CATEGORY: Calhoun County
HED: Calhoun City, Derma mayors discuss annexation
By LaRaye Brown
CALHOUN CITY - Two Calhoun County mayors attempted to resolve their towns' annexation dispute in an informal meeting last week.
Calhoun City Mayor Chodie Myers and Derma Mayor Dock Gabbort discussed the annexation of the 3/4-square mile that divides the two.
Calhoun City wants the land because three of its business may be moving to an undeveloped lot in the area. Losing those businesses would cut into the tax base of the town of 1,900, Myers said.
Derma wants to keep the revenue it generates by providing water and sewer to the customers in the area. Gabbort said the town of less than 1,000 can't afford to lose the income.
Splitting the land may be a possibility.
"Both of us want the whole area, but we are looking into whether we can settle the thing by compromising," Myers said.
The land in question is divided by a one-fifth of a mile section of Mississippi Highway 8.
As for splitting the property, Gabbort said Derma's water and sewer customers are equally divided on both sides of the road and he can't afford to lose all of them or half of them.
The Calhoun City Board of Aldermen will discuss annexation at its next meeting Aug. 19, Myers said. Derma's board will take up the issue after it receives a formal proposal from Calhoun City's board.
"I don't know for sure what (Myers) is going to propose," Gabbort said. "I can't comment on it because I don't know what I'm commenting on. He's supposed to get that stuff to me some time in the near future."
One idea that definitely remains on the back burner is the question of the two towns joining.
"I don't imagine that's going to happen today," Myers said. "That's down the road - if it ever happens."
Residents and officials have discussed the idea for years. It's legally a possibility. But with the annexation argument burning between the two, both mayors say its doubtful the change will happen anytime soon.
"I'm not going to say its not possible, but its not likely right now," Gabbort said.
Both agreed the annexation issue would have to be solved first.
Myers said the advantage of the two becoming one is that the larger population might make the newly formed municipality eligible for more state or federal grants.
Gabbort said the new city would save on operating costs by combining existing departments that are already working together.
The idea is a legal possibility.
"I imagine one would have to be dissolved and then be annexed by the other one," said Larry Clark, a nine-year veteran of the Attorney General's office who heads the local government and opinions section. "I have never heard of it happening."
State law would require both towns to pass consolidation ordinances and file joint petitions in the county's chancery court. Both would have to contain a proposed name for the new entity.
Objections would be presented at a public hearing and the final decision would rest with a chancery court judge.
All elected officials would keep their jobs with the mayor of the largest town being the executive officer.
Voters would elect the required number of officials during the next general election.
Residents say they wouldn't mind the change.
"I really consider it already to be one," said 14-year Derma resident Marie Jennings. "I guess Derma is so small. I say I live in Derma, but sometimes by accident I may say Calhoun City."
She added that most of the stores in Derma are convenience stores and she usually shops in Calhoun City.
"It doesn't matter with me. I live in both places," said Willie Bell Edmond, a Derma resident of more than 40 years who owns a day care business in Calhoun City.
"I think that would be great," said Elaine Stewart, who has lived in Calhoun City more than 50 years. "I think (merging) would help each community. They could build up industry if they would work together to attract businesses."