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Lawrence Transit to go before historic commission


City building official Kenny Wiegel

City building official Kenny Wiegel



Nathan Gregory



When the Historic Preservation Commission meets next week, one of the matters they will take up is whether to approve the installation of five bus stops and shelters within Columbus historic districts. 


Lawrence Transit System, which is based in Indiana, is a private company wanting to bring buses to the city. The company's director of Columbus operations, Dorothy Dowdell, met with city building official Kenny Wiegel last week and made sure the company was on the Historic Preservation Commission's agenda for its Sept. 5 meeting. 


The meeting is slated to begin at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall. 


Lawrence Transit System needs approval from the commission and city council to have put bus stops and shelters at the corners of Fifth Street and Main Street, plus another near Central United Methodist Church on College Street across from Mississippi University for Women.  


Dowdell said she also spoke with officials from the Mississippi Department of Transportation to find out if any of the stops required their approval. None of them do, she said, because they're not in MDOT right of way. Rather, they are located on private property owned, for example, by TJ Maxx, Walmart and the Malco Cinema. 


"MDOT's right of way on Main Street is from curb to curb, which means all the inner side of the street, once you get to the curb, you can do anything past the curb," Dowdell said. "That's where the shelters would be." 


Wiegel and Dowdell confirmed the four corner stops and shelters on Fifth and Main streets would be by Cafe on Main, the Fashion Barn, the Rosenzweig Arts Center and the building across from it on Fifth Street that in the past housed a bank. Those stops will face Fifth Street.  


Lawrence Transit System's original deadline to begin operations was August 9. That was pushed to August 26 after MDOT officials said some of the bus stops required shelters. City officials confirmed last week that the August 26 deadline was taken off the table after it was discovered Historic Preservation Commission and council approval was required before there could be any stops or shelters in the historic district. 


Two of the five locations require shelters to be installed before operations can begin per MDOT regulations: the one by Cafe on Main and the stop on College Street. Dowdell said the ones on the other three corners of Fifth and Main streets will be installed later because they don't fall in that category.  


"Technically, it's only two stops," Dowdell said, "but to avoid having to go through this entire process later for the other three corners, if we get the corners approved now we can go ahead and install them." 


If the commission approves the request, the next opportunity for the city council to do the same would likely be during its Sept. 17 recess meeting, although it must approve its the city's 2014 budget before Sept. 15. If Mayor Robert Smith calls a special meeting before then, Dowdell's request could also be reviewed then. 


No city funds are slated to be budgeted to Lawrence Transit System.  


Apart from the bus stop item, he other item to be considered at the commission's meeting is a property owner's request to demolish a building in the historic district at 804 Main Street known as the "M.C. Edwards" home. Notice of that item was posted on page 3A in Wednesday's edition of The Dispatch.


Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.



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