February 12, 2013 11:40:45 AM
Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman says the city will move forward with municipal construction projects as soon as possible after Wednesday's ruling by the Mississippi Supreme Court that dismissed an appeal to block the process.
An order signed by Associate Justice Ann H. Lamar denied Starkville resident William McGovern's request to strike a Dec. 18 chancery court decision that ruled in favor of the city's methods to develop and fund an $8 million lease-purchase plan for facilities.
McGovern's appeal was filed with the Supreme Court on Jan. 9, a fact Starkville's legal counsel contested was done after the 20-day appeal deadline which ended Jan. 7. The high court granted Starkville Attorney Chris Latimer's dismissal, nullifying McGovern's appeal.
"This now gives us the opportunity to break ground and move forward with building projects that are going to meet city facility needs for a generation to come without raising taxes," Wiseman said. "It's an extraordinary day for the city."
In June, aldermen approved construction plans for a new city hall and renovations to its previous physical home after city voters defeated an $8.45 million bond referendum in 2011.
The approved plan utilizes money free in the city's budget, soon-to-be-retired debt and projected tax revenues toward a 20-year lease-purchase agreement funded by certificates of participation. As approved, the city will lease the former Starkville Electric Department building for improvements. The building would then be leased back to the city for 20 years and house the new Starkville City Hall. Starkville would retain ownership of the facility at the end of the agreement.
In his objection, McGovern alleged the city violated provisions of the Mississippi Open Meetings Act and left pertinent information blank in its approved plan, including the identity of a leasee corporation.
Oktibbeha County Chancery Judge Jim Davidson's December ruling stated "due process requirements of law" were met by the city and allegations of open meetings violations were "collateral and have no bearing upon the ultimate decision."
Although McGovern's objection was denied, the Mississippi Ethics Commission ruled Starkville failed to strictly comply with the state's Open Meetings Act.
Last month, the board of aldermen approved demolition projects at the former SED building. Wiseman said those efforts are continuing.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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