By CARL SMITH
The city of Starkville is moving forward with its long-term capital improvements plan this week as Mayor Parker Wiseman and his staff collects worksheets from aldermen detailing potential needs-based improvement projects for the municipality.
Before the Starkville Board of Aldermen’s June 21 meeting, the board held a special work session with Demery Grubs, a consultant from the Jackson-based Government Consultants, Inc. The city contracted Grubbs’ firm earlier in the year to help develop an improvements plan for Starkville which will span the next few years.
During that session, Grubbs asked each member of the board to compile a list of potential capital improvements for the city. Grubbs told the board each project could range from small in scope to large in breadth and could be either city or multi-jurisdictional efforts which involve agencies such as county government and Mississippi State University.
As of yesterday, City Hall had collected four of the worksheets, and Wiseman said he expects to receive the rest by the end of the week.
Once all of the worksheets are collected, the city will have another session with Grubbs to eliminate redundancies, prioritize the remaining projects and develop a master list.
“(With this process) you get an opportunity to develop long-term funding strategies for projects that can be funded over period of years, sometimes decades,” Wiseman said. “If you don’t develop long-term capital improvement plans, then the tendency of local governments is to operate on a year-to-year basis with its budgets. If you do that, you’re going to miss opportunities to think strategically on how to fund on a long-term basis.”
Once a master list of projects is set, Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk said the city will develop a financial strategy to fund the improvements through organic growth — projected increases in sales and ad valorem tax revenues — without raising taxes.
“A lot of times you’ll find it’s quite possible to fund projects on existing revenues that you wouldn’t realize was possible without taking a long-range approach,” Wiseman said. “This is not a process that is intended to establish needs for new revenues. We will use our current revenues smarter by looking at our operating budget and potential budget changes to accommodate priorities.”
After the failure of the Sept. 27 bond referendum, Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas said he adjusted his projects list to reflect the continuing need for Starkville Police Department facilities.
“There is no greater capital need for the city of Starkville,” Dumas said.
Since the vote, Wiseman said he has spent time reviewing documents from previous boards and committees charged with developing a plan for a new police station over the past decade.
“At this point, we’re back to square one. We’ll have to set aside time where we can talk as elected leaders about how we move on from here,” Wiseman said. “There’s no question that something has to be done to address the current state of the police and municipal facilities. As long as you have an unquestioned need that threatens the quality of city services our citizens receive, then we have a responsibility to continue to seek solutions that can correct it.”
As the Mayor and board move on from the referendum, Dumas said the city has to be as creative as possible in future plans for new police facilities and also gain more public support and agreement before moving it to the referendum stage. Both Dumas and Wiseman said the issue should be addressed before the next municipal election.
“I think any and all things are on the table, and I think it’s more of a process a few of us at City Hall need to wrap our heads around to get as much accomplished before we go again,” Dumas said.