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Annexation needs plenty of cooperation

Natchez Mayor Butch Brown has made no bones about the fact that he wants the city’s borders to expand and subsequently its tax base.

He publicly announced plans to annex portions of the county last month, telling residents of the Beau Pré subdivision to “get ready.”

Four of the six members of the Natchez Board of Aldermen claimed annexation hadn’t been brought up formally, alluding to the fact that the topic wasn’t really on their agenda.

Clearly the mayor and the board had not communicated fully on this issue or, at the least, someone (or several people) are being politically coy.

If the City of Natchez has intentions of annexing portions of the county, the city should publicly declare its intentions.

But a productive discussion of annexation needs to include exactly what new services the city intends to provide to annexed residents.

Unfortunately, at the moment with the existing infrastructure challenges facing the city and the massive duplications between city and county government, making a good case for annexation may prove difficult.

Brown suggests annexation might be more attractive to county residents if the city ended its long-standing fire protection agreement with the county. Under the agreement city fire crews respond to county fires. The city has for a number of years believed the county doesn’t pay enough for this service.

Perhaps the plan is to either use the threat of the fire agreement as leverage to make annexation easier to swallow or to use the threat of annexation as a way to increase the fire protection agreement funding.

If so, we should stop the political drama and simply cooperate on plans that make sense for all rather than continuing the saber-rattling exercise.