February 3, 2010 9:41:00 AM
The Starkville Board of Aldermen on Tuesday voted 4-2 to complete a number of infrastructure-improvement projects over the next two years, though work on an 850-foot section of culvert along Carver Drive prompted heated discussion.
The culvert borders the back yards of a number of homes, Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins said, and "is a detriment to the health, safety and welfare of the people there." Perkins cited complaints of odor coming from standing water in the culvert and mosquito infestation.
Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver, Ward 4 Alderman Richard Corey and Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas, however, were reluctant to devote city funds to the project, which would install pipe in the culvert and cover it, without researching it further. None of the men felt like they had enough information on the project, so Carver abstained from voting, while Dumas and Corey voted against it.
The culvert is in Ward 6 and Perkins said he has heard citizens'' complaints there for several years. A portion of the culvert is already covered, but the remaining 850 feet is open.
Perkins grew irritated Tuesday over what he perceived as resistance among board members to complete a project in his ward.
"It seems like whenever I bring something to this board that it takes an act of Congress to get it done," Perkins said.
But Dumas and Carver emphasized they were just trying to keep tabs on taxpayers'' money.
"It seems to me if you''ve had six years, you''ve had enough time to gather information (for the rest of the board)," Carver said to Perkins, adding that he usually drives to potential project sites to see them for himself, but hadn''t for the Carver Drive culvert.
Vaughn spoke out against the rest of the board, minus Perkins, after Mayor Parker Wiseman said he would like the city to explore improvements to open channels in the future, as opposed to installing pipe and closing culverts, like on the Carver Drive project. The city wouldn''t need to spend money on pipes if the city just improved open channels, Wiseman said. Vaughn, however, wasn''t swayed and also felt Wards 6 and 7 are neglected by the mayor and remainder of the board.
"In Wards 6 and 7, are those taxpayers?" Vaughn asked Wiseman. "If I''m not mistaken, Wards 6 and 7 were how you got elected. Wards 6 and 7 are taxpayers, too."
The culvert project was included with planned improvements to two bridges -- one on Old West Point Road, over an unnamed Sand Creek tributary, and the other on Academy Road, over Hollis Creek. Part of the improvements approved Tuesday also included a ditch along Academy Road.
In other business, aldermen voted to advertise for a capital improvement project already budgeted for 2010. The city will install sidewalks in front of all property on Hospital Road not owned by Oktibbeha County Hospital. Approximately $115,000 is budgeted for the project.
The board also approved a change in purpose for the city''s sidewalk committee. The committee is set to become the transportation committee, so it would focus not only on sidewalks, but transportation "as a whole" within the city, committee chairman Jim Gafford told the board.
Perkins was opposed to the committee''s change in focus because the board at its recent retreat agreed to re-form the infrastructure committee, and Perkins felt the two committees would be addressing some of the same issues.
Only Perkins and Vaughn voted against the sidewalk committee''s change to the transportation committee. Dumas admitted there would be a "clear overlap" in issues addressed by both groups, but added, "I think we can''t lose sight that transportation as a whole is more than just infrastrucutre."
He cited public transportation issues, bike paths, sidewalks and roads as some of the potential focuses of the transportation committee.
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