As Tupelo’s city attorney, Guy Mitchell III was one of the principal architects of the municipality’s sweeping plans to annex more than 15 square miles of surrounding land. Annexation opponents fought the move in Lee County Chancery Court during a weeks-long trial this spring and were handed a defeat by Judge Edward C. Prisock, who last week ruled in favor of the city. Mitchell recently answered the Daily Journal’s questions about the annexation.
Q: In his 25-page decision, the judge chose wording that strongly supported Tupelo’s case for annexation. Is it rare for decisions to be so conclusive, and what does that mean for the opponents’ chance of an appeal?
A: Judge Prisock clearly felt that Tupelo presented a strong case supporting the annexation. It is not unusual for the court to write a conclusive opinion when the judge believes that the evidence supports such an opinion. It will be very difficult to overturn such an opinion on appeal.
Q: Some annexation opponents say this is just a way for Tupelo to gain more tax revenues, a notion you’d argued against in court. Why, then, did the city want to annex land?
A: Tupelo’s annexation has never been about additional taxes. It has always been about providing additional opportunity for both commercial and residential development within the city limits. Judge Prisock agreed with Tupelo’s position in his opinion finding that additional taxes were not a factor in this annexation.
Q: When the judge’s annexation order becomes official, do residents in the annexation areas automatically become Tupelo residents? Do they start paying city taxes and getting city benefits immediately? How will that work?
A: Once the judge’s opinion becomes final, the annexed areas and Tupelo’s new citizens will immediately receive many city services, including increased police and fire protection, land use protection, twice-a-week garbage pick up and recycling opportunities.
Other services like street lights, improved streets and sewer service to the areas that don’t have those services will take longer to implement. In addition, the new citizens will be eligible to vote in city elections as soon as the decision is final. City taxes will be assessed by the county tax assessor for the fiscal year beginning after annexation.
(More about the annexation, Page 1A).
NEMS Daily Journal