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Residents Rally Against Batesville Annexation Proposal

Hundreds of people meet to debate the economic impact of an annexation proposal that carries the mayor's support.
BATESVILLE, AR--Hundreds of Independence County residents filled a church Monday, vowing to fight a proposal to annex their communities into Batesville.

City leaders are considering a proposal to add 2,400 residents from Southside and Desha communities to Batesville, the county seat.

The move would transfer at least $350,000 in county tax revenue into the city's coffers and raise the cost of living for thousands of residents.

Many residents say they're willing to fight to maintain freedoms that come with county living.

"If I want a chicken, I can do it, if I want three or four dogs, like I have right now, I can do it," a concerned resident commented from the podium.

The Smithees are one of dozens of families worried their way of life will change if Mayor Rick Elumbaugh has his way.

"I don't want to be apart of Batesville. We rather live out and have space and not be under so many ordinances," Shelia Smithee says.

The mayor says the city would gain roughly 2,400 residents, boosting the population from 10,000 to more than 12,000 people, making the area attractive to incoming businesses.

"When industries want to come in and locate in our community now they way a place that's economically vibrant, a place to worship and a place to play," says Mayor Elumbaugh.

But it would also raise taxes for annexed residents. They would see higher sales and property taxes and sanitation fees.

"They are looking for our money," a concerned resident comments from the microphone.

The mayor argues, "That is absolutely false, Batesville is doing extremely well."

The Mayor also touts trade-offs. Newly annexed residents would receive access to additional fire coverage, code enforcement, animal services and two city council positions to give their area voice

"I would like to leave it as it is," says Smithee.

But instead of buying in these residents are mounting a defense to keep their parts of Independence county, independent.

Earlier attempts to annex these areas failed. The mayor offered anyone with questions about Batesville's intentions or the city's economic standing to call and speak to him directly. The city council will take a final vote on the issue next Tuesday. If the ordinance passes it will be put before voters on the November ballot.
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