Unfinished business: Override of School Board veto, helmet ordinance on agenda for aldermen

April 9, 2010 10:53:00 AM

Tim Pratt -


STARKVILLE -- When the Starkville Board of Aldermen called a recess Tuesday in the middle of its regularly scheduled meeting due to the Crossgates Apartments fire, the board left a number of potentially controversial items on the table.  


Among them was a planned attempt to override Mayor Parker Wiseman''s veto of Susan Tomlinson''s appointment to the Starkville School District board of trustees. Aldermen on March 16 appointed Tomlinson to fill the vacant seat on the SSD board of trustees, but Wiseman vetoed Tomlinson''s appointment two days later.  


The Board of Aldermen planned to attempt the override on Tuesday, but the meeting was cut short when Starkville Police Department Chief David Lindley informed the board fire was spreading through multiple buildings at Crossgates Apartments. The issue will be taken up again when aldermen resume Tuesday''s meeting April 13 at 5:30 p.m. in the Starkville Sportsplex, even though the board appears to lack the votes.  


At least five aldermen must vote to override Wiseman, but Tomlinson was appointed with a 5-2 vote and one of the aldermen who supported her, Jeremiah Dumas of Ward 5, said he plans to recuse himself from the school board appointment process due to a potential conflict of interest. Dumas'' recusal would leave only four aldermen who voted in favor of Tomlinson to attempt an override next week.  




Proposed helmet ordinance 


Another issue on the agenda for the April 13 meeting is the second public hearing on a proposed safety-helmet ordinance. The ordinance originally was written to require children under 16 to wear helmets while riding bicycles and other alternative forms of transportation, but it was taken a step further since the first public hearing last month in that it now would require all persons, regardless of age, to wear helmets while riding bicycles or alternative forms of transportation in the city. It would not apply to Oktibbeha County or the Mississippi State University campus.  


Along with bicycles, the ordinance would apply to persons riding skateboards, motorcycles, ATVs, in-line skates, roller skates, Segways and unicycles. 


Starkville Police Department Chief David Lindley recommended to the Mayor and Board of Aldermen that the ordinance include all operators of these methods of transportation, not just persons 16 and younger. The research from accident reconstruction experts indicates that most of the injuries occur to the population aged 16 and older, he said. 




Head gear for all ages 


Jim Gafford, a member of the city''s transportation committee, also recommended the ordinance include all ages.  


Dr. Ron Cossman, a member of the city''s Healthy Hometown Committee, which is pushing for the ordinance, believes including all ages in the helmet requirement is a good thing for the city.  


"Our basic argument is that it''s all about consistency," Cossman said Thursday. "If you''re going to promote people going out and riding their bikes or walking or being outside, then you need to make that environment as safe as you can." 


Questions also came up during the first public hearing about how the ordinance would be enforced. Initially, the ordinance said "any authorized agent" of the city could issue a citation to violators of the ordinance, but it since has been changed to include only police officers and uniformed code enforcement officers. Several aldermen were concerned plain-clothes code enforcement officers would attempt to issue citations and said that could present a problem because many parents teach their children not to talk to strangers.  


Cossman and the Healthy Hometown Committee wanted Starkville to become the first municipality in the state to pass a helmet ordinance, but both Ridgeland and Hernando passed helmet ordinances this week. Tupelo and Madison are considering similar ordinances.  


It is unclear if aldermen will vote on the helmet ordinance Tuesday or if they will hold a third public hearing due to the recent changes. A copy of the proposed ordinance is available on the city of Starkville''s Web site, www.cityofstarkville.org. 






Aldermen on April 13 also will consider sending a letter, which already has been drafted by Mayor Parker Wiseman, to the Mississippi Home Corp. in support of Louisville-based Hughes Contracting for possible housing tax credits to finance a project on the north side of Starkville. Hughes Construction is competing with other developers all over the state for the credits, so owner Chris Hughes asked the board for its support on Tuesday. The meeting was recessed before the board voted on the matter.  


Hughes wants to take advantage of the tax credits to help finance the construction of 84 single-family homes off Reed Road, dubbed "Reed Place." But Hughes, who said the homes would be leased to "medium income" residents at about $700 to $800 a month, faced opposition at Tuesday''s meeting.  


Lee Carson called the proposed development "low income" and said he doesn''t want to see it built in Starkville.  


"I just want to go on record and say this is not a positive development for the city of Starkville," Carson said.  


After 15 years, tenants would be eligible to purchase the homes, Hughes said.  


"This program is about working with first-time home owners," Hughes said.