August 7, 2013 9:52:55 AM
Starkville aldermen approved a $5 million bond intent notice to help spur future economic development despite fierce resistance from Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins and Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn.
The notice is contingent upon future board approval, as Tuesday's resolution does not actually move forward with the bond's issuance.
Economic developers now have $10 million in combined economic incentives to lure developments to Oktibbeha County. In May, the county board of supervisors approved a similar bond intent notice unanimously.
Bond monies could be used to acquire land, update infrastructure, construct facilities or develop planning for future Golden Triangle Development Link-recommended projects.
The city now has two years to act on the notice, beginning in September. The resolution does not state that bonds have to be issued.
Residents could block the bond intent notice if a petition of 1,500 residents is submitted to the city clerk's office in September. The county's resolution went unchallenged by residents.
Tuesday's resolution was approved by Ward 2 Alderman Lisa Wynn, Ward 3 Alderman David Little, Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker and Ward 5 Alderman Scott Maynard. Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver was absent from the meeting.
Originally, Perkins attempted to table the matter before the board moved forward with discussions. That motion, which was supported by Wynn and Vaughn, ended in a tie. Wiseman cast the tie-breaking vote and continued the discussion.
Speaking on behalf of the Link, Oktibbeha County's chief economic development representative Joey Deason reminded aldermen numerous times they would have the final say in any potential bond issuance. Deason cited Lowndes and Clay counties' ability to draw major jobs projects as proof of the need for economic development incentives.
"A bond intent notice would speak volumes toward the city's commitment toward economic development," he said.
Throughout Deason's presentation, Vaughn asked multiple times if the city had to act on the matter Tuesday or if aldermen could push the matter to a future, unspecified board meeting. The Ward 6 alderman said repeatedly the board should not vote on the matter since Carver was unavailable due to family issues.
While Vaughn attempted to delay the vote, Perkins repeatedly said the bonds, coupled with payments for the new Starkville City Hall, would require a tax increase. At one point, he specifically said the increase could be up to two mills. While most city department heads have submitted relatively flat budget proposals for the upcoming fiscal year, Starkville also faces significant pay disparity issues for its own employees. Also, Starkville Parks Commission Chairman Dan Moreland previously submitted a proposal which asks the city to foot a large portion of its increasing electric bills.
Perkins, the board's senior representative, has previously gone on record opposing any future tax increase.
"I'm telling you, taxpayers, we don't have this kind of money. You're taxed enough," he said.
Both Perkins and Vaughn would say they were in favor of economic development before voting against the intent notice. The Ward 6 alderman also alluded to the board's underhanded move to vote on the issue without Carver in attendance.
In other business, aldermen appointed Ward 3 resident Lawson Graves to the autonomous Parks board and named Nathan Moore as Ward 4's Starkville Transportation Committee representative.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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