- Associated Press - Saturday, October 25, 2014

BATESVILLE, Ark. (AP) - A group that opposes the annexation of the Southside community just south of Batesville into the city of Batesville has been granted a request to incorporate as a city.

Independence County Judge Robert Griffin on Friday approved the incorporation request by Keep Southside Free From Annexation.

“I anticipate this will go to (circuit) court either way I rule,” Griffin said during the hearing before announcing his decision.

“Absolutely,” replied Mark Hayes, an Arkansas Municipal League attorney who represented Batesville at the hearing.

Brandon Gay, an organizer of the group opposed to annexation, said he also envisions more litigation if future rulings go against the group’s wishes.

Keep Southside Free From Annexation filed a petition of incorporation on Sept. 22 after the Batesville City Council voted Aug. 25 to place the annexation proposal on the Nov. 4 election ballot.

The vote for putting the question on the ballot was 5-2 in favor, with one alderman abstaining. The measure needed at least a two-thirds vote for passage and Mayor Rick Elumbaugh cast the deciding vote for having it on the ballot.

Gay said he may challenge the legality of the mayor voting to call for a ballot measure but wants to wait to see the annexation election’s results to figure out how to proceed.

“We want to govern ourselves,” Gay said. “We’ll work with our own neighbors much better than with people we don’t want to work with. I would never enter into a partnership with someone who wants to take over me.”

Hayes contended that Gay’s argument made no sense.

“So, your position is to become a city to avoid becoming a city,” Hayes said. “As soon as Southside becomes a city, it’s a city. That means legislation will have to pass, taxes will be collected — the same thing if Batesville annexes you.”

Elumbaugh said Batesville was “landlocked” to the north and needed the Southside area if it is to grow.

The Southside area, about one mile south of Batesville, includes Batesville Municipal Airport, two car dealerships and several businesses.

“We are absolutely against them incorporating,” Elumbaugh said after the hearing.

“There does not need to be two separate cities. It’s bad for business. Everybody could work together, and we’d be able to recruit a lot more in this area.”

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