DeSoto County supervisors this week met for the first time in 2019 with a change of leadership for the new year and a lengthy discussion about a proposed annexation from one of its cities.
District 4 Supervisor Lee Caldwell was named the Board President for the coming year, replacing District 2 Supervisor Mark Gardner. District 1 Supervisor Jesse Medlin will become the board’s Vice President during the 2019 year.
With those formalities out of the way, supervisors went headlong into a busy day of deliberations that included a lengthy discussion of the efforts by the City of Olive Branch to annex adjoining land in the Center Hill, Lewisburg, Pleasant Hill, Bridgetown and Cedar View areas of the county.
Last November, Olive Branch began the process to annex about 50 square miles into the city limits. With the annexation, Olive Branch's population would grow by about 14,000 residents and would add about 5,000 homes.
The city’s contention, as described by city officials when the plan was proposed in November, is that the city has spent millions of dollars adding utilities in the past two decades and their ability to offer services has helped those areas gain attractiveness to growth.
“This is something we’ve been working on for 20 years and it is about to come to fruition,” Mayor Scott Phillips said at the time.
There were few in the city’s corner at Monday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, however, including the five members of the board, who all had concerns about the city’s proposed move.
Areas affected by the proposed annexation move include parts of districts represented by Supervisors Michael Lee, Jesse Medlin and Mark Gardner.
Lee said he understands annexation if there is a need, but had difficulty seeing the proposed action as a needed one.
Medlin followed by stating his belief that legislators should step in and update laws about annexation in Mississippi.
Medlin felt the unincorporated areas are being served well by county law enforcement, a sewer system owned by the county and sound zoning ordinances. He felt the issue should be put up to a referendum of both city residents and those in the affected areas.
Another concern voiced by Supervisor Lee Caldwell was that city residents may be under a hardship if the annexation goes through because city resources would be stretched.
That brought up the point from Sheriff Bill Rasco that all of DeSoto County’s law enforcement agencies are short staffed. It was his belief that if Olive Branch annexes the proposed land, the police department would need to hire about 35 additional officers to cover the area and that could take up to two years to reach that level.
Board Attorney Tony Nowak said the County has voted to file an objection with the Olive Branch annexation plan and he would be representing the board in that objection, which was ready to file.
Nowak added the Board is limited in respect to representing Homeowners’ Associations, or HOA’s. Any HOA that hires an attorney could work with Nowak in presenting their side of the issue as well as other attorneys who are hired to fight the plan.
Among the objectors who spoke at Monday’s meeting, Mark Dickey, who lives on Bakersfield Drive in Nesbit, said he believes Olive Branch will gain more financially and the residents would lose more if the annexation goes through. Dickey praised the Sheriff’s Department responses when called and noted the work of fire departments in Bridgetown, Lewisburg and other services in the county.
Another resident, Tim Curtis, who lives in the Grassy Pond subdivision, believed the entire county will be affected by the proposed annexation. Curtis observed his gas pressure drops when temperatures reach the mid 20s and they are served the City of Olive Branch.
After hearing from residents and the long discussion, supervisors unanimously voted to authorize Nowak and the legal firm he represents to file a Board Order in objection to the proposed annexation.
The board also approved on a 5-0 vote a resolution allowing Nowak to work with legislators to propose legislation and possibly a referendum for future annexation attempts.
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.