Aldermen will consider moving ahead to the second phase of an annexation study when they meet on Tuesday.
The city received a report on the annexation study’s first phase Friday from consultant Mike Slaughter of Oxford-based firm Slaughter and Associates.
Aldermen approved the annexation study in early October on a 4-2 vote, with Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver and Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins opposing. Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn was absent from that meeting.
Mayor Lynn Spruill, who brought the matter before aldermen, has said the city should consider expanding east to capture businesses such as Starkville Ford and the apartment complexes along Blackjack Road and east of Mississippi State University.
The study will be conducted in two phases, the first of which will cost $6,000 to $8,000, and the second of which will cost $5,000 to $7,000.
In the report, Slaughter identified some potential changes that could come from three identified annexation study areas — one west of town along areas on Highway 12, a small addition on the north side of Starkville to take in all of Collier Road, and a large area that stretches along the east and southeast side of Starkville to bring in Mississippi State and the apartments and businesses nearby.
Most notably, the city’s population could skyrocket if it brings in all of the proposed annexation study areas.
In doing that, Starkville’s population would jump from an estimated 25,100 in 2017 to 38,144 with the combined areas. The number of dwelling units in the city would also rise, from 12,055 in 2017 in the city’s existing territory to 16,646 with the annexed areas.
The city’s land area would balloon from 25.6 square miles now to 43 square miles with the proposed areas — about the same as Columbus and West Point combined.
The three combined areas would generate an estimated additional $1.26 million in ad valorem tax revenue, based on the city’s Fiscal Year 2018 tax levy. Most of that would come from Area 3, which would generate an estimated $1.06 million.
Considering the costs
While Slaughter’s Friday presentation focused on the study areas as they’re currently set, it’s unlikely that the city — if aldermen authorize an annexation — will take in the proposed areas as they currently exist. Already on Friday, Slaughter suggested removing the easternmost portion of Area 3 — the area southeast of the Highway 82-Highway 182 interchange — to protect the city’s fire rating.
With all of the other areas, he said, the city could maintain its current Class 4 fire rating. With that specific portion added in, however, the city would need to build a new fire station.
“Anything east of that line would require a new fire station, nine firefighters or however many you have — you would need two or three on a shift depending on however many you have — as well as a pumper if you don’t already have a pumper,” Slaughter said. “It would have to be a full engine company.”
Slaughter said the city could still maintain its Class 4 rating immediately after a potential annexation with that area included, but it would have to “start the wheels” on a new station.
Slaughter, responding to a question from Ward 3 Alderman David Little about his early recommendations, said he would “strongly” suggest removing the easternmost portion of Area 3. City officials at the work session seemed amenable to the suggestion.
Spruill, speaking to the Dispatch said such considerations are necessary to make the annexation, if it happens, work without putting too much extra financial strain on the city.
“My goal is to make this good for everybody in the sense that we’re not expending an enormous amount of general obligation (bonded debt) funding to make this happen,” she said. “We want to have the population, because that’s important. We want to have some of the additional ad valorem revenue from people who live just on the edge of the city and are enjoying the benefits of living in an urban environment without paying the taxes.”
In the second phase, Slaughter will move ahead with meeting with department heads and further studying the annexation areas to get a better idea of the costs of annexation.
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.
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