SOUTHSIDE, AR (KAIT) - A county judge has ruled in favor of a community seeking to become its own incorporated city within the county. Independence County Judge, Robert Griffin, signed the petition for Southside to incorporate its community as a city.
Many in the courtroom were pleased with the outcome. During court proceedings the city of Batesville did ask Judge Griffin to recuse himself based on possible bias. Judge Griffin denied the request.
Judge Griffin heard from legal representation for Southside and Batesville. Southside argued it is their right to form their own governing body and protect their property from Batesville's control. Batesville submitted affidavits stating Southside made many errors on the proposed Southside city limits map. Affidavits were also filed explaining Batesville felt the signatures and petitions were acquired unlawfully.
After hearing from both parties, the judge did rule in favor of Southside's petition. Co-chair of the Keep Southside Free from Annexation movement, Brandon Gay, said he is pleased with the outcome. "I believe the decision is right. I believe the law is on our side, and we are very excited. Today, Southside, for the first time, has legal standing as a corporate body," Gay said.
However, the fight is not over yet. Gay explained, "There's still this 30 day window for grievances to be filed, and a court would have the ability to overturn that."
Batesville mayor, Rick Elumbaugh, confirmed the city will file an appeal to the ruling. He said the city of Batesville is looking to be progressive and wants to bring positive change with this proposed annexation.
Gay's Co-Chair, John Casey, said he wishes the fight could stop after today's ruling. "The city has singularly caused this madness within our community, and they can singularly stop it at this point."
No matter what happens next, the Free from Annexation movement believes they will still come out on top. Gay said, "We believe that the law is on our side, and we have many legal arguments toward that."
Gay also explained he is proud of the community of Southside for how they have come together for this cause. "As a matter of fact, I don't know if I've ever seen the community ever come together on an issue the way they have on this," Gay stated.
Because ballots have already been made, the vote for annexing Southside into Batesville will still be on the November 4th ballot.
It is unclear whether or not the results of the vote will be counted or released to the public. All parties involved agreed this issue is far from over.