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Street issues get board’s attention

Street-related matters highlighted Tuesday’s board of aldermenmeeting as officials received an update on a South First Streetpaving project and considered action affecting a number of othercity thoroughfares.

Engineer Jeff Green said the South First Street project began inmid-January and is well under way. He said handicap ramps and othersidewalk work had been completed and a portion of the street hadbeen overlaid with new asphalt.

“We’ve accomplished quite a bit in a short time,” Greensaid.

Aldermen approved an over $85,000 payment to Dickerson and Bowenfor work completed through February. The contract period for theover $700,000 project, which will include paving of Second Streetto Main Street, is 150 working days.

City officials were impressed with the work done so far.

“It’s beginning to look good,” said Ward 4 Alderman BobMassengill.

In a related matter, aldermen approved a resolution requestingthat the Mississippi Department of Transportation close FirstStreet to large commercial truck traffic.

The resolution cites the new paving and potential accelerateddeterioration of the street due to the heavy truck traffic,alternate routes for vehicles trying to get through town andpedestrian traffic in the area. City Attorney Joe Fernald said theresolution would be sent to MDOT officials for their decision.

“They can say yes, no, maybe or go to tonnage,” Fernald said,indicating a weigh level at which trucks over that level would bebanned.

Brookhaven Police Chief Arlustra “Pap” Henderson questionedwhether signs would be posted to notify truck traffic coming intothe city on Monticello Street that First Street would be closed tothem. He indicated that Second Street could be impacted by thechange.

Ward 5 Alderman Tom Smith questioned whether the city’s portionof Highway 550 also could be closed to truck traffic.

Fernald said the police would be responsible for enforcing theFirst Street prohibitions if approved. He said the city couldconsider action on other streets discussed last night.

In other street-related action, plans for the Whitworth fireloop are taking shape. The work involves installation of new andlarger water lines to protect the college campus and other parts ofthe downtown area.

Water Department Superintendent Lanny Dickey said a bid openingfor the project is scheduled for next Tuesday morning. Following areview and awarding of the contract, the work could begin in abouta month to six weeks.

The project will start on West Cherokee Street at State Bank,continue to Brookway Boulevard and come back along MonticelloStreet to Jackson Street. The project will also includeinstallation of new lines along portions of West Congress Streetand Jackson Street between Cherry and Chippewa Streets.

Officials stressed proper preparation for the work, which willinvolve removal of street pavement and traffic congestion along theproject route.

“It’s going to be a big problem, but it’s got to be done,” saidJimmy Furlow, traffic supervisor.

Also Tuesday, aldermen approved a motion declaring their intentto vacate an unused portion of Fisher Street between WestMonticello Street and Brookway Boulevard.

The property has generated some controversy because of its useas part of a used car lot that borders a residential neighborhood.City officials have also expressed concerns about car lot customersparking on the city sidewalk and right of way.

“The property would be divided between the abutting propertyowners” and added back to the city tax rolls, Fernald said.

The attorney indicated the chances of one property owner buyingout the other’s portion seemed unlikely. With the planned cityaction, under zoning regulations, a fence would have to put up toseparate the residential area from the commercial area, Fernaldsaid.

“This seems to afford the best opportunity,” to address thesituation, Fernald said.

Cars that can no longer travel on city streets generated a goodamount of discussion during Tuesday’s meeting.

The city is beginning the process toward removing and impoundingabandoned vehicles around the city. Building Inspector SteveMoreton said notices have been sent to some property owners andaction could be taken later this month.

Moreton asked whether the city would charge an impound fee.

The question prompted a lengthy discussion about a variety ofcharges the city will incur, its chances of recouping some of thatmoney and the process for disposing of the old vehicles. Officialsspeculated the city’s costs could be as much as $500-$600 pervehicle while the vehicles may only sell for about $25 each.

“It’s going to get astronomically expensive,” Moreton said.

Moreton said the best approach would be for homeowners to getrid of the unsightly old cars themselves by taking them to thejunkyard. He asked aldermen to help by encouraging property ownersto do that.

When going to get an abandoned vehicle, Moreton asked individualaldermen or a police officer to accompany him.

“These people really have a warm spot in their hearts for theseabandoned vehicles, in some cases more than kin,” Moreton said.

Regarding charges, aldermen approved a $3 a day impound fee plusactual towing costs to be charged to the property owner. Meanwhile,at the suggestion of Ward 1 Alderman Dorsey Cameron, Fernald saidhe would check with Vicksburg officials to see how they handleabandoned vehicle removal.

In other business Tuesday, Tour of Homes Chairwoman Rita Richrequested the city’s assistance during this year’s event. The tour,set for April 27, will feature homes and gardens along StormAvenue.

One idea Rich pitched to the board was erection of two columnson Storm Avenue. The columns were designed by David Lovell, forwhom this year’s tour is dedicated, and would cost around $400.

“The citizens on the street would like to see it done,” Richsaid in asking the city to help in some way with the project.

Aldermen took no action on Rich’s request but said they wouldconsider it. City officials said an engineer may need to beinvolved and there may be some conflict about the amount of cityright of way on the street.

In fire department personnel matters, aldermen approved aresolution honoring recently-retired Capt. Jerry Fairman for his 25years of service. Also, board members approved the promotions ofDavid Gibson to captain and Tony Weeks to lieutenant.