By STEVEN NALLEY
The Starkville Board of Aldermen established a committee to review construction proposals for a parking lot related to the CottonMill project, held two public hearings on city street names and revising landscape ordinances and closed an investigation of police misconduct allegations during its meeting Tuesday at City Hall.
In an executive session, the board closed an internal investigation of a complaint Ward 7 resident Sabrina Campbell and her family raised at the board’s Dec. 18 meeting before formally filing their complaint with the city. Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman said the investigation found that no police misconduct occurred.
The board moved the construction review group to the consent agenda early in the meeting at the recommendation of Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk, who also recommended herself, Wiseman, Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas and Ward 4 Alderman Richard Corey as members. The committee was previously slated to include Wiseman, one alderman, a Cooley Center representative and a Mississippi State University representative, but Wiseman said all three aldermen expressed interest in joining the committee, which was permissible.
“It doesn’t upset the process for multiple aldermen to serve on the committee,” Wiseman said.
Nine items related to First Baptist Church’s planned child care center and related projects were removed from the agenda before the meeting, but that did not stop FBC treasurer Dora Herring from talking to the board about the issue during the meeting’s public comments segment. Herring is a member of the Starkville Planning and Zoning commission, but she said she recused herself from meetings related to FBC, and she had sent each alderman multiple analyses of the issues surrounding FBC’s requests for variances from form-based codes.
“All of you aldermen are full-time workers somewhere. We have not had a (city) planner lately. (Interim city planner and Starkville chief administrative officer Lynn Spruill’s) three or four plates are full. She juggles them every day,” Herring said. “Considering we did not have a person to analyze the FBC issue (full-time), I thought my role might be to analyze it. I mailed each one of you some three pages of that. I suggest you all read these for the next meeting, when this will be considered.”
Early in the meeting, Wiseman also made a brief announcement regarding fences around the old Starkville Electric Department building. He said demolition of the building will begin in the next few weeks, but construction of the new municipal complex planned to go in its place will wait until the Mississippi Supreme Court makes a decision about the certificates of participation slated to fund the construction.
The only citizen who spoke in the public hearing on city street names was Alvin Turner, who said he was concerned about street renaming causing confusion for emergency response personnel.
“We make ordinances, but do we realize the stress we put on firefighters, police officers (and) ambulances?” Turner said. “It could be life and death.”
Wiseman said he did not anticipate the ordinance causing problems for emergency personnel, because the ordinance merely updates and amends the city’s official street map to adopt previously, informally renamed and adopted city streets. He said this includes a section of Spring Street from Highway 12 to Russell Street that was recently informally renamed to Needmore Place.
Finally, the board heard a presentation from Starkville Tree Advisory Board member Brian Templeton on proposed landscape ordinance revisions before the first public hearing on those revisions. Templeton said former city planner Ben Griffith initiated the revision process before leaving the city staff, and one of the primary goals Griffith set forth was to update the ordinance to more closely reflect citizens’ needs, protecting property values, improving tree canopy coverage and screening of parking lots, and improving health and safety. He said the revision also contains graphical examples of ordinance compliance that make compliance easier for citizens and increases the size of sight triangles at intersections, making it easier for drivers to see around those intersections’ corners without landscaping interfering.