By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – A decision on Tupelo’s annexation case still could be months away, but the Mississippi Supreme Court this week took a big step toward that goal.
The court set an April 10 date to hear oral arguments from attorneys on both sides of the appeal. It begins at 1:30 p.m. in the Supreme Court building in Jackson and can be viewed live over the Internet.
Witnesses will not testify, and judges will have several months after the hearing to review the case and render a decision.
Lee County, Saltillo and several fire-protection districts appealed a chancellor’s 2010 decision granting Tupelo 16 square miles of unincorporated land. Their actions stopped the 30-day countdown that would have made annexation official and allowed the city to extend its boundaries and services to some 2,500 residents.
The case was fought out in Lee County Chancery Court over a series of weeks in early 2010. Specially appointed Chancellor Edward C. Prisock ultimately ruled in Tupelo’s favor, issuing his decision in late November of that year.
Opponents appealed to the state Supreme Court one month later based largely on four factors where they claimed the judge erred: the court’s jurisdiction to hear the case; the credibility of the city’s expert witness; the potential for double-taxation to annexed residents for fire protection; and the legitimacy of the city’s services-and-facilities plan, which it would implement if annexation is successful.
It will cost Tupelo about $25 million over the next five years to fully implement services and facilities to the newly annexed areas.
Costs include hiring five new public works employees, four new police officers, three new firefighters, one new building inspector and extending water, sewer, street lights and other services to the new areas.
If the higher court upholds Prisock’s ruling, the city will be able to annex 30 days after its decision.