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Mayor, board spar over list of projects

March 17, 2011

City leaders hold differing viewpoints on efforts to address capital improvement needs, with some expressing concern areas might be overlooked and at least one saying initial talks will include "everything under the sun."
Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn pointed out that work on Carver Drive was not included in a proposal presented to aldermen in their packets Tuesday.
"We're taking taxpayer money. I see it over and over. We go everywhere and we do everything with it, but they (are) taxpayers too," Vaughn said, asking why projects such as those on Carver Drive – where drainage problems are an ongoing issue – were not included.
He also pointed out that properties annexed in 1998 were not on the list either, referring to property on the city's north side where city services have yet to reach.
"We're just going way around the world with taxpayer dollars and we're not taking care of the things at hand," Vaughn said.
Mayor Parker Wiseman said the document's list of projects was not meant as exclusive but rather as examples.
He went on to explain how he hoped a consultant would help the city.
There are some capital planning documents in place, but not a comprehensive, 10-year plan, the mayor said.
"The first step in that process is to sit with board members and the city staff to get a brainstorm list of everything under the sun that is a potential capital improvement project for city development, Wiseman said. Then, officials would put the list with budget numbers then after that, put it with budget figures and pull together a 10-year-plan "where we determine what's realistically affordable and what's not," he said.
"I can tell you if there are things you want listed in that description that aren't in there, we can add it," Wiseman said.
Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins said: "Let's go ahead and list these projects, I mean that's leadership. That's the way I define leadership." If projects such as Carver Drive aren't included, "it's going to be an all-out war," Perkins said. "We name some of the projects and we leave others out."
He went on to say: "We already know what needs to be done. We have enough identified capital improvement projects that we can try to get done with our limited money that we have."
The board agreed to seek the request for proposals for a consultant to develop the capital improvement plan to include areas of the city annexed in 1998.
In an unrelated matter, city officials and those with Bluefield Water Association will work finalizing an agreement to allow the city to assume the association's assets and serve the organization's territory.
On Tuesday, the Board of Aldermen voted to allow Wiseman to sign the document.
The association's customers will receive the same rates as those in the city, association president Paul Welch said.
A city customer using 5,000 gallons in a month pays $18.25. Someone on the Bluefield system would be billed $19 for the same volume. The figures do not include sewer charges.
At a Nov. 19 meeting, association members voted to accept the city's offer to take over Bluefield, Welch said.
"I think it's a good move for Bluefield. I think it's a good move for the city. I think our customers will be happy. The water rates will reduce. I think it's a good move for the city. I feel good about it," he said.
The city supplied water to Bluefield under a 1986 agreement, which in turn Bluefield provides to its customers in its western territory, according to federal court records. In the 1990s, the city started serving customers in segment of Bluefield's service area east of the Highway 25 bypass, according to the court filing.
Negotiations for the city to buy Bluefield began in 2004, but association representatives said Starkville's effort to supply water in the eastern Bluefield area violated its right to serve the region.
The city and Bluefield battled in federal court after the association asked the city to allow it to connect to a 12-inch pipe instead of an 8-inch line with a 6-inch connection, but the city declined.
A federal court required the city to supply Bluefield with water via the 12-inch line.
Once the agreement is signed attorneys for both sides will file a motion to end the litigation, Welch said.
The association serves about 550 metered customers, including two large apartment complexes, with several hundred units total between both of them, he said.

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