By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Mayor Jack Reed Jr. said Friday he’s optimistic the city soon can move ahead with services to nearly 2,500 new residents.
Thursday, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled 8-0 that legal objections were unfounded to Tupelo’s 2010 annexation plan.
The objectors – Lee County, Saltillo, Plantersville and several fire protection districts – have 14 days from the ruling to ask for a new hearing, but a majority of the state’s highest court must agree to grant it.
Gary Carnathan, the county board’s attorney, said Friday he expects the supervisors to announce Monday whether they will appeal.
Thursday, after the court’s decision, Supervisors President Phil Morgan sounded like the fight was over.
“The court spoke,” he said. “We just have to face the consequences.”
At a Friday news conference in City Hall, Reed hailed the court’s decision as “a long journey started long before this administration has almost ended.”
When the annexation takes effect, the residents of nearly 16 square miles brought into Lee County’s seat will immediately receive increased police and fire protection, land use protection, twice-a-week garbage pickup and recycling opportunities.
“If we get a call that they are not going to appeal,” Reed said, “we will start the wheels rolling faster.”
He said the City Council and city departments have been working on the annexation-area service roll-outs since special Chancellor Edward Prisock approved the plans in 2010.
“We are ready,” Reed said.
He also issued a public welcome to the city’s new residents and said he hopes they will see that becoming Tupelo residents “has value in exchange for their taxes.”
With the new residents, Tupelo’s population will be about 37,000.
Reed also said he believes it’s important for Lee County to have a strong county seat.
“You can’t have a rotten core and have a healthy apple,” he said. The new growth “gives us the muscle for efforts we want to continue.”
Among the issues left unresolved is a new city ward scheme, with the current seven wards expanding for municipal voting in 2013.
Reed also said new residents will not face paying any city property taxes until 2014 as “a grace welcome.”
Reed referred to the years-long process as “too expensive a journey,” and he urged everyone to put the differences “in the rear-view mirror” and “look forward to working together.”
Council President Fred Pitts and Councilwoman Nettie Davis also said they are happy the process is behind them.
“I look forward to serving the new citizens of Tupelo,” Pitts noted.
Davis termed the court’s decision “a milestone” in the life of Tupelo residents.