Tupelo mayor testifies in court

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Mayor Jack Reed Jr. took the stand Wednesday in the city’s annexation trial to affirm, and sometimes argue, his support of the proposed expansion.
Reed testified numerous times his belief that Tupelo must grow to survive and that it can easily afford the roughly $25 million annexation.
His testimony followed that of city Public Works Director Sid Russell, who described his plans for road and ditch maintenance in the newly annexed areas.
Both witnesses endured more than an hour of questions from city attorneys before facing interrogation from opponents’ attorneys. One sought to build a case for annexation, the other tried to squash it.
Tupelo’s plan to take in 16.15 square miles of unincorporated land is opposed by Lee County and the cities of Plantersville and Saltillo – all of which are represented by lawyers in the courtroom.
Trial began March 29 at Lee County Chancery Court and is expected to go into June.
Dressed casually in slacks and a crisp, white shirt, Russell told the court his department would provide the annexed areas the same level of service it does the existing city. Residents would get road maintenance, street sweeping, brush removal, mosquito spraying and drainage work.
Opponents’ attorneys argued Russell’s department bungled its projected staffing and financial requirements in the annexation plan. They said Tupelo would need more money and more employees to handle the new areas. Russell disagreed.
Reed’s testimony followed a similar pattern. Dressed in a suit and tie, he said Tupelo has the need and the resources to handle annexation. Opponents’ attorneys suggested otherwise, but Reed refused to back down.
“Based on my own investigation as a businessman for 30 years, an attorney for 30 years, and a mayor for eight months,” Reed told the press afterward, “I have no doubt the city can afford annexation.”
Reed is expected to take the stand again when trial resumes at 9:30 a.m.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.