LAMAR COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - Lamar County leaders said "nothing's changed" in Hattiesburg's latest annexation proposal.
"As far as annexation from Hattiesburg, it's business as usual," said Phillip Carlisle, Lamar County supervisor. "It has become apparent to me that Lamar County is a revenue stream for the city. I don't see a lot of serving the citizens in Lamar County. I see a lot of extracting money without any representation."
John Adcock, mayor of the potential city of Bellevue, agreed Lamar County citizens give up more than they get in return from Hattiesburg.
"It's a special day when you can get the entire City Council of Hattiesburg and the mayor to all agree on something," Adcock said. "They obviously agree that they want to be in Bellevue. Unfortunately, that feeling is not reciprocated. They have annexed into Lamar County and given nothing back to Lamar County. Just look at the parts of the county that they've already annexed. When a city is determined to come in and just take the commercial sales tax, they have no obligation, without any voters in that, to do anything for the community."
While John Scanlon, the attorney representing Hattiesburg said some residents are included in annexation plans, Carlisle said Hattiesburg's proposal annexes many more businesses than homes.
"It's well over 100 businesses," Carlisle said. "It's probably around 15 to 20 homes is it. You have residents or neighborhoods that can literally walk to Hattiesburg city limits that have no say so in what occurs on those corridors. I was elected by the people. Everybody in Purvis was elected by the people, and that's the people we serve. We live among our citizens. What it means to me is, again, not having any say so in any of the development on those corridors, which, in a lot of cases, are steps from their front doors."
Adcock said, "They don't want any accountability for what they do out here quite frankly. They want to continue to take the sales tax, take it downtown and spend it downtown. They have no intention of reinvesting any of that sales tax right here."
Carlisle said the services provided now by Hattiesburg to the annexed portion of Lamar County are sub par, and he does not expect that to change.
"You talk about a lot of services that you get," Carlisle said. "You talk about response times for accidents and things like that, they're unacceptable. The few roads in Lamar County that they (Hattiesburg) has already taken that aren't MDOT controlled are in pretty deplorable conditions. All you have to to do is go look at them. The only thing that I see a lot of in annexed Lamar County is citations, and that's not Carlisle saying that I want people to get away with breaking the law. I'm just saying that it seems like that too has become a revenue source with them, but we don't get the services."
Adcock said, "Somebody better warn Columbia quite frankly. They're just determined to keep going down Highway 98 and taking commercial (corridors). I think it's time for Columbia to start getting nervous."
Adcock said he has seen a resurgence of county residents signing the Bellevue incorporation petition as a means to prevent Hattiesburg annexation.
"We need 2,000 signatures," he said. "Without those 2,000 signatures, there's very little that we (residents in the Bellevue community) can do to prevent the annexation attempt. Once we get 2,000 signatures, there's really very little that Hattiesburg can do to stop the incorporation of Bellevue. We are half way there."
Carlisle said the Lamar County Board of Supervisors is working with an attorney on the county's official next step.
Adcock said Bellevue residents will push back against Hattiesburg's annexation attempt.
"If the city of Hattiesburg is looking for a fight, they've come to the right place," he said.