The City of New Albany may be closer to the construction of a trailhead arch and plaza for Tanglefoot Trail between the Van-Atkins and Trails and Treads businesses.
Mayor Tim Kent brought up the issue at the regular monthly board meeting July 1.
Funding is one of the main problems and Kent said that Ward Two Alderman Johnny Anderson had suggested first finding out how much money is left in the tourism tax fund and multiply that by five to seven years as possible funding for a building. Anderson added that the civic center renovation cost should be paid off next year as well, freeing up some money.
Kent said the quote for the trailhead plaza area was $227,000, and did not include replacing the old steel railroad bridge with a smaller, arched wooden bridge. Plans do call for an arch, landscaping and lighting, seating areas, a small pavilion and something like arbors or trellises, however.
Also needed before any other work can be done is replacing or repairing the retaining wall beside the trail between the trailhead and Main Street, now constructed of old railroad ties. Three Rivers Planning and Development District has agreed to pay for the wall work as Tanglefoot administrator, but the contractor says he cannot guarantee the wall unless appropriate drainage is provided.
Kent said they will have to take some of the asphalt up to do that, and will for the plaza construction anyway. Tourism and marketing director Sean Johnson said he had an application for a grant from the Burlington-Northern and Santa Fe Railroad where he should be able to get $100,000.
“I don’t know that we are ready to vote,” Anderson said concerning the project, and the others agreed, but the city needs to get started. Kent said the drainage work will cost about $16,000, which the city will have to provide, and the wall will be about $18,000, furnished by Three Rivers.
“He’s sitting there ready to do the wall,” Kent said. “We need to get Paul Smithey to do the drainage.” Kent also said he wants to remove the old bridge as soon as possible and replace it with an arched design that will go with the arch over the trail entrance.
Ward One Alderman Jeff Olson moved to approve paying Smithey to do the drainage work with Alderman-at-Large Scott Dunnam seconding. The measure passed unanimously.
After taking a month or so off from dealing with the topic, aldermen were again focusing on the continuing problem of substandard housing and other structures and that might be appropriate for condemnation under city ordinances.
Code enforcement officer Baron Baker gave aldermen an update on the status of various structures already going through the process.
He said of the three houses that were supposed to be demolished by the July 1 board meeting, only the one at 901 S. Hilldale had been removed. “The other two, at 637 Ridgeland and 1083 Bratton Road, haven’t done anything,” he said.
Baker then asked the city for permission to have the two demolished due to lack of action by the owners. Alderman Olson moved in favor of the demolition with Alderman Anderson seconding. The motion passed unanimously.
The cost will be passed on an assessment to the property owners.
Baker also brought up a new issue concerning lack of property maintenance at 305 Oak Street. Baker said owner Timothy Hall has let the grass get excessively high and that old junk is piled around the yard. “This is the second time I have given him a 10-day letter,” Baker said. “The first was in September.” The letters give a property owner notice that clean-up needs to be done and the city is allowing ten days’ time to do so without penalty.
Baker asked for and received permission to set the property for a public hearing at the Aug. 5 board meeting, noting this is for cleanup only, not a condemnation hearing.
Baker reminded aldermen that five more structures have public hearings on possible condemnation set for the Aug. 5 meeting also. They are situated at 426 North Street, 500 North Street, 515 Clark Street, 603 First Street and 621 Third Street. Baker said letters to all the property owners went out June 27. Alderman Anderson told Baker, “We appreciate what you’re doing. We have accomplished more in the past six months than maybe the past 20 years.”
Aldermen discussed, but did not vote on, changing the city’s policy on beer and light wine not being allowed at special events or on public property.
It had been suggested that the board expand the policy so beer and light wine could be included at civic center or museum events, for example, Mayor Kent said. To do so would still require a special use permit from the board and attorney Regan Russell reminded the board that this could apply to beer and light wines only; stronger wines, liquor and other spirits would require state Alcoholic Beverage Commission approval.
Russell said that in addition to a special use permit, a group would have to come up with a security plan and a way to guarantee no minors would be involved.
No action was taken but a version of the request in writing was expected.
A public hearing over the proposed rezoning of land south of Bratton Road drew no opposition at the July meeting of the New Albany board of aldermen, but a special circumstance involving the land brought about lengthy discussion.
Seven Star, primarily owned by John Young, had asked that 6.68 acres be rezoned from C-2 commercial to R-2 residential, and 34.54 acres be changed from A-1 agricultural to R-2 residential. Young apparently intends to use the land for residential units and it is approximately across Bratton Road from his existing apartment complex.
The special circumstance is the placement of a cellular telephone tower beside the property. The planning and zoning commission had preliminarily approved the change contingent on the tower’s not being included or involved.
Terry Young told aldermen that he has not received an engineering evaluation stating that if the tower were to fall, it would not fall on what is planned to be the residential area. The tower is slightly more than 384 feet tall and if it were to fall in one piece it could land on part of the area to be rezoned. Young said it is more likely that a tower collapse would be in pieces, somewhat in on itself, but had no guarantee of that.
