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Aldermen stall capital improvements exercise


Carl Smith



A process identifying a variety of potential Starkville capital improvement projects was put on hold Tuesday as aldermen were not ready to decide if the city should identify needs in future work sessions with financial advisor Demery Grubbs.  


Grubbs, who has developed similar planning lists for the city in the past, outlined an oft-used process Tuesday that would allow aldermen and city department heads to develop what he called a Christmas shopping list of improvements for the next one to three years -- before the current term ends. Aldermen would identify projects and then vet the list with a grading system. Work sessions would follow to identify project feasibility and financing options. 


Traction for the exercise stalled when aldermen could not come to a consensus about moving forward with the process. 


Mayor Parker Wiseman, who, along with Vice Mayor Roy A. Perkins and Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn, worked with Grubbs during the previous term, stumped for the process and said aldermen, in previous strategic planning sessions, set a goal for the city to develop a comprehensive capital improvements plan before the end of the year. 


Two aldermen -- Ward 3's David Little and Ward 4's Jason Walker -- expressed interest in short-term bonding solutions that could tend to numerous street projects by bolstering the city's $450,000-$500,000 average road fund, but it was Perkins who led the charge against moving forward with the planning exercise. 


Perkins repeatedly alluded to the city's current road and street improvement plan, which the board passed in May, as the needed step for long-term planning. 


The Ward 7 alderman has repeatedly said he would not support any kind of tax increase, whether through bonds or the 10 percent millage hike the city can execute against assessed property values without a referendum.  


A comprehensive planning exercise could open the door for future general obligation bonds, as alluded to by Walker and Little. Perkins was the only alderman to oppose the city's $5 million bond pledge for a new Golden Triangle Development LINK-backed industrial park in August. 


Beyond the city's existing road and storm water improvements plan, Perkins identified the purchase of Cadence Bank's Main Street branch as the city's most pressing capital improvement issue. Before the city threw its support behind the LINK's industrial park, Perkins led a failed attempt to move forward with the estimated $2.55 million purchase. 


Officials still believe the transaction is a viable option for the city, as it will provide Starkville Police Department with a better-prepared base of operations compared to City Hall after planned renovations are completed. 


The Cadence purchase is not expected to create a tax increase, city employees have repeatedly told aldermen since the issue emerged this summer. 


Aldermen are expected to decide whether or not to conduct Grubbs' exercise by Tuesday's meeting.  


If the city moves forward, project lists from aldermen would be due by the middle of September. A vetted project list could become the topic of face-to-face work sessions between board members, department heads and Grubbs in the fall. 


The entire process could be completed by mid-November at the latest.


Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch



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