Hundreds attend Batesville council meeting to oppose Southside annexation

Hundreds attend Batesville council meeting to oppose Southside annexation

BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) - Hundreds of Independence County residents packed a lecture hall at the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville campus Monday night.

The City of Batesville held their city council meeting at UACCB in anticipation of a large crowd to attend to discuss annexing areas of Southside into Batesville.

The proposal states the annexation is necessary for the orderly growth and development of the city but residents in attendance disagreed.

The night was opened with comments from Don Zimmerman, the Executive Director of the Arkansas Municipal League. Zimmerman came to Batesville to discuss annexations that have happened in other cities across Arkansas and explained how populations and industry can grow as a result of annexation.

"I think the City of Batesville has come up with an idea that might make things better for you," Zimmerman said. The remainder of his statement was inaudible, as audience members booed him.

For over two hours, residents directed questions and comments to the Batesville City Council. Both residents who live in the area proposed to be annexed and those who live outside it spoke before the council, voicing their feelings against the annexation.

Most residents were concerned with why they had just learned about the proposed annexation, stating they felt blind sided by the news. Even Independence County Quorum Court member Tim Stewart told the audience that he, nor the quorum court were told about the proposed annexation.

"It would be fiscally irresponsible for me to support this," Stewart said. "Residents already have the services they need provided by the county. It will cost them more to live in the city limits of Batesville."

The annexation proposal states those annexed into the city would immediately receive police and fire protection as well as code enforcement, animal control, sanitation services, specifically trash pickup and street maintenance.

However, Southside residents said the county already does a sufficient job with these services aside from not having animal control. Frank Narramore doesn't live in the affected area, but felt Southside residents were getting the short end of the stick.

"What I see is, you're offering us 2% sales tax, you're offering us a higher millage and you're offering us one service, the dog catcher," Narramore said.

Batesville Mayor Rick Elumbaugh said he began looking at what part of Southside to annex in six months ago. That proposed area would increase the population by 2,400 and become Batesville's fifth ward.

After hours of discussion, the city council voted on the ordinance.

To pass, the ordinance needed a two-thirds vote. Five council members voted for putting the annexation on the November ballot, Chris Poole and Dr. Douglas Matthews voted against putting the issue before voters. Alderman Fred Krug was absent from the meeting, his absence counted as a "no" vote as well.

Under Arkansas law, the mayor can vote when an additional vote is necessary for passage. Mayor Elumbaugh voted for the ordinance, meaning voters will decide on the issue come November.

Brandon Gay represented the group "Keep Southside Free From Annexation." He said they can expect a hard-fought battle from the residents of Southside.

"What you've seen so far is not the fight against this. This is the organization of the fight against this. The fight will begin tonight," Gay said. "We will win this in public opinion, we will win this in the court room and we will win this in the polls if it actually goes to the polls."

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