City to discuss annexing

Published 12:39 am Friday, August 10, 2018

NATCHEZ — City officials plan to discuss possible annexation Tuesday, and the plan is already meeting opposition.

The Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen Finance Committee will discuss annexation during a 9:30 a.m. Tuesday meeting.

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Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell said city officials want to look at the amount of sales tax being generated from businesses outside the city limits along U.S. 61.

“Citizens of the area don’t benefit from those sales taxes,” Grennell said adding sales taxes from businesses outside the city limits go straight to the state.

Grennell said some of the businesses outside the city limits receive some city services, such as fire protection and could benefit if their tax revenues would help the city improve its fire rating.

Grennell said the city is not considering annexing any residential areas.

“I was alarmed to see an annexation issue appear on an agenda for executive session on Aug. 14,” said Natchez attorney Paul Benoist, “particularly in light of the ongoing problematic issues with city reporting, accounting at the convention center, city books and the turnover in the city clerk’s office.”

In response to his concern, Benoist mailed — and emailed — a public records request to Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell and hand delivered a copy to Natchez City Clerk Megan Edmonds. He also copied the city’s aldermen and The Natchez Democrat on the records request.

“This is a public records request to view the annexation study reports, including related maps and legal descriptions identifying the specific target areas for annexation,” Benoist’s request dated Aug. 9 states. “I understand that annexation is litigation and that litigation is one of the permissible items allowed in executive session; however, my request is to view the records described above, which I assume are public record.”

Grennell said he is not aware of any annexation-related documents, such as those requested by Benoist, produced under the current city administration.

“There is a gentleman that is going to come to the board to simply talk about annexation in general,” Grennell said. “The board has not authorized any annexation.”

Grennell said the current board has not produced any documents related to potential annexation, and City Attorney Robert Latham said he is not aware of any annexation-related documents produced by the current Mayor and Board of Aldermen.

Benoist noted the city conducted an annexation study under prior mayor Butch Brown’s administration that included residential areas such as Beau Pre, but the plan never came to fruition.

If no new annexation documents exist, Benoist said he would like to see the old annexation documents under his records request.

“If they are correct that there is nothing new, then it confirms my theory that they are dusting off an annexation plan they put together five or six years ago,” Benoist said. “It is my opinion that we will make ourselves more attractive to future business investment if we shrink our local government to a single board and reduce taxes. In my opinion annexation or an attempt to increase the tax base of the city is exactly or precisely the wrong thing to do at this time.”