‘Real’ city issues need attention now

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, April 2, 2002

Judging from recent city board meetings, Brookhaven officialsare epitomizing the old phrase “too many irons in the fire.”

While issues like the growing expense of solid waste collection,annexation, and a fire loop system at the Whitworth campus lingerunresolved, city fathers last week diverted their attention towardprojects that are for now questionable at best and downrightunnecessary at worst.

Two such projects are the proposed Multi-Modal TransportationFacility and a south overpass that would increase traffic throughan historic residential part of the city. Both projects werediscussed during a special city board meeting Tuesday.

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Although no one has voiced opposition to the transportationfacility, concerns raised about local taxpayer expense, long-termoperational costs and need are very valid and remain unanswered byofficials.

City officials have secured $2 million — and are seeking more– in federal funding for the facility, but a 20 percent localmatch is needed either from in-kind assistance or actual dollars.Where those dollars will come from is unclear.

Long-term operational costs and need are also unclear asfacility backers have offered some fuzzy concepts, such as amuseum, a restaurant and retail stores, of what might locatethere.

Improving the deteriorated city facilities around the NorthRailroad Avenue area is a solid reason for the project, but costand other issues need to be answered. And, they should be answeredquickly, before the city is too far down the pike to turn back.

On the other end of town, the possibility of a southern overpassoff Natchez Avenue has again reared its head. The overpass has beensuggested as an alternative to the closed Warren Avenue bridge,which can’t be repaired due to its age and would be problematic toreplace in that location.

The question, though, is who has been impacted by the WarrenAvenue bridge closure? Also, aside from some convenience, whatbenefits are there to a new south overpass?

The overpass is not just a residential concern. It has potentialcity-wide implications in that increased traffic through thehistoric neighborhood could have a negative impact on propertyvalues. Lost city revenue from declining property values would haveto be made up elsewhere.

The transportation facility and overpass are not without merit.However, city officials have “other fish to fry” and still need tobrand sound reasons to pursue the questionable projects.