July 22, 2014 10:05:39 AM
Members of the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau Board of Directors voted to provide $21,136 for supplies that will be used to install ornamental lighting on the connecting sidewalk between the Riverwalk and the Columbus Soccer Complex.
Board members in attendance unanimously approved a request from Columbus Mayor Robert Smith, and in doing so, became a contributor to the sidewalk connector, a joint project between the city council and the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors.
Earlier this year, each governing body agreed to match $480,000 in grant money awarded by the Mississippi Department of Transportation with $60,000 apiece for the project, which was initially estimated at $600,000.
Scope changes and mandates from MDOT, including having the 980-foot walkway extend 10 feet wide instead of eight feet, busted the budget by $67,847. Again, supervisors and councilmen agreed to split that amount and add it to their existing financial contributions. In total, each body is paying $93,923.
Smith said Columbus Light and Water General Manager Todd Gale is bringing a request before the utility board Thursday to approve $24,024 to install the 16 poles for the lighting.
"The city and county have a lot of skin in the game here from the match standpoint," Smith said.
The funds will come from the 2014-15 fiscal year budget.
Kevin Stafford of the city's engineering firm Neel-Schaffer, updated the board on a separate project that will provide two new pedestrian connections between Catfish Alley and the Tennessee Williams Home and Welcome Center. Also funded by a grant from MDOT, two alleyways between Fourth and Third Streets will be renovated to include additional landscaping, lighting, decorative railings and signs.
Columbus and Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau officials applied for a $200,000 MDOT Transportation Alternatives Program grant late last year. The CVB is matching $30,000 of that, and the city is pitching in $10,000 toward $160,000 in MDOT money.
In other business, the board approved financial reports for the month of June. The report states that the CVB's revenue is $46,112 behind where it was projected to be by this point in the budget. Since October, the CVB has realized a total income of $1,201,429 between tax receipts from the city and county. The budget passed last October projected $1,247,541 by the end of June. Despite the shortfall, the CVB has $1,133,072 in expenses as of June 30, meaning the general fund for this year is still $68,356.58 in the black.
Whirllie Byrd asked board treasurer Lester King why the report did not have a check listing, or list of transactions that took place in a month, as it usually does.
"We can go over it whenever," King said. "It's just not something we wanted to go over during a board meeting."
Board members also voted unanimously to re-appoint board president Dewitt Hicks and King to those positions. Hicks and King abstained from the vote.
Board members Rissa Lawrence and Nadia Dale were absent from the meeting.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
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