Article Comment 

Dumas: The culture has to change

 

David Miller

 

STARKVILLE -- It took two years for Starkville officials and dedicated residents to form the latest plan to improve its two most important civic facilities. 

 

Now, they're back to square one.  

 

Tuesday's failed bond referendum proved Starkville residents weren't ready to endorse a project that seemingly had significant support.  

 

No one doubted the need for a new police station; some questioned the logistics and the cost, even members of the citizen's committee that helped develop the plan. 

 

Still, officials felt the Starkville Municipal Facilities Master Plan was the best solution to a lingering problem.  

 

It was created by citizens, for citizens.  

 

It was touted as a potential catalyst for commercial growth in an underdeveloped sector of the city. 

 

So why did it bomb Tuesday? 

 

Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas thinks Starkville residents are a long way from realizing how great their city can be. 

 

"We're a town that hasn't risen to the occasion," Dumas said. "We're still wanting metal buildings for civic facilities. We're still wanting to rate our best as second best. I think it's a cultural thing that'll have to change over time." 

 

Tuesday's failed referendum is Starkville's fourth in 12 years and the latest since 2006. Starkville officials had worked with a citizens committee to iron out the latest facilities plan since late 2009.  

 

The effort wasn't reflected in the 44.5 percent of yes votes gained Tuesday night, partly due to apathy for the issue and an assumption from supporters that it would pass easily, Dumas said. 

 

"There were a lot of people who thought it was likely to work but didn't get out to support it," Dumas said. "And I'm not blaming them, but you got 3,000 people that came out to vote. I think, by and large, some folks got complacent." 

 

Mississippi State University continues to grow -- it recently became the first university in the state to surpass 20,000 students. MSU's growth has boomed by more than 2,500 students in the last three years alone. As MSU grows, so does the city and its need for more officers. 

 

The city's growth caused the Starkville Police Department's current issue of insufficient space and infrastructure, but it'll likely be a minimum of two years before another plan is presented to the public. 

 

"We'll just continue to do the best we can with what we've got," SPD Chief David Lindley said. 

 

Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman had hoped the citizen's committee's work in developing a plan would have given the community a sense of ownership when it came time to vote.  

 

"Obviously, that didn't happen," Wiseman said. 

 

Wiseman believes the city can overcome the negative momentum that stalled the referendum, but after pouring energy into the latest effort he isn't sure how to bridge the gap.  

 

Financing options for a project that'll likely run between $7-$9 million are few outside of bonding. The city weighed using Certificate of Participation loans and Mississippi Development Bank loans as two forms of funding which wouldn't count against Starkville's debt limit. However, changes in the city's valuation could change the terms of those loans. 

 

"Those are all options that you can put on the table, but for this project to ever work it's going to have to be something that is supported by the community," Wiseman said. "How do you rally the community support behind not just recognizing there is a need for facilities, but also rallying around the solution? We'll see where the board wants to go from here."

 

 

 

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Reader Comments

Article Comment usarover commented at 9/28/2011 1:18:00 PM:

I will tell you why it didnt pass, and my ward was the only one who voted yes overall....

1. People can't afford anything right now, not even 50$ extra dollars a year in property taxes.
2. 30k sq ft for 250$+/sq ft is stupid, the electric building was built for much less than that per sq ft
3. Land was to be donated, but someone knew someone and wanted to get paid, so they opted to buy some land
4. They went with a Jackson Architecture firm, why not use a local one and keep the money in our own town for crying out loud.
5. Bond was for 20 yrs to pay the debt
6. property tax - it has gone up 3 yrs in a row - people are tired of it, this could have been financed with a combo of some property taxes and sales tax increase - more students (who own no property) - they can chip in by sales tax

 

Article Comment usarover commented at 9/28/2011 1:28:00 PM:

by sales tax i meant luxury tax - hotels, and or restaurants etc.

