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No recognition for prior administration's City Hall efforts


Carl Smith



As it stands, a plaque will be placed on Starkville's new City Hall next year that will honor four aldermen who were not in office when its plans were developed and three others who fought against its construction. 


Aldermen voted 4-3 to recognize themselves, not the prior board of aldermen that actively planned and enacted the building's financing and construction, with the designation Tuesday. 


Construction of the $6 million-plus facility began after the previous board of aldermen approved a 2012 public-private partnership utilizing certificates of participation that would fund the city's new municipal home and renovations to the current City Hall for Starkville Police Department usage.  


Turnover from the 2013 municipal election replaced the four votes -- former Aldermen Eric Parker, Sandra Sistrunk, Richard Corey and Jeremiah Dumas -- key to the plan's implementation. Their four replacements -- Aldermen Lisa Wynn, David Little, Jason Walker and Scott Maynard -- inherited a project they not only were not in office to support, but also one that some actively campaigned against during the election cycle. 


Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver, Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins and Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn -- the three current aldermen who were on the board when the plan was approved -- all voted against the matter. Perkins single-handedly spearheaded the charge against the municipal complex plan since 2013, saying the project would adversely affect Starkville's coffers. 


Aldermen first moved up Wynn's motion to erect the plaque to earlier in the meeting, placing it before public comments Tuesday. At least one public call was made for Mayor Parker Wiseman to veto the order, but the mayor has yet to say whether he will attempt to block it. 


A veto requires five board votes to override, and Tuesday's action was approved 4-3, with Carver, Wynn, Perkins and Vaughn supporting the matter. 


During discussion, Wiseman, who was previously selected to serve as the project's day-to-day manager for the city, said he was about to authorize the purchase of two separate plaques so both boards of aldermen would be recognized for their efforts. 


The mayor said his rationale was that the project's timeline fell almost evenly between the two boards, so both administrations, even the lease-holding Golden Triangle Public Buildings Corporation's board, deserved credit.  


Perkins previously told The Dispatch that sitting boards routinely receive plaque honors once projects are completed, but on Tuesday, Wiseman said two projects the previous board inherited honored the 2009-2013 board and former Mayor Dan Camp's 2005-2009 administration with plaques. 


Since bond, design and construction efforts for Starkville Electric Department's headquarters were mostly handled by 2005-2009 board, Wiseman said the city honored those board members, not the prior term's sitting aldermen, when the building was completed. Conversely, the 2009-2013 board of aldermen handled most of the same work for Starkville Fire Station No. 5's construction, and were then rightfully recognized, he said. 


"This is not something there is a strict protocol for," he said. "The rule of thumb I use is that this is a historical marker. The most important thing for the marker to do is to recognize the history of the project and how that building came to be. In my mind, it's clear and easy to put the names of those three boards on it, and it will accurately reflect the history of the project." 


Maynard attempted to amend Wynn's motion with an order placing a separate plaque at the site to honor the prior administration's organization efforts, but his effort was shot down by the same 4-3 vote that would finalize the matter. 


"They were the architects of the project," he said. "They saw it through all the controversy, through all the discourse and through the back and forth. Right or wrong, for them or against them, I think that board should be recognized." 


Even though the municipal complex plan did not lead to a direct tax increase, the prior board took flak for pushing it to fruition shortly after voters defeated an $8.45 million bond referendum in 2011 that would have constructed a new police station at the intersection of Highway 182 and Jackson Street.  


The process became the focal point to many challengers' election campaigns, as they accused incumbents of going against taxpayers' will and forcing the project without a direct vote. 


Wiseman and former aldermen unveiled the City Hall plans formally on April 23, 2013, one day after William McGovern, the Starkville resident who legally challenged the city's process for developing the municipal complex plan, died. He was 73. 


McGovern's challenge was overruled in Oktibbeha County Chancery Court and subsequently appealed up to the state Supreme Court. It was eventually dismissed. 


He also filed a complaint with the Mississippi Ethics Commission, accusing aldermen of violating the city's open meetings law. The MEC ruled in his favor, and simply warned aldermen about their actions.


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



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