The Pendorff annexation trial continued in Jones County Chancery Court on Friday, with Laurel officials testifying that they are prepared to handle services in the area along Highway 11, between Laurel and Ellisville.
Mayor Johnny Magee, City Clerk Mary Ann Hess, Randy Dias of Suez Water, City Engineer Lorenzo Anderson, Police Chief Tyrone Stewart, Fire Chief Mark Nichols and Parks and Recreation Direc- tor Elvin Ulmer were among those to testify that the city could provide services to the proposed annexation area.
Testimony is expected to continue through early this week, and it’s not known how soon specially appointed judge James Bell will make a decision.
Engineer Duncan Welch of the state Department of Health testified that there are “septic-tank issues,” some of which present health hazards, that would be cleared up if they are put on city sewer service. The city already provides water to the area. New, larger lines and 75 fire hydrants would be added with the proposal.
The City of Laurel would have five years to get a new $16.5 million water and sewer system up and running in the annexed area, according to the plan. The funds to pay for that would be paid by the new users and an estimated influx of almost $1 million in new tax revenue. City officials estimate that the annexed area would produce an extra $700,000 in sales-tax revenue and $250,000 in ad valorem taxes.
The only other large, recurring expense would be the addition of four new police officers, which would amount to $178,000 per year, according to the plan.
Approximately 700 residents live in the area, but they will not have to pay city school tax and can continue sending their children to county schools.
Laurel officials have described the proposed expansion of the city limits as an “in- dustrial annexation” because it includes several large, lucrative businesses along Ellisville Boulevard south Interstate 59.
Pendorff residents will get city water and sewer service, as well as police and fire protection. The latter will mean “significant savings” in insurance premiums because of the city’s better fire rating, Magee said.
Some business owners and residents have argued that those savings won’t offset the increase in property taxes they’re going to pay. The most vocal critic has been Ed Allegretti, who is president of the Pendorff Community Association.
“I can assure you that the vast majority of the residents of Pendorff do not wish to be annexed by the city,” Allegretti has written. He is the only member representing the Pendorff Community Association.
Laurel City Attorney D.D. Bassi and Chad Mask of the Jackson-based law firm Car- roll, Warren and Parker are representing the City of Laurel in the matter. Christopher Howdeshell of the Pittman Law Firm in Hattiesburg and Ellisville City Attorney Freida Gunn are representing the City of Ellisville and Pendorff residents.
In 1997 the city attempted to annex Shady Grove and Pendorff. Shady Grove residents fought and blocked the annexation but the court allowed the city to take Pendorff. But at that time, city officials decided not to take Pendorff without Shady Grove. The most recent annexation process for Pendorff started four years ago.