CATEGORY: Union County
New Albany begins annexation study
Demographics, population, growth around existing city limits to be examined first
By Jane Hill
NEW ALBANY – City aldermen have hired an Oxford consulting firm to begin an annexation feasibility study of all areas surrounding the existing New Albany city limits.
The study is the city’s first step in determining whether to designate any areas for annexation, said New Albany Mayor Tom Cooper.
New Albany has not done a major annexation since 1907, according to records at the Mississippi secretary of state’s office. Cooper said the city did annex some very small parcels in the late 1970s, but they apparently were not large enough to be carried on the state’s permanent record.
“We’re going to be looking at an even larger area than we have ever looked at before,” Cooper said. “We haven’t even begun to narrow it down to what we might actually do.”
No particular square-mile area or goal for an annexation has been put forward, the city is simply examining the possibilities around the entire city, Cooper said.
Aldermen have voted to hire Mike Bridge and Associates of Oxford to do the feasibility study. Mike Slaughter, a consultant with the firm, said he will first gather demographics data on the areas surrounding the city using county and city records.
The point of the study is to determine what areas around the city are growing or show strong potential for growth. Populations outside the city also will be examined for racial mix, voting age mix, income mix, and other factors that would affect the city.
Factors the city will have to look at will include the cost of building roads and utilities to homes in annexed areas, as well as the costs of providing other services like garbage collection and police and fire protection.
Slaughter said he will meet with Cooper and the aldermen in the coming weeks to begin to narrow the areas to be studied before he begins to develop a 5-year implementation plan of services and facilities. The plan also will outline the cost to the city for the annexation, as well as the benefits in property taxes and sales tax revenues.
Once the study has been narrowed to particular areas, public hearings will be held to find out what residents and non-residents think of the plan, Slaughter said.
Under law, the city must demonstrate it can provide all the services it now provides to city residents to the annexed areas within 5 years.
Rush to annex
New Albany is one of many cities in Northeast Mississippi and throughout the state that have begun looking at their annexing options, Slaughter said.
Other cities in the area that are studying annexation or are already involved in the process include Glen, Okolona, Tupelo, Verona and West Point. Oxford recently completed an annexation of several parcels of property where development is expected or under way.
The major impetus for the strong interest in annexation has been a series of recently proposed bills seeking to allow residents living in proposed annexation areas to vote on whether they want to be brought within city limits.
Though all bills dealing with that question that were introduced into the legislative calendar this year have died in committee, there is a fear that another such bill may pass in the near future, Slaughter said.
Leadership in the Mississippi Municipal Administration this year advised its members to speed annexing plans if they had any because of the threat of legislation that might limit cities’ powers to increase their size.
In the past, a large incentive for people to want to be annexed was a lower fire rating that would get them a significant break on their home fire insurance policies. However, since many cities respond to fire on or near city limits, many insurance agents now write fire insurance policies for the same insurance rating as a city resident, removing any incentive for county residents to be willing to pay city taxes.