Residents protest Poplarville annexation

Published 5:02 pm Friday, February 8, 2008

About a dozen residents convened at City Hall Tuesday evening to discuss with Mayor Billy Spiers and the board of aldermen their opposition to annexation.

The Heatherlands, a subdivision of about 12 homes, is located off Jacobs Road just outside the city limits. Many of the residents in that subdivision and just beyond are retirees and voiced concerns over the added expenses they will incur for being annexed into the city.

The Heatherlands residents already receive city water and have the benefit of fire and police protection by virtue of being situated just outside the city limits. They also receive benefit of the city’s class 7 fire rating which lowers their homeowner’s insurance. They do not have city sewage. Each home has its own septic system, and residents were particularly concerned over the potentially costly endeavor of having to pay the Pearl River County Utility Authority for running sewer lines to their homes when they already have septic systems.

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Although no one could give the homeowners concrete answers as to those particular concerns, representatives of the utility authority tried to ease their minds by saying they would work with homeowners to make it as cost effective and affordable as possible.

The city of Poplarville has agreed to sign over its waste treatment facility to the utility authority. The city will retain responsibility for its water system and will purchase wholesale water from the authority as needed.

Area resident John Stringer reminded citizens of the Heatherlands they would likely have to hook up to the utility authority’s system sooner or later even if they did not get annexed into the city of Poplarville.

Stringer, although not a resident of the Heatherlands, spoke up in behalf of the citizens telling aldermen, “These people feel they have no recourse. They feel as if they don’t have a say. In America you’re supposed to have a say.”

Alderman John Grant reminded residents they all have a right to be heard and will get their opportunity to voice their concerns in court.

Alderman Bill Winborn also reminded residents they are already experiencing city services in the form of water, fire and police protection.

“There are 2,601 other people (in the city limits) footing your bill,” said Winborn. “Is that fair to them? So why shouldn’t you share in the financial burden for those services?”

One Heatherlands homeowner said the city reaps benefits from their county taxes. Grant informed them the city does not receive any money from county property taxes to help pay for city services. He also noted the county doesn’t help fix Poplarville streets.

Grant tried to help residents see the issue from a different perspective. “All of this is simply folks sharing the expense together for common services,” he said.

Mark Hines owns Wheat’s Building Supply on Mississippi 26 East. He was at the meeting to get answers getting sewer lines to his business once annexation is complete.

He questioned the board several different times as to whether or not the city has definitive plans for getting these services to annexed areas in a reasonable time-frame, and he voiced concerns as to the city’s commitment to developing the viable commercial corridors to bring significant growth into the city.

“We have a legitimate worry that our taxes will go to regular costs (of running the city) and we’ll never see any real benefits,” said Hines.

Winborn explained to Hines and others that the city has already hired a city planning firm to do a strategic plan for the city.

“They are doing the strategic plan right now,” said Winborn. “Once water and sewer is here, development will come. You don’t see what the board is doing. We are wanting growth, controlled growth. The past has been haphazard, but we are wanting controlled growth.”

Winborn noted the city is in position for expansion with the new well and treatment facility under construction north of the city.

“We’ve had five wells go dry in the past 15 years,” said Winborn. “The lack of water has been one of the things that has hindered growth. Things are being upgraded right now. We can do more for growth for Poplarville than we’ve done in the last 20 years. So yes, you are going to see benefits.”

Hines said he wanted something more concrete to ease his mind.

Grant assured Hines and others of the city’s commitment to them in the form of a written ordinance. “The laws state it,” said Grant. “That’s the best we can do.”

Under the terms of annexation, City Attorney Martin Smith said Poplarville is required by law to provide city services to annexed property within a period of five years. If the city fails to do so, residents would have the right to petition for de-annexation.

Grant and Winborn both assured residents they would get the services they need in a timely manner. Winborn also reminded Hines the money has already been allocated to get sewer out to his business.

Land developer Terry Carver was at the meeting wanting to have city water and sewer to come to his commercial property. Without a water and sewer expansion project, he said his property is little more than agricultural.

Smith said all residents will have an opportunity to air their concerns before the judge makes a final ruling next month. The court date for the annexation trial has been set for Wednesday, March 19.