 

Article Comment jeremiah_dumas commented at 9/28/2011 2:04:00 PM:

to clarify:

1. it was 26,400 sf at $200/SF
2. donated land didn't meet the needs of the project
3. the architect on the project was Gary Shafer, AIA of Starkville, no other architectural firm was ever consulted
4. city ad velorum taxes have only increased 1 year of the past 3 and that was only by .45 mils. With our low millage rate, sales tax is covering over half of the public safety budget for the city.

 

Article Comment usarover commented at 9/28/2011 2:37:00 PM:

@Jeremiah Dumas

Ok

1. 5.28 million for the new facility I am ok with that

2. Donated land is donated land it could have been used to store police equipment or house their evidence

3. Good, on the Architect - received mis-information

4. Sales tax should be covering that much, because most of the city is nothing more than students during the fall and spring....the article quoted more officers needed b/c of 2500 more students - added luxury tax would seem more like a fair shake than having the property owners pay for everything, especially if you are going to site students as a main reason behind more officers translating to more of a need for a new facility of this magnitude....you have to find a way for the money to come from more people

thanks for the reply though, it is much appreciated

-Ward 5 White Drive Resident

 

Article Comment usarover commented at 9/28/2011 2:55:00 PM:

not to mention - sending property-less students to my house with flyers(2) encouraging me to spend more of my money, sticking flyers in my door (2) and sending me 4, yes 4 in the mail

so 2+2+4 = 8 flyers on my one house = mismanagement and wasteful

 

Article Comment lizzyreads commented at 9/28/2011 3:12:00 PM:

"We're still wanting to rate our best as second best. I think it's a cultural thing that'll have to change over time."
I take offense to this statement. I voted no on the referendum, not b/c I didn't think a facility is necessary and warranted...and certainly not b/c I want "second best." You make those of us who voted no (which was a majority) sound like redneck hicks who are afraid of change, too ignorant to comprehend the expense, and are too cheap to want the "best" for our police officers. Bottom line, the financial figures were exorbitant. We do NOT need to spend that much money in order to get a fine facility. Why not let other architects have a chance to design a facility that meets the needs of the police department? Cooper Callaway's office building is a metal building...but it's got a nice brick facade. What is so wrong with that? Please don't blame the failure of this on us "rednecks" who voted no. Instead, listen to us...we may not be as ignorant as you think. Is it just me....or do our present city government leaders seem a bit pretentious???

Read more: http://www.cdispatch.com/news/article.asp#post#ixzz1ZHKlQ1LJ

 

Article Comment usarover commented at 9/28/2011 3:24:00 PM:

@lizzyreads

Yes!

How about they think about why we didn't like the plan and fix it, instead of wonder why/how we could possibly vote against such an "awesome" deal.

I whole heartily agree with you.

 

Article Comment stringtoon1 commented at 9/28/2011 3:49:00 PM:

Dumus talks on a subject that he is totally ignorant of. He would not know a metal building if he saw it. As a matter of fact I know that the present architect and the committee met with "metal building" people concerning this project. Stick to what you know about, Dumus and leave the more complex projects to educated people, not small town politicians.

 

Article Comment brian commented at 9/28/2011 3:50:00 PM:

MSU was not the first university in the state to pass 20,000 enrollment.

 

Article Comment stringtoon1 commented at 9/28/2011 3:56:00 PM:

Oh,one more thing! The figures that the aldermen published on their SITE was totally different than the figures given out by an administrative head in your city offices...which were pulled from a file. Now, what were you people trying to do...get this passed and then..."OOPS...we forgot something!" I think that this little fiasco has costs most of you your position. Elections are not THAT far off! Good luck!

 

Article Comment rcoblentz commented at 9/28/2011 4:22:00 PM:

I was on the citizen's committee and we never met with "metal building" people. The committee built the plan- a new police station and renovation of city hall- based on the needs given to us.

