City plans to annex airport

Published 1:12 am Sunday, November 22, 2009

Plans have been put in motion to annex the city-owned airport, a move that will make city emergency services the primary responders and also mean more tax revenue for the city.

Currently, when and if an emergency occurs on the airport, county responders are the first to respond, even though city firefighters and police officers already conduct some work and patrols in the area.

Picayune Police Deputy Chief David Ervin said police officers already conduct security patrols at the airport, located just outside the city limits off of Ridge Road. Ervin said if the airport is annexed into the city limits, it will enable the Picayune Police Dept. to be the primary law enforcement agency for the facility. Now, if there is a need for law enforcement at the airport, the Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department is the primary responder.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The same is true for any fire-related emergencies. Picayune Fire Chief Keith Brown said his department’s fire fighters already maintain a large water pump at the airport, but if there’s a fire the Nicholson Volunteer Fire Department is the primary responder. Picayune firefighters still will respond, but as backup to the Nicholson VFD. If the property is annexed, then the Picayune Fire Department would still have an agreement with Nicholson Fire Department for it to be the backup department.

With Picayune’s new fire station nearly complete off of South Loftin Avenue, the airport would be in close proximity to fire protection as well. The only hiccup to fire protection would be the most recent cuts to the Fire Department’s budget. Brown said before the cuts there would have been six firefighters working a fire, now there might only be four.

“The public’s not going to see it, but we see it inside (the department),” Brown said.

City Clerk Priscilla Daniel said the airport is city property, but is not within the city limits. However, city utilities serve the area with water and natural gas, said Airport manager Andy Greenwood.

City Councilman Wayne Gouguet thinks the move is a a logical business decision considering the city already provides city services.

After the council’s decision on Tuesday to move forward with the annexation, Daniel sent the necessary documents to the city’s attorney, Nathan Farmer. Those documents will be filed with the county’s Chancery Court. The request will be heard by a Chancery Court judge, and if there is no opposition, it should go through.

To annex the airport, the city plans to “finger annex” property up to the airport’s location, which means the city will annex the right away along Ridge Road and all of Runway Road. No residential property will be annexed with the airport, Daniel said.

Annexation will increase the city’s tax revenue, and the county’s. Daniel said the county is not collecting taxes on the land leases, but is supposed to be. Daniel said the land is not being taxed by the county because it was never filed with Chancery Court like it should have been. Only one piece of property at the airport is being taxed, Magnolia Air. That leaves five other land leases not being taxed. Taxes will be collected on the buildings, equipment and aircraft that are at the airport. Once the Chancery Court makes a decision, then the proper paper work will be filed, enabling both city and county to work toward collecting taxes.

If the airport is annexed, then the land leases that are on file with the city will be amended to enable the city and county to collect taxes on them. If for some reason the person or company leasing the property fails to pay those taxes, then the lease can and will be terminated, Daniel said.

Daniel estimates the cost to annex the land to be between $7,000 and $10,000. That expense would allow the city to collect about $45,000 a year in extra ad valorem taxes. It also will enable the city to collect taxes on airplane parts and fuel purchased at the airport.

“I really think the airport is an asset for the city,” Daniel said. “I just want to see the city get this done and receive the revenue it’s due off of it.”