Concerns about Greenwood’s declining population have raised the issue of annexation as a way to boost the city’s population numbers.

What do members of the City Council have to say?

Ward 1 Councilman Johnny Jennings, a longtime proponent of annexation, again brought up the subject during a council meeting Tuesday. He has also used Facebook as a venue for comments on the topic.

Like other residents and officials, Jennings is dismayed by the city’s continued loss in population.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimated the city’s population to be 13,790, down 14.7% or 2,371 residents since 2010. In that same timeframe, Leflore County’s population fell 10.8% to 28,919.

Jennings would like to see the annexation of Leflore County subdivisions that are located either adjacent to or close to the city limits, such as homes on Robert E. Lee Drive Extended or the Lakeview subdivision.

“In essence, some of those people that live on the fringes of Greenwood, they’re basically still here,” Jennings said, explaining that the city in some cases provides those residents with electricity and water through its public utility company, Greenwood Utilities.

Jennings would like the county to match the city’s building standards so that when new subdivisions right next to the city are built, they already meet the city’s code and would then be easier to annex if the city chooses to do so.

By adding residents through annexation, the city might relieve some of the tax burden of its residents while presenting a stronger image for business prospects.  

Jennings said he plans to bring up  the topic of annexation at the next council meeting on June 18, saying that he will share an Associated Press article about Cleveland, Mississippi, wanting to annex an area of land that mostly is already served by Cleveland’s water system.

For annexation to proceed, a majority of the seven-member City Council must vote to agree to hire an outside firm to conduct a study assessing the feasibility of annexation for Greenwood.

The City Council could then adopt the findings of the study into an ordinance and then file a petition for a hearing in Leflore County Chancery Court.

The council’s president, Ward 3’s Ronnie Stevenson, said, “I’m for growth, and I’m for annexation, but the county and the city need to grow.

“Growth is my first priority and annexation is a priority, but you have to do it right. You grow your region, you grow your county. When you grow your county, you grow your city. If the county’s not growing, the city’s not growing,” he said. “You’re just shuffling numbers if the county’s not growing and you’re adding people in the city.”

Stevenson’s concern expands to the whole Delta, where nearby counties and cities have also seen a drop in numbers.

Stevenson said he’d like the state government to invest in the Delta by helping to create jobs.

“We’re going to need help from the whole state of Mississippi, and I don’t think our governor cares much about the Mississippi Delta.  And it’s sad, him being from the Delta,” Stevenson said of Phil Bryant, who grew up in Moorhead.

For Ward 6’s David Jordan, who’s also a state senator, “annexation is on the back burner as far as I’m concerned.

“I’ll think nothing about it until we fix up this city, period,” Jordan said, explaining infrastructure, public education and low numbers in the city’s police force are more pressing problems.

Jordan focused on education, saying that if parents show they lack confidence in the public schools by enrolling their children in private schools, other parents who move to town will take note.

“If the people here don’t send their children to the public schools, why should another person send their children to the public schools?” Jordan said.

People leave town because of a lack of jobs, he said, and credited Milwaukee Tool for its support by expanding its plant and workforce.

Still, Jordan said more jobs need to be created.

Ward 7’s Carl Palmer had similar thoughts. “As far as annexation is concerned, I don’t think that’s going to solve the problem of decreasing population.

“I think there need to be more economic opportunities. I think we need to improve the infrastructure,” Palmer said, adding more affordable housing as another concern.

Ward 2’s Lisa Cookston said the idea of annexation may be great but added she isn’t sure whether the payoff would work.

“All it’s really is doing is making us look good on paper,” she said.

Cookston likened annexation to “sugar high,” in that it  might  appear and feel good for the city at first, but ultimately it wouldn’t solve the true causes of population decline.

Like other council members, she would like the city to spend money on improving its schools and roads, among other things.

Ward 5’s Andrew Powell declined to comment, explaining that he’d rather hear his fellow council members’ thoughts first.

Ward 4’s Charles McCoy could not be reached for comment Friday.

Contact Gerard Edic at 581-7239 or gedic@gwcommonwealth.com.

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