 

Article Comment stringtoon1 commented at 9/28/2011 4:35:00 PM:

Dumus....I was shown the paperwork....and was told by one of the city administrators, outside the mayor and board, that the size was 24,000-25,000 square feet. The basis for cost was $250 per square foot (via a Dallas architecture firm), land cost was well over a million dollars and site preparation was to be $850,000. I suggest that before you try to put something else over on the citizens that you use the same numbers...this would be a bit more believable. Another thing...I asked why an architect was hired before the money was appropriated...I was told that he had worked on it before and that he was working pro bono to get the job....well, the architect had better read the by-laws set by the Mississippi Architecture Board...an architect can not work on a governmental project pro bono in order to get the project.
Now...since we are starting from scratch, we need to open this up to all architects on a short time schedule at a highly reduced, more feasible budget and get many ideas for the public to view and choose from. And, let's use our heads. There are a lot more ways to finance this project than to simply try to force a bond issue!! That is what simple-Simon small town politicians try first.

 

Article Comment stringtoon1 commented at 9/28/2011 4:40:00 PM:

Rcob.....maybe you were left out because the building people told me themselves that the architect and representatives from your committee met with them...you we on the committee and didn't even know what was going on!!!!

 

Article Comment stringtoon1 commented at 9/28/2011 4:54:00 PM:

rcob.....next time that you are on a committee and you want the public involved, advertise the meeting in more than one location. Don't hide the details in small print in the food section of one paper. There are several papers serving the Starkville area. This should have been run in all. And, don't run a time and date for a public forum in the Saturday paper and then change the time in the Monday paper. People tend to make plans for events and changing your times messes up their plans. You, however, accomplish what you were after...fewer people to object.
I can say one thing, though. At least you people didn't receive the "Total Dummy Bond" award. That, I believe, goes to Brandon...you were in the top three.

 

Article Comment rcoblentz commented at 9/28/2011 5:03:00 PM:

I think you have been misinformed. I was at every meeting called.

They may have met with the Board of Aldermen subcommittee or Mayor, but we- the citizens committee- didn't meet with any construction companies or suppliers. We did meet with the charrette team.

You're not mixing up the SSD metal building situation with this project are you?

BTW, a Dallas firm- Brinkley Sargent- was hired back in Rutledge Admin I for the first version of the project (02-03). They were pushing north of $250 a foot on their estimates back then. They were fired by that BOA and Schaffer as a local was hired to trim it down. I have their 4 pound notebook binder study that covers their program. It actually is a pretty thorough coverage of the issue.

 

Article Comment jeremiah_dumas commented at 9/28/2011 5:22:00 PM:

No need to take offense. i think it is rather encouraging to think that we have aren't meeting our potential. Far from your redneck ideas. I am a Mississippi country boy just like most and realize that this town has potential far greater than what we give ourselves credit for.

Robert I take offense to you saying that I don't know what I am talking about. I led the board committee in getting this project going and worked directly with Gary to produce the program, budget and plan. Look in the board minutes, it will tell you exactly what we passed. As for your document, you are referencing a document that is 10 years old, a document that did in fact suggest $250/SF. I wonder what they would suggest now? Far greater than that for a project with today's construction cost. They left the project on the table because they weren't willing to work on a project for less than that. They sir are the experts, and know what it takes, but yet, we won't support it.

By the way, I deal with the development and planning industry daily, both from the building side as well as the larger political side - so, like your letter in the paper, and your rant in here, you are mistaken.

Robbie was a blessing to this process and his committee's work is a testament of "small town politics" - a committee of diverse backgrounds coming together with differing opinions, but leaving unanimously agreeing on the purpose, need, and direction of the project. I would suggest seeking facts from those directly involved like myself or Robbie before making claims that are impossible to substantiate.

