The City of Hattiesburg is looking to expand its city limits along Highway 98 and Highway 49.
"One of them takes in a lot of the commercial corridor along Highway 98 West," said John Scanlon, the attorney representing Hattiesburg in its annexation litigation. "Another takes in the Windlass Drive neighborhood. Then thirdly, there is a portion of Highway 49 North, which is being taken in by this ordinance."
The Hattiesburg City Council passed an ordinance 4-0 at its meeting Tuesday to annex land in both Forrest and Lamar Counties.
Here are the maps of the city's proposed annexations:
"There's a little of both," Scanlon said. "There's census blocks that are affected in the sense that they have more than 50 percent of the people and census blocks that are affected that have 50 percent or fewer. Those people that would be taken in by Hattiesburg, would then be city of Hattiesburg residents, which of course would mean they would be provided, where economically feasible and within reasonable time, all the municipal services that the current residents of Hattiesburg receive and at the same level of service that the current citizens of Hattiesburg receive."
Scanlon said the next step for the city is to file the petition in chancery court.
"Basically present proof at a hearing or a trial to determine whether or not it's reasonable for Hattiesburg to expand its boundaries to include these areas," Scanlon said.
Kim Bradley, Hattiesburg City Council president, said, "The attorneys will move forward with the work they need to do to make this come to fruition."
Scanlon said, "The city has directed us to file actually in both counties. So we're going to file a petition in Forrest County, and we're also going to file a petition in Lamar County. Then later, we're going to seek to get the two consolidated. That way we can be absolutely certain that we're following the letter of the law, and we're not filing in one county when technically we should have filed in another county because the territory proposed to be included is in the other."
Scanlon said the petition could be ready to be filed "within the coming days" or weeks.
"The petition has to include an adopted ordinance by the city council and a map of the total area as it would look if the whole annexation were granted," Scanlon said. "The engineers for the City of Hattiesburg have already prepared those maps. obviously the ordinance has been drafted and adopted officially. Technically speaking, we could petition the courts immediately."
Scanlon said the filing process can be lengthy if an annexation petition is opposed.
"We don't know if this one will be opposed or not, but we anticipate that it probably will," he said. "Annexations that are opposed, the hearing date initially is just for everybody to come, enter their appearance as of record, and then set out calendar dates later on. That would no necessarily be the day that you present all your evidence to the court. You would set a trial date later in the year, maybe next year or some moths down that road, which allows for a period of discovery, depositions to be taken, evidence to be gathered by both sides. Then at the trial date, that's when Hattiesburg would present its proof that it's reasonable for the annexation to be adopted in whole by the chancery court, and of course the opponents would try to prove otherwise."