BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) - Voters may have the chance to decide if parts of Southside and Desha become the fifth ward of Batesville, pending the city council's approval to put it on the November ballot.
Batesville Fire Chief Brent Gleghorn said the city's population has remained stagnant for several years and city leaders want to change that. The annexation proposal would add 2,400 people to the city, increasing the population to about 13,000 residents.
"There's not much room for growth in Batesville so we're trying to expand the city's boundaries," Gleghorn said. "Anything the city takes in the city will be responsible for and they'll start working on it as soon as they can."
Chief Gleghorn said if the proposed area is annexed into Batesville, water, addresses, the 911 system and school district lines will not change.
"The only effect that it might have on the school district would be a savings in insurance from the fire insurance side of it," Gleghorn said.
That is one of the few things that could change: ISO ratings. Southside and Desha residents who live inside these proposed boundaries could see a much lower ISO rating, depending on who their insurance provider is.
Gleghorn said residents should contact their insurance companies to see what their current fire rating is and if the annexation passes, how the rating will change and how much money it will save them.
"That's a huge savings financially for the citizens and its incentive for more industry to come to that area of the county," Gleghorn said.
He said property taxes could also go up between $80 and $110 a year. If residents want to know exactly how much it will affect their property taxes, Gleghorn said to contact the courthouse.
The proposed annexation would also create two additional city council seats that would specifically represent that area. If the new ward is approved in November, two new alderman would be appointed some time before February.
"That would make ten city council members to make decisions for the whole city," Gleghorn said.
Since the city council announced the possible annexation at its regular meeting last week, Gleghorn said residents are already fired up for and against the proposal.
"Some residents are tickled to death to be in," Gleghorn said. "They want animal control. We've heard people say, 'We want lower fire insurance ratings, we want better police protection.' But obviously not everyone is happy. Some like to live in the country. There's people who like to go out their back door and shoot their guns and there is an ordinance about firing weapons in the city. They like to let their dogs run loose and there is a leash law in the city."
Concerned Southside residents have formed a Facebook group, Keep Southside Free from Annexation, to rally those in opposition of the annexation. The group received more than 500 likes in less than 24 hours.
Whether residents are for or against the annexation, they will have the opportunity to vote in November if the city council votes to put it on the ballot.
"This is a very, very big political year," Gleghorn said. "I can't think of a better time to make the offer to these citizens to come into the city."
To find out if your property is within the proposed boundary lines, contact Batesville City Hall at 870-698-2400.
If your property is not included, you can petition yours to be annexed.
To view the full proposed 2014 annexation map, visit the City of Batesville's website.