 

Article Comment mww1 commented at 9/28/2011 5:51:00 PM:

Responding to Brian - Not sure what information you are citing as your source. MSU is certainly the first to announce an enrollment of over 20,000 UM is the only other University in the state to approach 20,000 in enrollment. Last year they had their largest enrollment ever at 19,544 including the Oxford and UMC campuses as well as 4 other regional campuses. UM has not announced its enrollment for 2011-2012 at this point. MSU has announced an enrollment of over 20,000 students. USM also announced a record enrollment at 17,968. No other state university has announced a level of enrollment exceeding 20,000.

 

Article Comment stringtoon1 commented at 9/28/2011 8:32:00 PM:

I appologize if I rubbed you two wrong. I didn't mean to call names...I'm not that type person...don't call me a redneck and don't say that metal buildings are a cheap solution to a building problem.
Jeremiah, I've been in this field for almost forty years. I, too, have worked on multi-million dollar projects unlike any that you've seen around here. I've worked on teams that produced multi-functional developments worth tens of millions and we had them under construction in a matter of weeks...just a few months...not years. It can be done. If you have worked in development then you know that there are corporations that do design-build-financing of municipal buildings, jails and schools. There are ways to produce a very nice police department/justice building for far less than what you have presented to the citizens. There are architects and commercial contractors who are in full agreement with me. I would be glad to bring some of these in and let you talk to them...they, for some reason, were avoided during this entire process. Jeremiah, again I appologize for attacking you personnally. You just really offended me (and others here and in Columbus) when you said what you did about lower classes want metal buildings for Starkville's finest. That simply is not true. You indicate that I am lower class in your statement and you indicate that metal buildings are "cheap." What in the world must the two metal building manufacturers in our area (in Starkville and in Columbus) must think.

 

Article Comment stringtoon1 commented at 9/28/2011 9:13:00 PM:

Oh, Jeremiah, I can substantiate everything that I have written. I have architects here, in Columbus and in Jackson that agree with me and will back me. I have commercial contractors who will back me.I can show you buildings around this area that you would consider pretty nice. They were built in the $100-120 range, recently...some, metal buildings. I am not trying to fight you. I am trying to get you to open your eyes to all the solutions. Let's get this building built...built right...built for a reasonable amount and not add to the citizen's tax burden in doing so. There are many, many people around you that agree with me. I appreciate you and Gary writting this building program. I would like to see what you came up with. Others out here would also be interested in seeing your results...seeing what was used to dictate such an elaborate building.
Don't you think it's possible for mistakes to have been made. Did anyone with the city ask for another architect from the area to, at least, look over the program and your preliminaries. There are professionals who would do this as a public service...here in Starkville. What is wrong with this.
Jeremiah, there are many people in "high" places around this town who do not like what has been going on. Because of their business or University position they can not say anything publically. Maybe I should not have...but...what the "hey," this is America and thank God for the privilege of being able to speak one's mind and to say what others can not say openly. Let's not fight about this situation...or cover up with any "retreat." Speak to the city in such a way that everyone feels like they are a part of this building. Don't look down to some and invite others into the fold. I think if the meetings were made more open to ALL, then you will be pleasantly surprised at the results. THAT'S IT! GOOD LUCK!

 

Article Comment kj commented at 9/28/2011 10:34:00 PM:

Students who rent (in fact, all renters) do pay property taxes. That cost gets passed on to them through rents, which rise as property taxes do.

 

Article Comment rcoblentz commented at 9/29/2011 9:06:00 AM:

I kinda like metal buildings. I own one with a brick facade and Ceco has been a client of mine through the years. Good folks and a good product.

 

Article Comment frank commented at 9/29/2011 11:31:00 AM:

I am not a Starkville resident and don't know all the details and politics but... Does this have to involve a shiny new building with all the functions clumped together? A lot of towns take existing buildings and renovate them into police precincts, jails, office buildings, etc. Back when mayor Dill was in office, West Point for example made an old grocery store into a very nice police station. Turned an old post office into a show place city water&light office and transformed the abandoned hospital into a nice county office, court room, and jail. They used a lot of their own labor on the projects too and saved a bundle.

