A Greenwood official is pushing annexation to help stabilize the city’s declining population numbers.
“My mission and my momentum are to get a plan in place that makes it easier to annex,” City Councilman Johnny Jennings said.
He would like Leflore County’s code of standards for residences, commercial buildings, streets and water and sewage lines to be on par with Greenwood’s code of standards.
The city uses the International Code Council’s 2012 International Building Code as a guideline for buildings, said Victor Stokes, the city’s community code development director. Stokes also is the building code inspector for the county.
Jennings lamented that housing subdivisions located outside the city but rely on the city for water and sewage treatment and electricity don’t follow city code.
Greenwood Utilities, the city’s public utility provider for electricity and water, supplies a number of households within the county, said Tony Sinclair, the CEO.
In April, the city-owned utility company served 7,168 water accounts, including 781 — or almost 11% of the total — in the county, Sinclair said.
The company provided electricity to 9,259 accounts in April, with 1,691 — or a little more than 18% — in the county.
Delta Electric Power Association and Entergy also supply county residents with electricity.
Jennings is dismayed by the latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, which reported earlier this month that Greenwood’s population has continued to decline. The head counters estimated the city’s population in 2018 to be 13,790, down 14.7 percent since 2010.
During the same time, Leflore County’s population fell 10.8 percent to 28,919.
To combat the image of a declining Delta town, Jennings sees annexation of various subdivisions in the county, such as areas on Robert E. Lee Drive Extended or the Lakeview subdivision, located across from the Golden Age Nursing home, as the key to rejuvenation.
“People look for communities that are growing,” he said.
By annexing those areas, Greenwood can appear to look as if it’s growing, if only online, the Ward 1 councilman said.
“Business decisions are made on population growth — population numbers and population growth,” Jennings said, explaining that investors may be thwarted from investing in Greenwood if they see numbers revealing the city’s continued decline.
The major stumbling block with annexing subdivisions, however, is that they don’t match the city’s code, meaning that the city would have to spend money to bring these areas up to its standards, he said.
“If we’re going to sell them water and handle their waste, then we need to make sure they meet our code,” he said.
That’s why he thinks it should be mandated that future development meet the city code. Jennings said he plans to reach out to other city and county officials to find a way to change the county’s code.
“I just hope we will have a unified code,” Jennings said.
Annexation, however, doesn’t happen at the snap of a finger. A feasibility study conducted by an outside firm would need to be done to determine what areas of the county the city could afford to annex, Jennings said.
The City Council would then resolve to move forward with a proposal and file a petition for a hearing in Leflore County Chancery Court.
Mayor Carolyn McAdams also sees some benefits in annexation while exhibiting some caution.
“I don’t disagree with annexation. It just needs to be properly and carefully done,” the mayor said.
There is the “need to make sure your expenses don’t overtake the revenue from what you’re going to annex,” McAdams said. “That’s why you hire a firm to do all that research, so you know that this is the best thing financially for the city to annex.”
Even then, McAdams noted that annexation would not be the ultimate cure from preventing population decline, explaining that no new numbers are really added since the city is just taking in residents from the county.
Instead, McAdams said, she would like the city to take in empty land that could be developed for new businesses and up-to-date housing.
• Contact Gerard Edic at 581-7239 or email@example.com.