By NEMS Daily Journal
At last, it’s over – the first round, at least. Tupelo’s annexation trial ended on Monday after its 22nd day in Lee County Chancery Court.
The lawyers and special Chancellor Edward Prisock took a tour of the areas proposed for annexation after the court arguments came to a close.
It hasn’t been cheap. As of the end of last week, the tally just since the trial proceedings began March 29 – with a break in late April and early May – was over $135,000 in fees for lawyers representing Tupelo and its annexation opponents, Lee County and the municipalities of Saltillo and Plantersville.
That’s after more than $800,000 in the two years leading up to the trial and more than $1 million in an earlier annexation attempt dating back to 2004. So in six years, the annexation battle has cost taxpayers almost $2 million.
It would have been a small portion of that had Lee County and then later the two other municipalities not opposed Tupelo’s efforts and some sort of agreement had been reached.
Cities must have room to grow and expand their tax base, and to continue the economic improvement efforts that benefit people both within the city and nearby. Tupelo’s reasonable annexation proposal would move the municipal borders slightly outward around the edges of town, bringing a total of 16.15 square miles into the city.
The people in those areas would see their taxes rise, but they are sitting in the city’s natural path of growth and in many cases have benefited as much from city services and amenities as current city taxpayers have.
It was unfortunate that the case had to go to a contested trial. A compromise settlement would have been achievable were it not for the political volatility of the issue, and it certainly would have been preferable from every perspective, not just the financial.
But the money stings, especially for residents of Tupelo who have been financing both sides as they fight each other.
It’s anticipated that the fight will continue, no matter what Judge Prisock decides. An unfavorable verdict for either side is likely to prompt an appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court.
We hope between now and Judge Prisock’s ruling more reasonable thinking can prevail. Neither side should require an all-or-nothing decision. Neither should appeal if it gets at least some of what it has argued for or against.
The cost of this lengthy battle is already well beyond the reasonable, and the spectacle of overlapping governments fighting each other ought to end.