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City to consider fee, school board vacancy tonight

February 7, 2012

By NATHAN GREGORY
sdnreporter@yahoo.com

The Starkville Board of Aldermen will address the possible establishment of a storm sewer enterprise fee that, if implemented, would help fund drainage projects throughout the city at its 5:30 p.m. meeting today at Starkville City Hall.
The board will also interview four applicants to replace Pickett Wilson’s position on the Starkville School District Board of Trustees, review requests for partnership proposals for municipal complex development, hold a second public hearing concerning the adoption of a condominium development ordinance and consider the approval of an interlocal agreement between the city and Mississippi State University for a mass transit grant, which would provide transportation between the city and MSU.
If the board opts in favor of adopting storm sewer fees, residents will see an extra $2.50 added to their utility fees, while business owners will be required to pay an extra $5. The fees would be used to fund 19 smaller drainage projects throughout the city and three major issues at Carver Drive, Maple Drive and Colonial Hills.
If the board turns down adopting the storm water fee, the city would have to decide whether to fix the three major issues or address the other 19 with the $1.4 million budget it has over the next 10 years, Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman said Saturday.
“As the city continues to evolve and grow in that 10-year period, you’re going to add additional needs to the storm sewer system. This is a quality of life project. One of the things that makes this a difficult issue is that everybody doesn’t deal with the problems brought about by the system,” he said. “If you recognize that the list (of projects) is going to constantly evolve and that we’ll be constantly discovering new projects in need of maintenance, I believe (the fee) puts the city in a position where we’ll have the necessary revenue going forward to effectively address our storm sewer needs.”
Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk said she hopes the board decides in favor of adding the fee so the projects can get a green light.
“(The situation) becomes a lot more complicated if it does not pass. There are some things we can do, but a major component to these projects are the materials involved. On some of the projects, labor is less than half (of the cost),” she said. “(The 22 projects mentioned are) in no way a comprehensive list. These projects have been discussed one by one. If we sit back and discuss a comprehensive list, we’d have three times that many. (Fee passage) would give us the funds to address the big three and to address some of the smaller projects. In addition to these capital projects, there are ongoing maintenance projects that never make it to a list, and we don’t talk about those costs to the city.”
Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas said he is also in favor of the proposed fee.
“I think at some point we have to step back and look at all issues we have as a city like what anybody does in their household budget. We’ve got homes on Maple Drive that are flooding. (We have) weekly discussion about Carver and Northside Drive. There are other significant issues in the south part of town. This is one way with minimal impact ... to generate the revenue needed that can get things done,” he said. “If we don’t pass it we’re kicking the can down the road even further. Some of the things we wish for are not possible without finding ways to generate revenue. The bottom line is the needs have to be met. This is essential to the public health and safety issue of city government.”
The board will interview Doug Bedsaul, Sylvia Byrd, Jonita Thompson and Jenny Turner stepped down as SSD board president last year but remained as a member. Sistrunk said she is hopeful the board will determine who will take Wilson’s place tonight.
“We’re fortunate that we have a really good pool of candidates,” she said. “All of them are well qualified and active in school activities through their children.”
The selection committee in charge of compiling proposals for municipal complex developments has received several submissions which will be reviewed at the meeting. The committee consists of Chief Administrative Officer Lynn Spruill, City Clerk Markeeta Outlaw, City Engineer Edward Kemp, Ward 4 Alderman Richard Corey, Wiseman, Dumas and Sistrunk.
Sistrunk said the process is still in an early stage.
“We’re not committing any city funds or settling on a project,” she said. “As we get information through that process we’ll be able to make a decision about whether we continue to go forward with this.”
Dumas said one of the advantages of adopting a condominium ordinance is easier communication between potential developers and the city.
“The biggest thing with having site plan requirements is we get information up front, which helps us streamline the process. As it stands right now ... our subdivision regulations don’t speak to condo plans. Through the current process, we’re having to get bits and pieces,” he said. “Our hope with this is we put the requirements out there ... and require a site plan. That way when you start the process with the city, everything is shown, and the process becomes that much more easy for the city and developer.”
The board will hear a presentation from Mike Harris and Jeanette Bailey on the MSU-sponsored Starkville/MSU Area Rapid Transit program and consider approving a measure that would enact the service next year. Dumas said the transit would allow for more transportation options for Starkville residents.
“This is specifically for public transit in areas with significant transportation needs such that low-income communities and areas of town are accessible by transit. MSU is proposing three routes. One is downtown, another is Lynn Lane, which will serve students and the Sportsplex,” Dumas said. “The third is a community route that will hit grocery stores, shopping areas and housing developments. Our item will be an interlocal agreement so we can help with placement of shelters and other needs that may arise as this project comes to fruition.”

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