Signatures verified, Southside as a city could preempt annexation vote

Signatures verified, Southside as a city could preempt annexation vote

SOUTHSIDE, AR (KAIT) - There's a chance Batesville will not be able to annex Southside into their city limits if their petition for incorporation is approved by the county judge before the November 4 election.

Though the first step has been made by Southside to keep from being annexed into Batesville, there is still a lot of work to do.

Tuesday night, Southside residents met to discuss the latest on their petition for incorporation as Keep Southside Free From Annexation learned Tuesday afternoon that they do have enough signatures in their petition to move forward.

The petition for incorporation would make Southside a town in Arkansas.

"Our petition is incredibly strong and legal," Brandon Gay said Tuesday night.

The chairman of Keep Southside Free From Annexation addressed a large group of Southside residents at Allen Chapel Church.

Gay explained that less than a month after the Batesville City Council voted to bring the annexation issue before voters, they worked to make sure it never gets to that point.

The group recently began collecting signatures for that petition for incorporation that was filed Monday afternoon.

Gay broke down the numbers of names they received in their time collecting signatures.

"There turned out, when the dust settled, to be a total of 1,348 registered voters," Gay said. "Approximately 450 of them don't live here anymore or weren't registered properly. So what that means is we had 450 that we couldn't get no matter what."

Gay said that brought the number of possible signatures down to 898.

"Out of the 898, there were about 60 that are students and truck drivers that we literally could not get to because they weren't in town at all," Gay said. "That takes us down to 838. 768 people were certified as signing this by the county clerk. That means, we had 91.6% of the people. That's the consensus of the community."

Gay said he could see how passionate Southside residents felt during the time they were gathering signatures.

"There were 200 people who registered to vote while we were doing the petition," Gay said.

Gay said though things will be calmer over the next 30 days, they'll find out on October 24 if they become Arkansas' newest city.

On October 24, County Judge Robert Griffin will hold a hearing to determine the legality of the petition.

"As soon as the judge puts his signature on it, something really neat happens...we become a town," Gay said, garnering a round of applause from the audience. "We would be known as Southside, Arkansas."

Gay further explained that if their petition for incorporation is found to be legal and Judge Griffin signs it, it would preempt any election regarding the Southside annexation on November 4.

"If the judge finds in our favor and he attaches his signature, it's all sent over to the Secretary of State in Arkansas to re-certify it," Gay said.

Gay said in the 30 days following an approval on their petition for incorporation, anyone can file legal opposition to it. However, Gay said the group's legal counsel, Marty Bowen feels their petition is very strong.

"He assures us that we have every reasonable thought that we should win this and that it would not be able to go very far in any legal battle," Gay said.

For Batesville turned Southside resident Sheri Cavaness, this is the best possible move for the community.

"That's the only way that we're really going to stop the Batesville push to control Southside," Cavaness said. "Southside has done a great job in building its area up. We want to be able to call it Southside and not just be an extension of Batesville because Southside people have done the work."

The hearing for Southside's petition for incorporation will be held October 24 at 9am by County Judge Robert Griffin.

Region 8 News will continue to track this story and let you know what happens.

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