New Albany aldermen faced a full agenda at their regular monthly meeting Tuesday, receiving some good news as well as dealing with sensitive topics.
Among the good news was that the city and county are getting a one million dollar grant from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Mayor Time Kent said he had been informed by airport board member Gary Cooper, who is also a pilot, that the city and county are being awarded the grant to overlay the airport runway, taxiway and other areas. The city will have to come up with a match, however, furnishing $33,680, as will the county. Aldermen quickly approved spending that money to receive the grant.
Union County Development Association Executive Director Phil Nanney gave an update on his organizations’ activities. He said the planned industrial park access road that will connect Glenfied Road to the Newport Furniture (former Stratford-Mohasco) property is nearly at the construction point. “We’re just waiting on engineer Hubert Lynn Foley to finish the plans,” he said. “The road will be a great benefit to those in the park and also those in Mohasco.” For now, trucks to most of the plant area are having to travel through a residential area.
Nanney said an industrial prospect is looking at the Martintown Industrial Park and he is seeking funding for more dirt work for site preparation and road work in the area. He stressed that they really need a commitment from an industry to help get funding. “We are still in desperate need of a spec building,” he added.
“We have started the groundwork for the Glenfield overpass,” he said, referring to a proposed overpass crossing the Burlington-Northern Railroad to connect Munsford Drive to Sam T. Barkley Drive. Nanney said he had met with both congressional delegates and they recommended a letter-writing campaign from industrial leaders and the hope that a strong grassroots effort would follow.
Nanney said the UCDA has received a $2,400 grant from Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi to start a program called Business to Business. This is a lunch meeting, starting Thursday this week, for networking and business communications. It will be the first Thursday of every other month at the civic center. The first program was to be presented by Sean Suggs of Toyota.
In the problem area, Street Commissioner Johnny Payton was asked about the status of a small bridge on Oxford Road, just off West Bankhead. Ward Two Alderman Johnny Anderson expressed concern because of the reduced weight limit and deteriorating condition of the bridge. Already, heavy traffic including school buses and, notably, ambulances, cannot use the bridge. Once the new hospital emergency department is open and accessible only from Oxford Road, the problem will increase, he said.
Mayor Tiim Kent said they had talked with county officials about replacing the old bridge with a 10- or 12-foot squashed culvert. “The county is ready to pay their part. We need to do it,” Kent said. All they need now is a price and to order the culvert as quickly as they can.
Aldermen approved more payment requests for work on the new water well, tank and other improvements, most to be reimbursed from USDA. Professional Engineering Services will receive $23,876.40, Paul Smithey Construction will receive $139,489.26 and Parks and Parks will receive $225,862.50, all for the water and sewer project. Light, gas and water manager Bill Mattox told aldermen about two more invoices are expected to be submitted before the project is finished.
Aldermen approved four requests by local industries for ad valorem tax exemptions for 10 years. The exemptions are usually granted as incentives to recruit or keep industries. Accepted for exemption were Diversity-Vuteq (with an amendment removing autos from their request), Worthington Industries, Albany Industries and Abby Manufacturing. The exemptions can be granted for additions or expansions of existing industry as well as new companies. Both city and country boards generally need to approve the requests.
In other business:
- Light, gas and water manager Bill Mattox reported that the new water well near BNA Bank Park should be on-line about the first of July. “All is well with it,” he said. “They are getting the line in.” A new storage tank, pump and chlorinator will need to be added and housed in a small building as the well goes into service.
- Mattox also requested permission to buy a new half-ton pickup for the electric department, noting the money is in his budget and he plans to purchase it at state contract price. The request was unanimously approved.
- Building inspector and zoning administrator Mike Armstrong presented his monthly report and gave aldermen an update on this month’s action by the planning and zoning commission. He said the 7-Star corporation has requested that more than six acres across Bratton Road from the apartment complex be rezoned from C-2 commercial to R-2 residential. Also requested by 7-Star was changing the zoning for 34.54 acres adjacent from A-1 agricultural to R-2 residential. Armstrong said the commission had approved both requests, contingent on the property where a cellular telephone tower is situated not being included. The public hearing on the two requests will be at the regular July board meeting.
- Tourism and marketing director Sean Johnson reported that tourism tax collections for March were up 4.1 percent and retail sales tax collections were up seven percent over the previous year. He said his application to designate Hwy. 30 West a William Faulkner scenic highway had been received and he will go to Jackson to meet with transportation officials to discuss it.
- Johnson also reported on the three Mississippi Development Authority grants totaling $7,000 the city had received. They were designated for a summer solstice-freedom celebration event, Tallahatchie RiverFest and a new music and light event planned for Tallahatchie Trails prior to Christmas. Johnson said he had no new print ads running but continued with website and social media, promoting the farmers market and making use of visitors to the Cotton States Baseball League games. He said there is a small sign visible to anyone leaving BNA Bank Park indicating how to get to downtown, describing it as “little bitty” and plans to replace that with a larger sign with more downtown promotional information to draw out-of-town visitors.
- Johnson said he probably will not be able to hold the mass Chinese lantern launch announced earlier for June 21 due to possible shipping problems. His intent was to invite the public to help launch 1,000 of the lanterns, which are basically flame-retardant small hot-air balloons, from the sportsplex.
- Fire Chief Steve Coker reported that some of the officers had attended the state conference in Gulfport recently and that Mike Whiteside of New Albany has been elected vice-president of the Northeast Region. He will serve for two years.
- Coker said work continues replacing the bay doors at Fire Station One. “They are all on. We’re just waiting on adjustments to the opener and to add the seals,” he said. Coker added they plan to work on the doors at Station Two during the summer. The doors were replaced because they were becoming unreliable, which could present a problem if they would not open during a fire call. Also, the older doors were not insulated; these are, which should reduce energy costs and increase comfort level.
- Coker said he did not know the status of conversations about new lighting in the stations and light, gas and water manager Bill Mattox said he had just received a proposal the day before, and would look at it.
- Coker told aldermen that his department had received a $1,500 grant from the Wal-Mart Distribution Center to be used for fitness equipment. “We may spend a little more than that; we asked for $2,000,” Coker said, but added that the rest of the money is available in the budget.
- Mayor Tim Kent reminded aldermen that this is the usual time to receive grant applications for funds from the city’s two-percent tourism tax. In the past, a tourism advisory board screened applications each year and made recommendations but no such board exists now. Kent said tourism and marketing director Sean Johnson said he would like a board to work with in a strictly advisory capacity and had a list of people he has had success working with. No action was taken but Kent asked aldermen to think about possible advisory board members who would be willing to serve.
- Aldermen approved a request by Sam Cagle to use constructing signs for the city tennis complex as an Eagle Scout project. The city will pay for the materials, which will cost $832.
- Aldermen approved the May claims docket and the April and May board minutes.
- Before adjourning, the board went into executive session to discuss a land purchase, but no action was taken. As a result of the session, however, they approved a recommendation by Police Chief Chris Robertson to hire Roland Yarbrough as new officer.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the New Albany Board of Aldermen will be at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 1.