Sardis, and is badly needed by citizens. The company is now doing a market study. Photos have been taken of the two buildings under consideration.

One privilege license was issued in January but she did not name the business.

  • ● Fire investigator Coda Medlin reported someone was burning industrial type waste at a public area. He suggested code inspector issue citation. Some of the burning that is done in that area is against federal and state regulations. Some tires have also been burned. A tub was brought to the area where 13 cars and over 20 people gather sometime near the Z Store.
  • The board adjourned to executive session to discuss economic development issues in the Sardis Lake project.