Purdy mayor takes annexation issue to county
Commissioners ask for legal clarity, common ground
Deadlocked after two and a half years in seeking annexation of Farm Road 1080 and Highway 37, Purdy Mayor Bo Prock sat down with the Barry County Commission on Thursday to ask bluntly why the commissioners would not act on the request after the Missouri Department of Transportation had already blessed.
The annexation overture was announced at the January 2016 Purdy City Council meeting. Steve Roden, then mayor, explained the city wanted to annex 1.5 miles of Farm Road 1080 and Highway 37 to give a football-shaped outline to the city east of the railroad tracks. Roden said from the outset that the city was not interested in forced annexation of land. The road would offer adjacent landowners the opportunity to request annexation. Mike Bennett, who owns Eagle Logistics on Farm Road 1080, has been one of the main proponents for the annexation, citing the potential for police protection for his business. Bennett accompanied Prock to the meeting.
According to Gary Schad, northern county commissioner, there are 30 properties adjacent to the roads. Prock presented the commissioners with a petition signed by 14 people, and said he could gather signatures from 24 of the property owners. The proposal, according to Presiding Commissioner Cherry Warren, has four opponents. The names of Bill Roller, Jerry White, the Terrys and the Rickmans were stated by Prock in the course of the discussion.
Prock argued that safety is a major concern of the city and the fire district in its ability to respond to vehicular accidents occurring on Highway 37. A wreck recently took 90 minutes for the Highway Patrol to respond. If the road was annexed, city police could intervene, particularly in directing traffic.
Sheriff Gary Davis responded the city’s two full-time police officers are reserve sheriff’s deputies and already have authorization to direct traffic or function as officers outside the city limits, if given permission to do so by the city.
“I do that so they can go,” Davis said. “Most cities have told their officers they can go unless the sheriff’s department tells them otherwise. If it’s a violent crime, call out the Purdy officer. We’ve had Seligman chase someone all the way to Cassville before. I’d prefer they called [to notify us]. The sheriff is not going to get mad. I don’t want them running a rogue sheriff operation.”
With that issue cleared up, Prock asked why the commissioners would not act. Taking the lead, Schad presented two state statutes on annexations. He pointed out that neither distinguish between road and property annexations. Once objections have been made, steps stated in the law, including a public hearing and possibly a vote, must be taken.
“I can’t sign off on this unless all these procedures are taken care off,” Schad said. “I’ve never been invited to a public hearing. I haven’t heard two lawyers debate this. I don’t understand the difference. I’m not going to make an educated decision without being educated. It’s not the commission’s job to figure all this out and make a decision about it.”
“The problem is you’ve got people up there, some who are the backbone of the community, who have objected,” Warren said. “If they’re weren’t any objections, the commission has no objection. We don’t know if you’ve answered their questions or not.”
Prock pressed the commissioners for any details on what objections the opponents may have raised, so that he could address them.
“They don’t want the City of Purdy out where they’re at,” Schad said. “They feel you’’re not taking care of what you’ve got, so why come out where they are.”
It was also suggested the city might want to turn Highway 37 into a speed trap. Others expressed concern that the city might really want forced annexation.
Prock emphatically denied all these points. He stressed that annexation of adjacent property was entirely voluntary and that the Missouri Department of Transportation had already approved allowing the city annexation. Annexing the road would open the door for those property owners to join the city, as several had requested. He thought the city already had a public hearing on the annexation without hearing any objections, and that the city’s attorney, Darlene Parrigon, found no issues with simply annexing roads.
Prock defended his accomplishments as mayor, specifically by finishing all points of his 90-day plans last year and having 150 ordinance violation cases to promote the quality of life.
“You don’t need to be preaching to us,” Schad said. “That’s between you guys and them. We’re just here to provide a signature. We’re wanting all of you to be on the same page. People who are for it need to go to those [who object] and say, ‘We need this. Why are you holding this us?’ That’s not the commission’s job.”
Schad said the letter explaining the annexation proposal to the affected landowners was incomplete, and failed to outline fully the city’s obligations, should annexation take place. He noted annexation brings the obligation of extending utilities within three years, or the property owners could act to cancel the annexation. Prock responded that bringing one of three utilities, namely water, was sufficient to meet that obligation.
Schad further noted that if the law required a vote, the percentage of votes by people in the city in favor would have to surpass the percentage of those objecting. Prock said he had not polled sentiment among residents at large in the city, but felt confident he could win an overwhelming majority favoring the annexation.
“We hope you’ll work with your neighbors, and you come to us and we’ll work with you,” Warren said.
“We’re all Purdytes,” Prock said. “We can talk about it.”