By CARL SMITH
The city of Starkville is currently developing a short-term capital improvements plan which could impact various aspects of town from the smallest of scope — a stop sign at an intersection — to the future of the city’s overall development.
Before the Starkville Board of Aldermen’s June 21 meeting, the board held a special work session with Demery Grubbs, a consultant from Government Consultants, Inc., of Jackson. The city contracted Grubbs’ firm about three months ago to help develop an improvements plan over the next few years. During that work session, Grubbs assigned homework for each aldermen — a sheet for them to list each individual idea he or she has for a capital improvement in Starkville. Grubbs said the capital improvement projects can range from the minute to the grand in breadth and can be city projects or multi-juristictional efforts which could involve agencies such as the county government and Mississippi State University.
“People tend to do what they can see, feel and touch more than a 10-year, comprehensive plan that sits on the shelf for a long period of time,” Grubbs said during the work session. “Identify every single capital needs program you can think of. I don’t care how big or small it is.”
Aldermen have almost a week to continue putting their ideas to paper, and then the lists will be returned to Grubbs. He then will compile a master list of needs and programs, eliminate duplicates and hold another work session with the board.
The board will then grade the list — As for the most important projects, Bs for the next most important projects and Cs for the least important — and the lowest graded will be removed and put aside for a later review. Aldermen will repeat this grading process as needed until about 25 to 30 projects remain. The number and scope of the remaining projects will determine the duration of the overall project. The list of C-graded projects will be given to city department heads, and minor projects out of that group will be dealt with if they are not major expenses.
Once a plan is developed, another work session will follow and projects will be prioritized and developed. Each individual needs project will be documented with a summary of its goals, its impact on the community and a yearly estimated cost.
“I want you to end with a plan you can be proud of,” Grubbs said to the board last week. “It tells the community you’ve taken the time to plan these capital projects and gives the city a direction and planning mentality.”
While aldermen are currently analyzing potential capital improvements for Starkville, two agreed the city needs to have improvements to drainage and infrastructure.
Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver and Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk both said they will be including such improvements to their projects sheet. A rainfall-heavy April highlighted many of the shortcomings to the city’s storm water management capabilities, Sistrunk said.
“Most of my plans are extended to that — the draining and infrastructure in my ward,” Carver said.
While Sistrunk and Carver will list improvements to their own wards, Sistrunk said she has a “laundry list” of ideas and potential plans for the city as a whole.
“As an alderman, you obviously want to represent your ward, but you have a responsibility to the city as a whole,” she said. “It’s important to take that and develop plans toward the big picture and use a long range approach.”
Sistrunk said she intends to address improvements to the city’s transportation capabilities, equipment needs and future development with her list.
“We need to start planning for our aging infrastructure and looking at a comprehensive streets program which would include more bike paths and sidewalks around town,” she said. “Hopefully, we will also find a way to allow our park system to expand and add parks in other areas of towns.”
While this is the first step toward developing a comprehensive capital improvements plan, Sistrunk said she is optimistic about the plan’s potential impact to the community.
“By the time we’re done and we’ve refined the list, we’ll have something we’re willing to work toward funding. Having a list of written goals is an important first step in making this happen,” she said. “I hope we’ll be able to pick the low-hanging fruit of the project and also get to all of the major projects we can.”
Grubbs will meet with the board of aldermen on July 12 during the public forum for the municipal building project. He also serves as an advisor to the city for the project.