October 16, 2012 9:55:33 AM
A decision will be made tonight at the Starkville Board of Aldermen meeting concerning the re-opening of an emergency access entrance into Green Oaks subdivision from Stark Road. The motion to open the access road passed 3-2 during the board's Sept. 18 meeting, but mayor Parker Wiseman vetoed the proposal.
Tonight, it appears the board will override that veto.
Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk, Ward 4 Alderman Richard Corey and Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins voted for the removal of the gate, while Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver, whose ward the motion affects, and Ward 3 Alderman Eric Parker voted against its removal. Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas and Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn abstained from the Sept. 18 vote.
If no one changes their original position, the override would succeed, since state law dictates that abstentions are counted in the affirmative of an attempt to override.
With two abstentions, the override would have the five votes needed to cancel the veto.
However, if Dumas and Vaughn vote, it could alter the outcome.
Dumas said he would be voting tonight.
"I will not be abstaining this time," Dumas said. "There will definitely be a decision made."
There has been considerable opposition to the re-opening of the entrance, which was closed in 1999 due to concerns that through-traffic from new multi-family developments could endanger residents.
"That is the reason I am so adamant about this," Carver said. "Very few times when we do local government issues do we have a history to fall back on, with this there is a history.
"It would be different if this was the first time and we didn't know what the results were, but history repeats itself."
And even though the language of the motion clearly states the entrance be open to emergency traffic only, people on both sides of the issue have conceded that the rules could easily, and would likely, be broken since the gate that has sealed the entrance will be removed.
Along with the throngs of Green Oaks residents who have shown up to plead with the board to leave the entrance closed, Carver is concerned that, whether opened specifically for emergency traffic or not, students, who occupy a majority of the housing on the west side of Stark Road, will take advantage of the removed gate and cut through anyway.
Carver's concerns echo those of Wiseman, who has said several times that he thinks the biggest issue to address is enforcement; something he said has been difficult in the past.
Perkins, who was the only board member serving in 1999 when the road was closed and voted for its closure then, has since changed his mind and is the main proponent for its re-opening.
"The streets are paid for by taxpayer dollars," Perkins said at the board's Sept. 18 meeting. "It is not in the public interest to close any street. It removes, based on my legal opinion, any potential liability that may exist or arise with respect to any emergency personnel being able to access Green Oaks subdivision for emergency purposes."
In other board business at the 5:30 meeting tonight, the aldermen will discuss the Golden Triangle Regional Development Link, a new economic development partnership among Oktibbeha, Lowndes and Clay counties that has been proposed by a joint committee of public and private officials in the three counties.