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Council members split $2 million for road work

 

Jason Browne

 

Columbus City Council members will have their eyes on the streets for the next two weeks as each decides how to spend $333,000. 

 

During a special called meeting prior to Tuesday''s regularly scheduled meeting, the council voted unanimously to evenly split $2 million in bond money slated for road repairs. City engineer Kevin Stafford asked each councilman to survey his ward and provide a list of streets to be repaired within two weeks. 

 

Stafford provided the council with a preliminary list of proposed street repairs that showed the greatest need for repairs in Ward 6 and the least in Ward 4. He pointed out that the road repair money isn''t limited to paving. It can encompass repairing curbs, gutters, sidewalks, striping and other infrastructure-related projects. 

 

Mayor Robert Smith highlighted several problem areas that have garnered the most complaints in recent years and asked the council to grant him permission to use remaining funds from the $8.9 million bond to repair those spots if they were not included in the corresponding councilman''s list. He mentioned Fifth Street North just south of Highway 45 across from the Magnolia Bowl where one side of the road is collapsing; Bluecutt Road where ruts in the shoulder create a hazard; and striping along McCrary Road, Gardner Boulevard and Warpath Road. 

 

The mayor''s request passed 4-2 with Ward 2 Councilman Joseph Mickens and Ward 5 Councilman Kabir Karriem opposing. 

 

"I have a problem with that. Then that ward is getting more than my ward," argued Mickens. 

 

Ward 1 could have received more money than the others, as did Ward 5 when $50,000 became available when the Mississippi Department of Transportation offered to pay to close an abandoned railroad crossing. Ward 1 has three railroad crossings slated for removal, so Smith asked the council whether the money should go into the general fund this time or go to the ward responsible for the money. 

 

Karriem and Mickens stated the money should be spent at the discretion of Ward 1 Councilman Gene Taylor, but the rest of the council, including Taylor, agreed it should go into the general fund. 

 

"That''s a tough one," said Taylor when Smith asked his opinion. "In all fairness, it should be in the general fund. Although it''s difficult to give up $150,000 when (the ward) needs it so much." 

 

Karriem asked for and received permission from the council in November to spend $50,000 to revitalize a portion of Seventh Avenue North. The money will actually come from the general fund via a budget amendment, and the $50,000 from MDOT will go into the general fund when it arrives. 

 

Speaking of the Seventh Avenue revitalization, Smith asked Karriem whether he intended to pay the engineering fees incurred to plan the renovation from the $50,000 or ask for the fees to be paid from the general fund. Karriem claimed it was a non-issue since no work has yet taken place, but Stafford confirmed that some engineering fees had accumulated during the conceptual planning phase. 

 

Karriem eventually stated he "didn''t have a problem" with the engineering fees coming out of the $50,000. 

 

During regular session the council: 

 

· Recognized the Columbus/Lowndes community and the Columbus Air Force Base Military Affairs Committee for assisting in earning Columbus the Air Education in Training Command''s Altus Trophy for the Air Force''s most supportive community. 

 

CAFB Commander Col. Barre Seguin pointed out that Columbus was competing with communities with populations of 1 million such as San Antonio and Phoenix, for the award. 

 

"No small part of this is you as a council," Seguin told the councilmen. "This is not the base''s award. This is the community''s award." 

 

· Heard from Columbus Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau Board of Directors member Dixie Butler, who pleaded with the council to maintain a representative from Columbus'' historic home owners on the CVB board. 

 

In December the council opted to do away with industry-specific appointments to the board in favor of all at-large appointments. 

 

Butler told the council Columbus'' historic homes play host to visitors from all around the world, in addition to high-ranking members of the armed forces. 

 

"We are truly ambassadors of Columbus," said Butler. "Most of us don''t make a profit. We do it for the satisfaction value. 

 

"I''m not talking about Dixie Butler being on the board. I am asking you to keep my position on the board."

 

 

 

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