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More work set for arts school

Whitworth-related activity got city officials’ attention Tuesdayas aldermen approved a stormwater drainage project and MississippiSchool of the Arts Executive Director Dr. Vicki Bodenhamer gave anupdate on school plans.

Engineer Jeff Green said Oddee Smith and Sons, Inc. was the lowbidder on the stormwater project to install a boxed culvert in adrainage ditch along Brookway Boulevard near the Whitworth campus.The bid was $217,221, Green said.

“It’s actually lower than what we estimated,” Green said.

Part of the culvert work will involve covering over the largeditch that borders Brookway Boulevard near the Monticello Streetintersection.

“You won’t see that ditch anymore,” Green said.

Green said the contractor is ready to proceed as soon ascontracts can be signed. The project is expected to take aboutthree months.

In related activity, Bodenhamer told officials that exteriorrestoration work on the Johnson Institute, Cooper Hall and EnochsHall has been completed. Advertisement for bids to do the interiorof Johnson Institute, which will be a main classroom building, willgo out after the first of the year. That work and some Y-Hutactivity will allow the school to open in the fall of 2003.

Saying that some previous comments about possible operationalfunding cuts had been exaggerated, Bodenhamer said she had receivedassurances from top legislative leadership that the money would beavailable for the school to open on schedule.

“We’re working toward that end,” Bodenhamer said.

Also, Bodenhamer said work is progressing quickly on the StudentLife Center that will serve as the dormitory for students.

“It’s like almost as soon as we get a progress report, it’s outof date on the building,” Bodenhamer said.

Bodenhamer said interest in the school is picking up across thestate.

“We’re getting more business all the time,” she said.

STREET WORK

In other business Tuesday, aldermen approved an up front paymentto get a long-delayed First and Second Street paving projectstarted. The $741,000 project is being funded 80 percent federal –20 percent local basis.

Green said the Mississippi Department of Transportation neededat least part of the city’s 20 percent share in order to concurwith awarding the project contract and allow it to proceed. Themoney would be set aside to borrow against when needed.

Citing delays in prior years, Ward 3 Alderman the Rev. Jerry L.Wilson said work had been expected to start Nov. 5 but it had not.He did not think the city should approve the payment.

“It’s been 12 years and it’s been the same old thing,” Wilsonsaid about project delays.

Without MDOT concurrence on the project contract, Green said the80 percent matching funding could be jeopardized. He said theproject could begin soon after city funding is secured and the MDOTconcurrence notice is given.

With the project now appearing to be days or weeks away insteadof years, aldermen approved the payment to get the projectstarted.

While the city’s share is approximately $144,000, the paymentapproved last night is not to exceed $123,200. Green said CityEngineer Carl Ray Furr is pursuing other funding sources to coverthe difference.

PAY PLANS

After voting against 5 percent pay raises for aldermen earlierthis year, Alderman-at-large Les Bumgarner and Ward 4 Alderman BobMassengill will get the raises, although the money may not bedestined for their pockets.

After contacting the state auditor’s office, City Clerk IrisRudman said alderman pay raises are handled on a position basis,and individual board members could not reject the increases.Aldermen voted unanimously to amend the budget $1,296 to accountfor the raises.

“It’s the law,” said Massengill, who was fulfilling a campaignpromise in voting against the pay raises earlier, when voting lastnight.

After the meeting, Massengill said he will ask that his payraise be donated to the recreation department. Bumgarner said hehad not made a decision on his pay raise, although he mentionedgiving it to charity.

The pay raises boosted an alderman’s salary from $12,960 to$13,608 a year. During the meeting, Ward 1 Alderman Dorsey Cameronsaid unity will be sought when the pay raise issue comes up in thefuture.

“Next time, we’re going to try to be together on this so wedon’t have to go through something like this again,” Cameronsaid.

OTHER BUSINESS

Also Tuesday, aldermen:

* Approved $150 to help pay for a trolley to transport aldermenand supervisors during the Brookhaven Christmas Parade on Nov. 29.Rita Rich, parade chairman, said supervisors had also agreed to pay$150 toward the expense.

* Approved the closing of South Whitworth Avenue for theBrookhaven Trust’s New Year’s Eve Membership Party. The “Night onthe Town” activities will raise money for the Trust’s historicpreservation efforts.

* At Wilson’s request, John Sartin was re-appointed to theBrookhaven Housing Authority Board. His term was set to end nextmonth.

* City Attorney Joe Fernald informed officials that the city hadbeen dismissed from a justice court lawsuit over ownership of someproperty. The city was initially named as a defendant since theproperty was sold at the land sale because clean up fees wereowed.

* Also, Fernald said briefs had been filed in Dr. Allan Hearne’sstate Supreme Court appeal of the city’s rejection of an exemptionrequest to allow an office in a residential neighborhood. Adecision is expected in about nine months, the attorney said.

* Following a lengthy executive session, aldermen voted tore-instate Cemetery Department employee Gwen Smith and to terminatefirefighter Maurice Townsend. Health reasons were cited in thefirefighter’s dismissal.