By PAUL SIMS
A Starkville-based agency embroiled in the debate over sidewalk expansion in the city recently bought a former college in Webster County, leaving questions about its future in Oktibbeha County.
In September, Golden Triangle Planning and Development District Executive Director Rudy Johnson made what he called a “promise” to the Starkville Board of Aldermen he would move the agency into one of the other nine counties the entity serves over the city’s expectation sidewalks would be included in the construction of the proposed Senior Enrichment Center behind its facility on Miley Drive.
On Tuesday, after months of debate and revision, the Board of Aldermen passed on a 4-3 vote amendments to the ordinance allowing a variance process based solely on cost factors.
Consideration of the variance protocol came after Mayor Parker Wiseman issued a February veto on a measure which exempted Industrial Park Road, Airport Road, Miley Drive and Pollard Road.
During the final public hearing on the change in the ordinance, Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver says he fears the way the city is proceeding with the issue will leave sidewalks spread out across Starkville instead of linked together.
“You’ll have 20 to 30 years of scattered sidewalks throughout Starkville instead of move to an approach in which all sidewalks are connected at the same time,” Carver said.
Johnson reiterated his stance about the sidewalk issue earlier Tuesday afternoon.
“I’m not going to spend money foolishly. I’m not going to build a sidewalk,” Johnson said.
He said the purchase of the former Wood Junior College – which took place Monday – includes all buildings, equipment, land, houses which made up the college and totals approximately 400 acres.
This includes 245 acres inside Mathiston city limits which had been leased to the Methodists, Johnson said.
He declined to disclose the price the agency paid for the college.
Specifically, the agency bought four rental properties, the president’s home, six administration buildings, three dormitories and two maintenance facilities.
Johnson says officials do intend to get the property restarted as a community college.
“It’s a beautiful campus and I would hate for it to deteriorate,” he said.
Starkville architect Gary Shafer completed a comprehensive study on the college before it closed, Johnson said, adding he intends to get together with Shafer and see what his study says.
“There’s just a lot of planning right now we’re looking at. The options are really unlimited,” Johnson said.
When asked about plans for the Starkville facility, Johnson said: “I’m going to be at work in the morning.”
In an unrelated matter, the Starkville Board of Aldermen voted 4-3 to adopt changes to its sign ordinance, opting to include provisions requiring the phasing out of non-conforming signs over time.