By STEVEN NALLEY
The Starkville Board of Aldermen discussed changes to its strategic plan on the first day of its annual retreat at the Greater Starkville Development Partnership office Friday.
Changes included updates to plans for municipal facilities and renewal of plans to address littering issues in the city. The board also reviewed its progress on each of the goals set forth in the plan, identifying several of them as completed or near completion.
When the board began to discuss goals pertaining to municipal facilities, the board identified several of them as complete, including forming a citizens’ committee, working with a consultant and establishing a preliminary concept. Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman said citizens’ rejection of the bond issue to pay for the new municipal facilities has forced the city to devise new plans and new goals.
“It continues to be an issue and there’s no resolution currently,” Wiseman said. “Opinion throughout the public was that the project was too costly. There was considerable backlash because of tax implications. The question remains: What is our objective?”
Ultimately, one of the new municipal facility goals the board chose included reaching a final decision on the feasibility of using a public-private partnership to fund new and improved facilities. Another goal approved was appointing a committee to assess and prioritize proposals for such partnerships.
Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk said citizens acknowledge the need to address problems with current municipal facilities, particularly police facilities. She said if the city does not address the issue, it could become a legacy issue passed on to future boards.
“This is going to be a real test of this board if we (try to) put aside our personal thoughts and prejudices about the project and come up with something that benefits the city,” Sistrunk said.
Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn said citizens routinely tell him they perceive the board as too focused on major expenses like new municipal facilities to recognize and address smaller quality-of-life issues. Early in the meeting, one aspect of the strategic plan discussed was the mission statement, which pledges to ensure the highest quality of life for all of Starkville’s citizens.
“Are we really providing that for all residents?” Vaughn asked. “Are we fulfilling this mission here? The simpler things in the community need to be handled. When (citizens are) living in unhealthy and unsafe conditions, we shouldn’t put a building over that.”
Wiseman said he believes the capital improvement plans up for discussion on the second day of the retreat have potential to address the issues Vaughn raised.
Another goal the board discussed was the institution of a litter control program. Wiseman said the reorganization of the city’s sanitation and environmental services department over the last year was conducted in the spirit of this goal, but Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver said he still wants to see the city do something specific to control litter.
“If you look up and down Highway 12,” Carver said, “It’s getting worse and worse.”
Wiseman said Sanitation Department Head Sharon Boyd has evaluated the possibility of expanding the department’s litter pickup to a new quadrant approach, but the cost — $60,000 to $100,000 extra per year — is not feasible. Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas said he wants the city to evaluate a partnership with the Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Department to use prisoners for litter control.
In order to discuss such initiatives, Dumas also proposed a new set of meetings between the board of aldermen and the county board of supervisors. He said he likes the Community Roundtable Luncheon, which brings together representatives from the city, county, Mississippi State University and the GSDP, but he wants more opportunities for the city and county to convene to not only report on progress but also formulate new plans.
Early in the meeting, the board also discussed what legacies they plan to leave at the request of special guest Phil Hardwick, coordinator of capacity development for the John C. Stennis Institute of Government and Community Development for MSU. Hardwick said he had recently attended a seminar built around Stephen Covey’s “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” and one of the first tasks in the seminar was for attendees to envision their own funerals. It made attendees think about the legacies they wanted to leave behind, he said.
“A year from now you’re going to be in the winding-down phase of your term,” Hardwick said. “What is Starkville Daily News going to say the day after (your administration ends)?”
Sistrunk said she believes the board will have a legacy of leaving Starkville in better financial shape than at the start of the administration. Dumas said he believed the board’s legacy would be refusing to shy away from issues the members disagreed on, and Wiseman agreed. Wiseman also said the board’s legacy will be determined by its response to the municipal facility issue.
“I think that’s a big part of how the next year will define a legacy,” Wiseman said. “Part of the legacy will be that we did resolve it or we did not resolve it.”