Petal awaits judge’s ruling in annexation

By HASKEL BURNS,

With Petal’s annexation trial finishing out this week in Forrest County Chancery Court, residents and officials will now wait on a judge’s decision whether annexation will be allowed for five areas east of the Leaf River to expand the city’s borders.

Specially-appointed Judge Robert Lancaster of Columbus, who is a retired chancery court judge, has heard from both sides of the matter and is expected to make a ruling some time in the future, although a specific date for that is not set.

“I think it’s going well,” Petal Mayor Hal Marx said. “I’ve given my testimony, and all of our department heads have testified, and our financial advisor has testified. 

“Our city engineer has testified, and we’ve also had two residents who live in the proposed annexation area who testified that they’re in favor of being included in the city. So I think, from what I observed in court and the feedback that I’ve received from our attorney, that things are going well.”

On Monday, Lancaster heard testimony from Debra Waites, who owns Bonanza Fireworks on Ponderosa Drive in Petal and is opposed to annexation As part as one of the proposed annexation areas, Bonanza Fireworks would be taken into the city if annexation is allowed to proceed.

Waites talked about how several businesses have moved out of downtown Petal and onto the Evelyn Gandy Parkway since the city’s last annexation in 2003, including Domino’s, Pizza Hut and McDonald’s.

“I was over by (Petal) Middle School, and all those (vacated) businesses are there,” she said. “All those buildings are empty. There are a great many empty spots downtown.”

The five proposed areas included in the annexation plan are:

• An area just east of the Leaf River extending up U.S. 11 toward Eastabuchie;

• A home on the north end of Russett Lane that was not included in previous annexation efforts; 

• An area starting near Reese Creek that heads east along Mississippi 42 in the direction of Runnelstown and stopping at the Perry County border;

• An area east of Sunrise Road in the County Park Drive area; and

• An area east of Corinth Road that would include much of Sunrise, including Forrest Barnes Road and Sunrise Trading Post.

If annexation is successful, the city would take in approximately 138 residences.

Ward 2 Councilman Steve Stringer said it could be some time before Lancaster comes to a decision on the matter.

“Once they get all the testimony,” the judge will sit on it for a while and then make a ruling on it,” he said in an earlier story. “Honestly, it’s not a quick process.”