By NATHAN GREGORY
The Starkville Board of Aldermen will hold preliminary discussions on a proposal from First Baptist Church to redesign south Lafayette Street by building a roundabout between the railroad and Lampkin Street during its 5:30 p.m. meeting tonight at City Hall.
The roundabout would be built between the church’s existing outreach center and a new children’s building. Landscape architect Kevin Burchfield with Pryor and Morrow Architects and Associates has been working with FBC on designing the roundabout. In a previous report, he said the intention of the road overhaul is to slow traffic on Lafayette Street and accommodate pedestrians, including children, walking between the forthcoming building to the street’s west and the outreach center to its east.
The matter originally came before the Starkville Planning and Zoning Commission on Nov. 12 but was tabled at Chief Administrative Officer/Interim City Planner Lynn Spruill’s recommendation so more research could be conducted on the impact of the street change as well as changes to adjacent zoning that would also be impacted by the proposed construction of the children’s center.
“I looked at the transect districts to understand the requirements and determined that much of what the agents for the church contemplated hinged on the approval by the Board of Aldermen of the changes in Lafayette Street. To that end, I requested that we meet and that the request for the change in the street come first to (the board of aldermen),” Spruill stated in a report contained in the board’s e-packet. “This is a case of first impression for staff regarding the treatment of this request by a private sector entity. The procedures addressing varied scenarios have been dealt with through adopted policy determinations in the past, i.e. street renaming, speed tables, and stop signs. We have no such option or precedence for guidance for this particular request.”
City Engineer Edward Kemp said he has met with Roger Pryor of Pryor and Morrow on several occasions to discuss the proposed street change and has recommended the board to add several conditions to the project if it approves the request, including ensuring the design meets Federal Highway Administration requirements and making roadway, sidewalk, curb and gutter improvements to city specifications.
Spruill is performing the duties of former city planner Ben Griffith, who left the post in October, until the board interviews applicants for the vacancy and approves a recommended candidate. Mayor Parker Wiseman said Spruill was tasked with providing a detailed review of the Building, Codes and Planning Department and reporting on what changes to the department head position could make the department more seamless in order to make the development process flow as efficiently as possible. He said he anticipates discussion on a timeline to begin advertising for the position to follow Spruill’s report and recommendation.
Part of her report proposes a name change of the department to Community Development. If her recommendation is approved, the Department of Engineering would be moved under the Community Development Department.
Also on the agenda is consideration for the board to approve participation with the Mississippi Department of Transportation in a capital improvement project on a drainage ditch along the south side of Miss. Highway 182 starting from the Peter’s Rock Temple Church of God in Christ entrance westward to the box culvert under the highway.
The channel is experiencing erosion issues caused by runoff from the highway. Wiseman said after meeting with Kemp to determine a solution, MDOT was contacted and agreed to do erosion reshaping and structural reconstruction that will help the ditch function better and provide better long-term erosion protection. MDOT intends to assume financial responsibility for purchase of materials and manpower to correct the north side of the channel because it abuts the state highway, Wiseman said. The city will consider approving no more than $20,000 of funds from its storm drainage budget to install riprap on the south side.
Also to be considered is an application for a $10,000 grant from the Mississippi Development Authority to improve the park located adjacent to Fire Station No. 1 on the corner of Lampkin Street and Russell Street.
The grant would require a $10,000 match from the Starkville Main Street Association. No funding would be required from the city.
Kemp said the funding would go toward a two-phase project to provide more accessibility to the park. The first phase would be to improved connectivity to the park from University Drive.
“There’s a lot of pedestrian and bike traffic on University Drive, yet there’s no good way to get to that park … This would have a direct route from university drive straight into park. It would (also) provide more visibility for the park,” Kemp said.
He said the second phase would be the improvement of accessibility at the Lampkin Street-Russell Street intersection by providing crosswalks and adding ramps at the quadrants of the intersection so residents with physical limitations can access the park from that side.