The small community in southern Madison County called Gluckstadt wants to turn into a city.
Residents have worked hard to gather over 1,000 signatures and are hoping to be incorporated in late July. Gluckstadt has schools, houses, and a growing population. As the city continues to expand, getting a charter becomes more important.
“It lets Gluckstadt control their own destiny,” said Attorney John Scanlon, who represents the community in their incorporation trial.”
Gluckstadt has been attempting to incorporate their community for at least a decade. For a brief moment, they enjoyed incorporation. But the ruling was appealed. That was in 2019, and today, it rests in the hands of the Mississippi Supreme Court. Until then, the city officials cannot make any sort of decisions.
“They can do nothing. They are not city officials until the court rules they are a city,” said Scanlon.
Walter Morrison, the appointed mayor-to-be, says he isn’t concerned whether or not he’ll be re-elected when the elections come around. According to him, the city has tried three times to get incorporated.
“My intent all along was just to get the city across the finish line. If I do that, I will have done what I needed too.”
Morrison, born in Baton Rouge, moved to Gluckstadt in 1998. He says when incorporation is granted the first move will be to hold a public meeting with the mayor and the board of aldermen.
“When we were briefly granted incorporation, we arranged a deal with Germantown to use their gym or cafeteria for our first board meeting.”
When a city first starts out, the taxes they charge their residents take several months to turn around. So out of the door, they won’t have a dime.
“The day we become a city, we won’t have a single dollar. So we will have to figure out a way to fund this. We all agreed very early on that as an appointed mayor and board it was not the right thing to do to try and draw a salary. We have a volunteer group that is willing to not take a salary at least until there’s an election.
We need to get the board together and have meetings and get public input and I think it would be a huge mistake to jump out and build a lot of infrastructure—like a city hall. So I think as a new city we are going to meet in Germantown for a while.”
In those first meetings the public will give input as to how the city should operate. The mayor and the board will be deciding how the city is organized, and what services they will offer. Another move will be to hire a city clerk, but according to Morrison that is a ways away.
Currently, the city is under the protection of South Madison County Fire district.
According to Attorney Scanlon, incorporated Gluckstadt does not intend to provide a municipal fire service because they are already being served.
“There’s no reason to double people’s taxes. They have a very good fire department. They have boundaries set up for the fire district. It’s a volunteer fire department but they are now a 24-hour full-time fire department with a good fire rating. And they already provide what municipal level fire protection looks like.”
Some cities provide services like water and sewer, a fire department, electricity, and police. But Gluckstadt won’t provide water or sewer because either Canton or Bear Creek Water Association already supply those services.
Yet, they will be providing a police force. In fact Sheriff Randy Tucker testified on the half on the incorporators, saying that the Gluckstadt community has grown to a point where county sheriff protection is not their best option. They have densely populated residential areas, public schools and lots of commercial businesses that make it necessary to add more police officers to their force. They plan on bringing in a police force with eight police officers, a police chief, an assistant police chief, an animal control officer and an administrative assistant.
However, they will not be able to hire officers until they make some tax money. Until then, they will continue with the services the sheriff’s department provides.
Another operation they must undertake after incorporation are taxes. They have to issue a tax levy, then adopt a millage rate. Right now their plan is to adopt a tax levy of 12 mills for year one and two and then during year three, four, five increase it to 14 mills.
“They have a consultant who examined the area and determined what kind of tax revenue would be produced with a levy of 12 mills. He projected 1.2 million in year one.”
But until the city is incorporated, all of that is on hold. Once they’re granted incorporation, and they receive a charter from the legislature, the future mayor and the board of aldermen will have the authority to begin the initial phases of forming the city. When the next municipal elections come around the city will elect a new mayor and board.
“I just want to get the city there as best and efficiently as we can so we can get our legs under us and get going,” said Morrison.
Morrison will serve as mayor, and aldermen will include Miya Bates, John Taylor, Jayce Powell, Wesley Slay and Lisa Williams. Chris Watson serves as City Planner.