Maybe Starkville ought to look around. Perhaps they could save a few $million and turn some old eyesores into outstanding city properties. Many of those old structures were built better than they are today anyway!

 

Article Comment wicked_cynic commented at 9/29/2011 1:44:00 PM:

Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas thinks Starkville residents are a long way from realizing how great their city can be.

"We're a town that hasn't risen to the occasion," Dumas said. "We're still wanting metal buildings for civic facilities. We're still wanting to rate our best as second best. I think it's a cultural thing that'll have to change over time."

Despite your smug arrogance about your supreme knowledge of what is best for everyone, I voted against the new facility because I am tired of everyone at City Hall trying to shove a square peg in a round hole on the back of my taxes much like you're trying to shove a police department and city hall downtown.

Why can you people not get it through your thick skulls that the original plan is the ONLY plan that has been REMOTELY feasible throughout this entire process? The only people who are demanding that the police department and city hall remain downtown are the people who have a direct financial interest in the police department and city hall remaining downtown. I am a downtown business owner, and I hope they move everything out on the bypass as was originally planned.

Maybe with a new political day dawning in the county and then hopefully the city, the police department and the sheriff's office can work together to come up with a combined jail/police/sheriff/911/court/city hall facility so that the cost is shared between everyone who uses and benefits from all the services.

No one has ever explained why the city spent six years and a quarter of a million dollars to hire experts in Dallas in municipal facilities planning only to summarily and completely ignore their advice. They stated without equivocation or hesitation that the ONLY location which met the needs the board of alderman themselves created was the property on the bypass after studying the situation for almost three years.

Mr. Dumas, maybe--JUST MAYBE-- some of us voted against your pink elephant because we are not willing to compromise on this issue. We have an awareness that you self-interested, self-indulgent, sycophant snake oil salesmen apparently do not have or pretend not to have. It is dripping off all the "Golly gee shucks. I just don't know why this keeps happening." comments.

Let me clue you in and save you a LOT of time and a LOT of my taxpayer dollars. (As an aside, how much have all these bond issue elections cost?) I can speak for no one else. But from my perspective, the building on the bypass had over 200 parking places, over 20,000 square feet, and it did not require a bond issue. I believe the final cost was $5.4 million dollars. The facility would have been in use for I believe almost ten years now had the interests of a precious few who own businesses in downtown Starkville been placed behind the common good of the community. What is so funny to me is that keeping the PD/City Hall downtown has quite literally nothing to do with the vitality of downtown Starkville.

That original process went on in public for over six years. No one paid any attention to it until the fire was stoked by the self-interested downtown business owners because they didn't think it was a good idea. Our board of aldermen spent $250,000 on expert advice they summarily ignored. And you would tell me with a straight face this has nothing to do with politics? And insofar as that B.S. citizens committee, you can come to any conclusion you like in a citizens committee when you control who's on it. Stop trying to blame this on citizens.

So you guys can keep trying to shove that square downtown peg into the round bypass hole all you want. You can keep wasting tax dollars on bond issue elections that we neither need nor can afford. But until you all let go of the ridiculous notion that ANYWHERE downtown meets the current and future needs of the city of Starkville police department and city hall, we will keep shooting you down. The facility we need to build and the facility we should build cannot be done downtown in any economically feasible way. Any proposal/plan to the contrary is quite honestly myopic and politically self-serving.

 

Article Comment bethany stich commented at 9/29/2011 2:07:00 PM:

I was also on the citizen committee and can assure we DID NOT meet with any building people. Stringtoon1, it is difficult to agree you have material to back up your claims when there are now two members of the citizen committee refuting your claim. Please do not tell Robbie and myself that we do not know what was going on in the committee meetings, we were there - you were not.

Additionally, we never met with or used a Jackson firm.

As for the fliers, those were done with private citizen volunteers and money. Though you may think that is mismanagement of their time and wasteful of their money, it is theirs to do with as they saw fit.

