Southside One Step Closer to Becoming Incorporated

June 21, 2006 - Posted at 5:11 p.m. CST

INDEPENDENCE COUNTY, AR -- They have their own water system, school system, plans for a $7 million dollar sewer project and now an order to place the issue of incorporation on November's ballot. The community of Southside has battled Batesville for months for the right to incorporate.

An April 28th hearing in an Independence County courtroom had both sides arguing their case in front of County Judge Bill Hicks. Last Friday, Hicks made his ruling clearing the way to be put to a vote in November's general election, meaning that a city of over 4700 people, complete with a fully operational government, could take effect overnight.

"There will be five city councilman, a mayor, and a recorder treasurer on that ballot along with the issue to vote yes or no," said Southside Incorporation Chairman Byron Southerland.

For the citizens of the Southside community it's a chance to better separate themselves from Batesville, a city they feel don't properly serve their needs.

"We just feel like if we have control of it with our own city council and our own income streams we can make our own decisions about providing services," said Southerland.

However Batesville isn't ready to let the valuable land to the south go without a fight.

"The city needs to protect its territory to expand and we interpret the law to read you can't come within 5 miles to incorporate a city," said Batesville Mayor Joe Biard.

On the map, Southside is located directly next to Batesville, however the only way to get to Batesville from the Southside is the bridge over the White River. To the residents of the Southside community, Batesville is a whole other world away.

"We kind of have developed a separate area with a separate school system with separate attitudes about how we want to develop," said Southerland.

Despite Judge Hicks ruling, which puts the issue on the ballot, the city of Batesville isn't ready to let the issue drop.

"We plan to appeal unless something happens that says we can't appeal," said Biard.

It's an issue Southside feels confident will stay on November's ballot.

"The Arkansas law has been amended some time ago that parties to the original proceedings are the only ones parties with the privileged to appeal and Batesville was not a party to the hearing on April 28 th," said Southerland.

The city of Southside says that if the registered voters in their community vote for incorporation, it would take 12 to 18 months to get all the income streams and services under the new city's umbrella.