December 17, 2013 10:32:03 AM
Starkville aldermen could approve a new bid to concrete a portion of the Carver Drive ditch, a drainage feature that has served as a point of political conflict for years, during their 5:30 p.m. meeting today at City Hall.
The city previously received bids for the project that ranged between about $800,000 and $1 million, but a lower bid, one not to exceed $677,700, was submitted by Hattiesburg-based Precision Construction on Dec. 6.
A majority of the project's funding could come from an external capital improvements program, while the city supplements the remainder, which is expected to be less than $100,000.
The current proposal drew flak in previous meetings from Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker, a landscape architect instructor, and a resident who specializes hydrology.
Both voiced concerns over the project's cost and the danger associated with the depth created by concreting the ditch's sides to FEMA's specifications.
In May 2012, the prior board of aldermen defeated a resolution authorizing the city to commit $340,995 -- in-kind contributions constituted $230,995 of that total -- toward a Community Development Block Grant to fund Carver Drive improvements. Only Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins, Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn and former Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas voted in favor of the resolution.
The board then authorized City Engineer Edward Kemp one month later to seek Federal Emergency Management Agency approval for a $175,000 channel restoration project. That motion drew criticism from Vaughn as he and Perkins sought a more expensive, pipe-and-cover solution to the area's drainage woes. The vote was split 3-3 -- Perkins, Vaughn and Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver supported the matter -- and Mayor Parker Wiseman was left to cast the deciding "Yea" vote.
Perkins motioned in February to rescind the June 2012 order and, instead, concrete the entire sides and bottom of the Carver Drive ditch through work by city employees and/or contractors for $175,000. That plan was contingent upon Mississippi Emergency Management Agency or FEMA approval.
The entire former board, with the exception of Carver, voted for Perkins' motion.
In other business, Starkville aldermen could address the city's vacant chief administrative officer position Tuesday by selecting applicants for job interviews on Jan. 7. It is not known how many potential applicants have shown interest in the position.
Last month, aldermen approved on consent advertising for the position, which was boosted to a salary grade 19 pay scale, or between about $71,000-$95,000. The CAO is expected to provide oversight for city departments, facilitate internal communication and manage grants and special funding not specific to individual departments. The approved job description also states he or she will also "perform other duties as assigned by the mayor and/or board of aldermen."
The job was previously held by Lynn Spruill from the Camp administration until July when she was ousted by the incoming board. Spruill's salary did not eclipse the $70,000 mark.
Aldermen removed Spruill from her position and overrode a veto from Wiseman despite numerous public constituents demanding transparency and reasoning behind the move. Spruill, who documents show received high performance evaluations from former and current aldermen in the past, was the only city employee or department head not reappointed to their position in July.
Aldermen neither went behind closed doors to discuss the move, nor gave a public reason for their action.
The board tasked City Clerk Taylor Adams with preparing meeting agendas but did not formally delegate any other job functions. Adams has served as the de facto CAO, while sharing responsibilities with Wiseman.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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