December 20, 2017 11:19:34 AM
At it's monthly meeting Tuesday, the Starkville Board of Aldermen placed Parks and Recreation Director Herman Peters on unpaid administrative leave.
Peters is one of two city employees to be put on leave following a discussion between aldermen on the employees' job requirements and performances during executive session. The other employee is administrative assistant Dion Evans.
Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill said the board is researching "irregularities" they found regarding both Peters and Evans.
Gerry Logan, the current director of sports and recreation, will serve as interim director of parks and recreation, which will be active immediately.
"I'm really not at liberty to comment," Peters told The Dispatch Wednesday. "We're still trying to figure out what's going on."
With a vote of 4-3, the board also approved a variance from street width and street standards requirements for a roadway in the proposed 400-acre industrial park near Highways 82 and 389.
Vice Mayor Roy Perkins, Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk and Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn voted against the variance, agreeing the board should uphold all ordinances.
At the board's Friday work session, The Golden Triangle Development LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins and Saunders Ramsey of the Neel-Schaffer engineering firm came before the board seeking a variance from the 27-foot road with curb and gutters that the current city code requires. Instead, the LINK is looking to have a 24-foot road with prepared shoulders.
To add curb and gutters to the 24-foot road would add $149,500 to the price, compared to the 24-foot road with prepared shoulders. A 27-foot road with curbs and gutters would add $273,895.
Ramsey said the road would still have an area with curb and gutters at the Highway 389 intersection. However, as the road moves further into the industrial park, it would move to an open shoulder.
During the public forum, Starkville resident Leah Ellis said she was disappointed when there was no room for public comment at Friday's work session, which she also attended. With the session being one-sided, she added, it was very easy to get the idea board members had already made up their minds regarding the code variance.
Ellis said the only reason the LINK requested the variance was to save money. However, it was not to save the tax payers' money, she added, but only to save The LINK's money.
"The LINK has the nerve to tell the city that if the city wants the road to code, they would have to spend more money just because the LINK did not budget for a city-standard road," Ellis said.
Although the industrial park has continued to be a contentious subject in the community, Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker said in the last four or five years he knows there have been a number of street variance requests granted because of the inflexibility of the current code.
"It's a one-sized-fits-all code," Walker said. "It does not take context into situation."
In the past two years, Mayor Lynn Spruill said the city has given for-profit developers variances for things such as street lips, curb design, side walks, right-away widths and parking requirements, which is why she found it ironic the board would not approve a variance for their own tax payer-funded project.
"Now is not the time to fall victim to false-equivalent arguments of slippery slopes and for-profit developments verses governmental developments," Spruill said. "This is not a for-profit endeavor. This is for economic development for our city and county, and I don't think the two can be effectively compared."
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