 

Article Comment bethany stich commented at 9/29/2011 2:12:00 PM:

The citizen committee looked at over 20 locations, some were to reuse existing facilities, one was a POTENTIAL donation and the one selected.

Just because land is donated does not mean it is free. There is extensive site preparation that would have needed to be done. Therefore, it would not have been reasonable to get the land for any purpose as it would have required significant investment.

If there was a better and cheaper location, we would have chosen it.

Furthermore, it would have been helpful to the committee had you expressed these concerns so we could have come up with a solution that would have been palatable to you. Though, let's be honest, 75% of Starkville didn't say one way or the other.

There was plenty of opportunity. The citizen committee meetings (well over a dozen) were open to the public and citizen did attend and give us feedback. There was a city sponsored open house and two subsequent town hall meetings. The Tea Party sponsored a forum. This doesn't even count the charett meetings where the complex was discussed.

 

Article Comment bethany stich commented at 9/29/2011 2:17:00 PM:

Please remember that we were not trying to build a house or an electric department's office building. We were trying to build a police complex. It does not have a garage but a secure sallyport. It requires vaults and fire secure storage facilities. All of these add to the price per square foot. If you consider that the citizen committee voted to renovate current city hall for the rest of our municipal needs, we did use current buildings and we did save money doing so. We did not ask the citizens to carry the burden of a newly constructed municipal complex.

We did not ask for you to agree to a building made of lime stone and granite but a building that was built to suit the unique requirements of police work. It is disheartening that for less than most of you spend in coffee or soda a week, we could not agree to provide a facility to the men and women who are willing to risk their lives daily for each of us.

They are better people than we are that they even continue to show up for work after this referendum. Let's hope it doesn't rain. I'd hate for them to have to slosh through sewage in the hallway trying to rescue any of us from a dangerous situation.

 

Article Comment usarover commented at 9/29/2011 3:14:00 PM:

@bethany stich

"They are better people than we are that they even continue to show up for work after this referendum."

Because they have to live with the disappointment of having to wait on a new building they are better than us....oh wait, that is called life!

Also need we remind you that 55% voted no, therefore you are in the minority. Perhaps you should listen to some of the comments posted by people in the majority before you go finger pointing at the "no" voters. As you were playing pawn for other self interested parties.

Please win with class and lose with class, just hit the drawing board again and stop worrying with this one, it is over.

 

Article Comment bethany stich commented at 9/29/2011 5:22:00 PM:

usarover, I agree it is over. I was simply trying to correct errors in previous posts as a person who was involved in the process.

I played pawn for no one. I gave of my time to try and help the city. We did not come up with a solution that got the 60%+1 that was necessary but that is no reason to personally attack me as corrupt. I am not. I am, like you, a concerned citizen of Starkville. The same city we share as neighbors. We did our best.

I think we all lose in this one. It would be great to know what the 75% of registered voters in Starkville that chose not to vote think. The majority chose not to choose. That doesn't make you a winner.

 

Article Comment msudad commented at 9/29/2011 10:25:00 PM:

It's amazing to me that no one has mentioned the tax burdens of two school bonds and the recent bond issue to improve Oktibbeha County Hospital. Maybe the "no" voters just don't want to pay more taxes. And if Mr. Dumas and the rest of the city officials think the city needs a justice complex then get creative and vote on one. Historically, the elected city officials are too timid to vote on anything that will raise taxes. They whine and complain about any number of issues but don't have the courage to vote to fund anything.

 

Article Comment interested in starkville commented at 9/30/2011 12:38:00 PM:

Who employed the man with the clipboard and a printout with names and addresses who went door to door in Greenbriar asking how each resident planned to vote regarding this bond. The choices were: For, Against, Undecided. Your response was recorded by your name on the printout. No one, and I mean no one, has a right to know how I vote. Did the City employ this man?

 

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