Starkville city limits to be determined as city leaders mull annexation 


Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker made a motion for Slaughter to draft and assess the new annexation area at Tuesday’s Board of Alderman meeting. (Photo by Faith Lifer, SDN)

By: 
Faith Lifer
Staff Writer

Tuesday night featured a lengthy discussion at the Starkville Board of Aldermen meeting as city officials consider a potential Starkville annexation. 

Although there were initial hopes of moving forward to draft an ordinance of an annexation area, the board ultimately decided to conduct an additional study of a new annexation area focusing on the northeastern portion of the original area.

The meeting both began and ended with a change in plans. 

At the start of the meeting, Vice Mayor and Ward 6 Alderman Roy A’. Perkins made a motion for the annexation discussion to be brought to the top of the agenda, which passed unanimously. 

“It is my opinion that this is a very important matter to many citizens who reside in our corporate limits and to those the city is attempting to annex into the city,” Perkins said. “With that being said, I think that is probably the top priority of this agenda and board meeting tonight.”

CITIZEN CONCERN

Before the aldermen discussed the potential annexation, several people who would be affected by the annexation voiced their concerns during the citizen comment period of the meeting.

Oktibbeha County citizen Charlie Wax came before the board to address a letter he and others sent to the mayor and aldermen.

“Back in April of this year when the annexation story first came out in the newspaper, several of us, who are affected residents, had a meeting to discuss what we think about it,” Wax said. 

Wax, along with the residents at the meeting, wrote the letter to combine their thoughts. The residents who attended the meeting primarily live south of the proposed annexation area. 

The letter read:

“We want to express our absolute opposition to being forcibly added into this city. After all, we live where we do on purpose and believe this proposed action unfairly brings higher taxes and loss of personal freedoms, with no benefit for us now or in the foreseeable future.”

The letter addressed several freedoms the citizens currently enjoy that would be affected by city annexation, including hunting, shooting fireworks, controlled burning for maintenance and owning animals such as horses and cattle. 

The letter also addressed concerns over Mississippi law:

“We have been surprised to learn that Mississippi law allows a city to annex areas with no consideration for the residents’ desires in the matter.”

The letter had 166 signatures in its support. 

Starkville resident Jeff Hosford, who said he owns property in the potential annexation area, also voiced his concern over a potential raise in taxes from the annexation. 

“What is the benefit to any citizen that is here?” Hosford asked. “Are we just gonna promise things and not actually do it?”

Both the citizen letter and Hosford referenced failures of the past 1998 annexation, Starkville’s last successful annexation. 

Hosford told the board the 1998 annexation was still the board’s current responsibility. 

BOARD DISCUSSION AND ACTION 

Mayor Lynn Spruill responded to concerns in support of an annexation. 

“I think it is important we look toward the places that are growing,” Spruill said. “I think annexation in this case allows us to take in portions that are having the opportunity to enjoy an urban environment without paying the taxes associated with that.”

Spruill also addressed the benefits to citizens being brought into the annexation area. 

“One of the things that was said in here, is ‘what do we get?’” Spruill said. “To me you get the finest police force in the state, you get the finest fire department in the state, you get city administration, you get streets— some of them might not be asphalt, some of them might be chip seal, but we are working to make that happen. You get the opportunity for sanitary sewer.”

Although most aldermen acknowledged the 1998 annexation was an overreach, the aldermen opposed to the proposed annexation collectively agreed the board still needed to address the 1998 annexation. 

“My question is, why are we pushing it so hard and we still have rotten roads still left from the 1998 annexation?” Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn asked. 

Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver said he thought the timing of the annexation was off.

“I don’t think it’s time to grab all this, at this time,” Carver said. “There is, I would say, hundreds if not thousands of underdeveloped acres that we already have within the city limits.”

Other members of the board voiced indecisiveness and support of a reduced annexation area.

“I am for what I think is a considerably more condensed version of annexation,” Ward 5 Alderman Patrick Miller said. “I am for a version of it. I am not for the current annexation.” 

Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker even suggested a “de-annexation.”

“I don’t think the wholesale plan as presented is something we need to do at the moment,” Walker said. “In fact I would be more inclined to think about de-annexation of some areas, especially to the left.”

SLAUGHTER & ASSOCIATES 

Slaughter & Associates President Mike Slaughter came before the board to present his professional opinion after hearing everyone’s thoughts. 

Slaughter said he believed there was a need, not only for city police and fire services in certain areas in the proposed annexation, but for planning and zoning and building code enforcement.

“The need for planning and zoning, the need for building code enforcement is just going to get worse,” Slaughter said. “If it’s not good now, just wait five years, just wait 10 years. It’s going to get even worse.”

Slaughter said he agreed with certain opinions of the board that a condensed annexation may be the way to move forward. 

“This is about the community, and I agree with what a lot of you are saying,” Slaughter said. “Maybe we need to have a more focused area. This is part of the process. I will work at the direction of the board.”

After further discussion among Slaughter and the board, Walker made a motion for Slaughter to draft and assess the new annexation area. 

The area is best described as the northeastern area of the original annexation area, mostly above Blackjack Road, possibly including areas directly below Blackjack Road.

There are also two areas included in the new study area that were not a part of the original annexation area: a small area between Bar B Que Road and Hewlett Drive and the area north of the bypass and the Highway 182 corridor. 

Walker’s motion passed 4-2 with Carver and Perkins opposed and Vaughn absent. 

MOVING FORWARD 

Once the new plans are presented to the board, around November, the board will then decide how it wishes to move forward. 

If the board does decide to move forward with new annexation plans, two public hearings would be held before any decisive actions.

“I want the city to give all citizens due process,” Perkins said. “It is my opinion that the board needs to carefully consider and weigh all the discussion, comments, testimony and evidence before making any decisions.”

Looking forward, Perkins said he wants to take into account any comments and evidence before making a decision.

“Ultimately I was glad we didn’t rush into a decision,” Miller said. “I think where we’ve got the area condensed to now is a step in the right direction, but I certainly haven’t made a decision yet.” 

Carver said he has made his decision.

“I will be voting against the annexation,” Carver said. “I don’t think we can say with a straight face that we have met all the obligations of the 1998 annexation, so I think we’re moving forward before we legally can.”

Although the area where Wax lives in Quail Valley will no longer be affected by the annexation, he says he is also against the new annexation. 

“Naturally, I’m glad the annexation area was amended to exclude the area in which I live,” Wax said. “I still feel the same, though, that for a city to just take property into the city without any kind of referendum or poll of those affected is inherently wrong.”

Spruill said, overall, she thought Tuesday’s meeting went well. 

“I think there is a path forward, and I believe this is an important piece of how we progress in a controlled and thoughtful way,” Spruill concluded. 

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