CATEGORY: Pontotoc County
HED: Pontotoc annexation advances
By Errol Castens
PONTOTOC – The Pontotoc Board of Aldermen voted 5-0 last week to go forward with the city’s annexation plans.
In a process that began a year ago, Pontotoc commissioned a study to consider costs, liabilities and advantages of annexing various areas near the present limits. After public input, officials trimmed an ambitious study area that would have doubled the city’s geographic size and added more than 1,000 new residents. A more modest current plan will still bring into the city the most significant commercial and industrial growth areas.
The original proposal would have taken in a large portion of land with scattered residential areas from the west along State Highway 6 to four-lane State Highway 76 and across to State Highway 9.
Many agricultural landowners objected to having their land included in the city. Some voiced concern over the specter of future tax levies. Although profits from Pontotoc’s countywide natural gas franchise currently take the place of ad valorem taxes, officials have acknowledged that property taxes may need to be considered eventually. Other landowners were worried that zoning regulations and ordinances against discharging firearms inside city limits would infringe on current uses of the rural lands.
First of several steps
The present annexation proposal includes the fast-developing area along Mississippi Highway 15 North as well as a municipal athletic complex and an industrial plant that are currently surrounded by the south part of town.
Even now, the plan is still undergoing minor revisions.
“We’re redrawing the lines a little,” said Mayor Bill Rutledge of the working plan. “The landowners wanted to have all of their property included and not have part in the city and part out.”
While the original proposal area may have been out of reach, officials view this step as one of several in extending Pontotoc’s boundaries over the next several years.
“They confined it to an area that wouldn’t hurt us on fire protection,” Rutledge said. “This would allow us to grow the city in stages and be able to afford to build the infrastructure.”
After a 30-day public comment period, the proposal will next face a routine review in Pontotoc County Chancery Court. Because annexations often affect the racial composition of towns, the plan is also subject to a review by the United States Justice Department. Very few residences are involved in this initial stage, however, and Rutledge said he anticipates no major hurdles.
“If everything goes well,” he emphasized, “in 60 to 90 days it should be a done deal.”