Board hears fire protection worries
Some Union Street residents expressed fire protection concernsduring Tuesday night’s city board meeting following a March 9 firethat destroyed a home and damaged some other property in theirarea.
Edna Smith, of 931 Union St., said when firefighters arrived atIrma and Robert Powell’s home at 930 Union St. that night, therewas no water coming from a fire plug.
“I shudder to think what would have happened had it been a windynight…,” Smith said.
Her statement prompted Mayor Bill Godbold to say she was makingan unfounded accusation.
“Had there been water there, I think the house would have beensaved,” Smith said.
Brookhaven Fire Chief Paul Cartwright there were three fireplugs within 500 feet of the home. He said water in two of themflowed well, and the home was not lost because of a lack ofwater.
“We answered this call like any other call we respond to,”Cartwright said, adding that a truck was on the scene in less thanthree minutes.
City officials said they were sorry for the home loss andapologized for the fire hydrant that was not working.
“There ain’t no excuse for that,” said Ward 3 Alderman the Rev.Jerry L. Wilson.
During his response, Cartwright said the home was fully involvedupon arrival and other homes were being threatened. He speculatedthat Mr. Powell, who had his granddaughter at the residence, couldhave died had he been at home alone.
“I think we did everything that was humanly possible,”Cartwright said.
In addition to the Powells’ home, three automobiles weredestroyed. Also, a neighbor’s home sustained some damage.
“We are concerned about what’s going on,” Smith said, mentioningconcerns about low water pressure raised during the summer.
Smith said she was not blaming the city for the home loss.However, she would like to see items addressed before problemsoccur.
“We do, too,” Godbold responded.
Several city officials said they were unaware of a problem withthe fire hydrant. Cartwright said plugs are flushed every sixmonths and a notation made if there is low pressure, but he did notknow of a problem with that plug.
Water Superintendent Lanny Dickey said he learned of the problemthe Monday after the fire and the hydrant was fixed.
“It’s back up working now,” Dickey said.
Dickey said officials found a valve that was not workingproperly and partially causing some problems. He said the oldhydrant will also be checked.
Later in the meeting, Cartwright asked board members to hearboth sides of a situation before commenting about a case.
“Don’t condemn us until you’ve heard our side of the story,” thechief said.
At the end of the board meeting, aldermen voted to increase plugflushing activities to three times a year instead of the currenttwo times.
Sanitation Department Superintendent James Arnold presented cityofficials with a proposed new rate schedule for commercial garbagecustomers. The new charges, which would more that double somecustomers’ rates, are designed to address an increasing deficit inthe solid waste department.
“It’s left up to the people if they want to pay it or they canget private pick up,” Arnold said.
Aldermen elected to study the new rate schedule and possible actduring a special meeting Tuesday, March 26.
In related action, Ward 2 Alderman Terry Bates raised thepossibility of hiring an assistant for Arnold. He said Arnold staysbusy and cannot oversee all garbage activities.
“Some people need supervision all the time,” Bates said.
Due to the deficit solid waste situation, City Clerk Iris Rudmansuggested holding off on a decision until the solid waste fundingissue is resolved.
“There’s no money there now,” Rudman, speculating that the citymay not be able to make payroll for May and June if the situationcontinues as it is now.
In other business Tuesday night, aldermen discussed anongoing dispute over a newly-installed stop sign at theintersection of Diane Drive and Diane Street.
Some in the neighborhood contend the sign is needed forsafety while others believe it is unnecessary because of trafficflow. A survey of residents came out in favor of the keeping thestop sign in place.
In a letter to the board, a Ward 4 resident suggestedthe city acted illegally in putting up the sign.
Ward 4 Alderman Bob Massengill suggested the city takedown the north-south stop sign, but Ward 5 Alderman Tom Smithobjected to that proposal. With no resolution in sight, CityAttorney Joe Fernald suggested letting the Mississippi Departmentof Transportation arbitrate.
Following up on the letter’s charge, aldermen decided tohave Fernald research the city’s authority to erect stop signsaround town.
Aldermen officially rejected a request, which was made at thelast board meeting, from Tour of Homes Chairwoman Rita Rich to putup decorative columns on Storm Avenue for the Tour of Homes.
City officials said if they granted the request for one street,they would have to do it for others. Also cited were city streetright of way concerns.
Also Tuesday, aldermen:
* Approved installing a gate at an unguarded entrance toRosehill Cemetery. The action was prompted after a car was left inthe cemetery and set afire.
“A car on fire in the cemetery is uncalled for,” said Ward 1Alderman Dorsey Cameron.
Brookhaven Police and the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Departmentare continuing to investigate the car fire.
* Set up a $2,000 fund to cover expenses related to city effortsto remove abandoned vehicles from property around the city.Officials will seek payment from the property owners for wreckerfees to remove the vehicles, but the fund was established to covercosts in the interim.
* Following an executive session for personnel reasons, aldermenvoted to raise City Tax Collector Pat Duckworth’s salary from$33,358 a year to $36,000.
Mayor Bill Godbold said there were some discrepancies betweenDuckworth’s salary and that of other city department heads andemployees, and the board action brings her salary in line withthose. Duckworth was out of town and did not attend Tuesday’smeeting.