Residents on septic tanks talk Tupelo annexation

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Among the city’s roughly 15,000 households exist some two dozen whose toilets flush not into the municipal sewage system, but into individual septic tanks.
Originally built outside the corporate limits, these homes entered Tupelo after its 1989 annexation swallowed hundreds of new residents.
All but a few were connected to the city’s vast sewage system, which pumps and treats waste water at a large facility off International Drive.
More than 20 years later, many of those left out say they still want city sewer but have given up hope. Some even express bitterness at Tupelo’s new annexation attempt and its promise to bring municipal sewer to those areas.
“I don’t have sewage, I can’t get on natural gas, plus I pay taxes every year,” said Sylvester Thomas, a Green Tee Road resident who objected to Tupelo’s annexation bid during its trial last month in Lee County Chancery Court.
“I’m really just dissatisfied with Tupelo.” Thomas said. “The taxes I pay for the service I get, I don’t get any service.”
On the advice of the city attorney, Tupelo Water & Light Manager Johnny Timmons declined to be interviewed by the Daily Journal about the complaints. Timmons is an expert witness in the trial and won’t comment on annexation issues until court proceedings conclude.
The trial began March 29 and is expected to last into June. It’s currently on a hiatus until May 24.
Tupelo wants to annex 16.15 square miles of incorporated land from six areas ringing its current borders. The move is opposed by residents, Lee County and the cities of Plantersville and Saltillo.
Jean Wade is among the opponents, although she hasn’t testified against it in court. Wade and her husband, Max, were annexed by Tupelo two decades ago and still lack municipal sewage service.
“They said they’d have it in 10 years, but we don’t want it,” Wade said. “We’re fine with our septic tank.”
Wade said she needs nothing from the city and still bristles at having been annexed all those years ago.
“All we’ve got from it was $973 in taxes,” she said. “We’re paying for city services that we don’t need.”
Property tax records show the Wades pay $254 in county taxes, $237 in city taxes and $478 in city school taxes.
She said the roughly 2,800 residents now targeted for annexation have nothing to gain, which is why she opposes Tupelo’s growth.
Not so for Thomas Woods. He and his wife recently bought their home, which is on a septic tank, and he supports the current annexation attempt. He also wants municipal sewer services.
“I’d like to see Tupelo get bigger and better,” Woods said. “As long as it doesn’t overextend itself.”
Woods and another neighbor, Ruby Martin, said their septic tanks work fine but sometimes emit foul odors. Both dream of the day Tupelo will connect them to the city system.
But it’s not likely to happen soon. Although Timmons didn’t talk to the Daily Journal, he testified in court that it’s economically unfeasible to run sewer lines to the homes along Green Tee Road – where Wade, Martin, Woods and Thomas live.
The rolling hills of that area would require several pumping stations and near-constant maintenance. It would be a major investment that would benefit only a few, Timmons said.
Other homes without sewer are located in a small section of north Tupelo. The city could extend services to them, said Cook Coggin engineer Brett Brooks during his court testimony, but those residents have refused.

Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.