County opposes annexation

Published 12:11am Thursday, July 10, 2014

NATCHEZ — Adams County’s supervisors vowed to work against any move on the part of the City of Natchez to annex portions of the county into the city limits.

“If they tried to do it, the supervisors will fight it,” Supervisors’ Vice President Mike Lazarus said. “We represent the people of the county, and they don’t want to be annexed.”

During a state of the city address in mid-June, Natchez Mayor Butch Brown said county residents who live in the Beau Pré area “better get ready” when the city is ready for annexation. He later said Beau Pré was used for example purposes, and that the city was interested in annexing business corridors in every direction in order to collect more sales tax revenue.

The city’s six aldermen said they haven’t discussed the issue significantly, but the mayor’s comments were discussed at Monday’s meeting of the county board, with Lazarus saying the county government would get an attorney on retainer to help residents fight any proposal to bring more of the county into the city.

“In the last annexation (in 2009), the only two businesses annexed wanted to be annexed,” Lazarus said Wednesday. “But since the mayor said that, we have gotten more calls from people concerned about it than about the (bankruptcy and sale of the county) hospital.”

Supervisor David Carter said he attended a meeting of homeowners in the Beau Pré area, and many expressed opposition to the idea.

“With everything, there are positives and negatives, and with annexation you would get to vote for the city’s elected representatives,” Carter said. “But for a $300,000 house, you are looking at a 20-percent tax increase. ‘Are you prepared for that’ is a question people are asking.”

Supervisors’ President Darryl Grennell said he has always been against annexation because he is concerned the city will not be able to provide the infrastructure it is supposed to in annexed areas.

But previous experience tells him residents will oppose annexation even without those concerns, Grennell said.

“In the past, I know there were mass meetings where people outside the city limits were getting organized to fight annexation, and I imagine that energy still exists,” he said.

“Those people who were against building and other regulations said, ‘We moved outside the city limits for a reason, because we are against code.’ They want to be able to paint their house the color they want. The county has a lot fewer ordinances than the city does.”

Supervisor Calvin Butler said he has not received any communication from his constituency about annexation, but he knows how many of them feel.

“When I was elected, they said, ‘Please do not let them annex the Broadmoor area or the Washington area,’” Butler said. “They said they moved to the country because they liked the privacy and freedom.”

Supervisor Angela Hutchins said if the city does move forward with any annexation proposal, she will help organize meetings to explain to residents the difference in rules — and taxes — to which they will have to adjust.

“If they want annexation, they probably would vote for it,” she said. “But if they don’t want it, I will do everything in my power to keep them from having that happen.”

But Lazarus said even if the board takes up the mayor’s call to bring in more of the county, he doesn’t think it will be able to pass muster in court when the city has to prove annexation is in the best interest of the municipal cause.

“I think we will be able to prove there is no need,” he said. “There is plenty of room in the city limits for the city to grow.”