By Jeremy Pittari, Item Staff Writer
The Picayune Item
Newly annexed city residents can expect a mixed bag of things, including access to city services, if they want them, or to just continue on as they are. City taxes will be assessed in addition to the county taxes residents currently pay, but city taxes won’t be assessed until the next tax year, which means in 2013, and won’t be payable until early in 2014, said City Clerk Amber Hinton.
Other than that, if the new city residents have a water well and a septic tank, a contract with another garbage collection agency, utility services with some other water and sewer provider, then those things don’t have to change, said Mayor Ed Pinero Jr.
Electric company coverage will not change, either.
Any landowner with farm animals can keep them, Pinero said.
All of the land that was acquired by the city automatically will be zoned A-1, or agricultural. City Attorney Nathan Farmer said if a landowner would like to change the property’s zoning, that can be done by going through the proper steps at City Hall.
Garbage collection will be offered to the new city residents, but will not be required if they have garbage collection services with another company. Hinton said so long as the new resident can provide proof of garbage collection by another company, the new resident can retain the service with their current company. If a resident would like to change to city garbage collection, that can be done as well. Monthly rates for city garbage collection are $19.35, and pickup takes place twice a week, Pinero said.
Also, if a new city resident would like to connect to city water and sewer — sewer is actually handled by the Pearl River County Utility Authority — then that request can be made at City Hall or by calling 311, the city’s newly instituted one number to reach city hall with problems with city services or for information. Pinero said he could not say when city services would be available to all areas, but there are several areas where city water and sewer already are available.
Fire service will change for the annexed areas. Fire Chief Keith Brown said this will lower homeowners’ fire insurance rates, since Picayune’s fire rating is a 6, on average two points better than most county volunteer fire departments. All fire departments, even volunteers, are rated on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the best rating. Insurance companies should be receiving notice of the change, but Brown suggested that newly annexed residents notify their insurance companies to ensure they are aware of the annexation and lower rating.
Some residents were concerned about how fast the Picayune Fire Department can respond to fires in outlying areas. Brown said while volunteer departments are staffed by some of the finest firefighters around, they are volunteers and typically when a call comes in they have to drive from home to the station to get a fire engine. However, Picayune firefighters are on staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so when a call comes in city firefighters can usually respond within 4-to-6 minutes.
“We’re already there, so we’re coming straight to you,” Brown said.
However, existing mutual aid agreements will remain in place. That means if a resident is close to a volunteer fire department, such as Nicholson, then that department also will respond, Brown said.
Any homes receiving water and sewer from another company, such as Nicholson Water, Pearl River County Utility Authority or Pearl River Central Water, will continue to receive water and sewer services from those companies. Pinero said those are certificated areas, and the city has no power to take over their customers automatically.
Newly annexed residents will have to abide by some changes, though, such as those having to do with burning trash and leaves. Burning debris in the city limits is limited to vegetative matter only. Picayune city residents can not burn trash, building debris or tires, Brown said. Also, residents will need to apply for a burn permit before burning vegetative matter. Burn permits do not apply to outdoor fire places, also known as chimineas, Pinero said.
Burn permits can be obtained by calling the local fire station, or by calling 311.