Young asked that aldermen grant the zoning change with the understanding that no structures would be allowed in the possible fall zone of the tower.
He said if aldermen approved only part of the land he would be stuck with an area he could not use but would have to maintain and pay taxes on. If aldermen were to approve the change conditionally they could still enforce keeping structures out of the fall zone by withholding approval of the plat of the construction plans.
He said some of the land is in a flood zone so they will build it up to avoid requiring flood insurance; only three feet or less fill will be needed at any point, he added.
Young told aldermen that the first planned section includes 18 lots with 10 of them already sold locally. “That there is no (housing) market in New Albany is not true,” he said. “There is no inventory.”
Building inspector and zoning administrator Mike Armstrong confirmed that the tower could only possible affect nine of 62 lots.
City attorney Regan Russell pointed out that the action asked for would take it outside what the planning and zoning commission did but Armstrong said that city zoning ordinances allow the aldermen to override the commission’s action.
Alderman-at-large Scott Dunnam moved that the change be approved with Ward Three Alderman Kevin Dale White seconding and the measure passing unanimously.
Union County Development Association Executive Director Phil Nanney told aldermen that his office is working with a Tennessee Valley Authority-related website expansion that should be ready in a few days. “It will show smaller property than the industrial sites show,” he said. Nanney added that the new site would focus on land 10 acres and less in size.
“It should work well with the industrial and be up within a month,” he said, and fill a need to promote smaller businesses. Business or land owners can have listing under their name or retain more confidentiality by just listing the UCDA instead, Nanney said.
Tourism and marketing director Sean Johnson reported that the April New Albany tourism tax collection was $53,000, up 3.66 percent from a year ago.
He said he would be going to Jackson July 8 to meet with Mississippi Department of Transportation officials concerning approval of Hwy. 30 West as the official William Faulkner Byway. He will make a presentation and said he has also talked with Oxford officials about working on the project.
Johnson said he had a film crew in New Albany two weeks ago and planned to have them back this week to get video of the sportsplex and folk arts part of the farmers’ market. The goal is to create an approximately two-minute promotional video, parts of which can be used for various commercial spots. Johnson added that the videographer has a drone that has been flying over the city at night getting images of the courthouse and other areas, calling the images “spectacular.”
Johnson said he is working on ads for the upcoming Tallahatchie RiverFest and will change some of the billboard content accordingly. There also will be magazine, radio and online ads. So far, he has $7,500 in confirmed sponsors for the festival with a goal of $20,000.
Johnson is continuing his Facebook campaigns and reported website traffic up 44 percent with the most-often-used search keywords being “housing,” “retail” and “restaurants.”
He told aldermen that the plain sign across from the sportsplex entrance showing the way to downtown was to be replaced with a more elaborate sign that would feature more about dining and shopping downtown.
In other business:
- Light, gas and water manager Bill Mattox asked for permission to purchase two pickup trucks for the gas department and get a quote on a chassis for a bucket truck for the electric department. The pickups will be purchased at state contract price and the chassis should require only the one quote, he said. Aldermen approved the request.
- Mattox said he approved of a request to pay Paul Smithey Construction $234,958 for work on the water and sewer project. Much of the money is coming from USDA grant funds and Mattox said the work should be complete by late summer or early fall. He added that the new well near the sportsplex is still good and the small building is waiting for a brick facing to be added similar to those used for the ball field dugouts, and also waiting for the pump to be installed. Aldermen voted to pay the invoice.
- Street commissioner Johnny Peyton asked for and received permission to advertise for bids on asphalt.
- Building inspector and zoning administrator Mike Armstrong presented his monthly report. He told aldermen that Skinner and Ellis Properties had requested the planning and zoning commission change the property at 706 First Street from R-2 residential to C-2 commercial, but that the request had been tabled to the August meeting due to lack of a quorum.
- Aldermen approved the June claims docket.
- Aldermen approved renewing the lease agreement for the land used by the farmers’ market with attorney Russell noting it was unchanged from the previous year but that the agreement had been prepared by county board attorney Thad Mueller to avoid a conflict of interest for Russell. The property is owned by his wife, Mary Jennifer Russell. The land is leased by the city for a token amount for insurance reasons and so the city can legally maintain the area.
- Aldermen approved minutes from the June 3 meeting with the change that Alderman-at-large Scott Dunnan did not vote for a measure as originally listed.
- The city’s rental policy for the community was mentioned briefly with the only discussion being over city employees’ being limited to two free rentals per year. Aldermen voted to include the limit in the policy but the policy was described as only a draft for discussion at this point.
Before adjourning, the board went into executive session to discuss possible litigation. No action was reported.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the New Albany Board of Aldermen will be at 5:30 Tuesday, Aug. 5.