Alderman pushing overpass

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, April 3, 2002

Increased traffic through an historic residential neighborhoodshould not be a concern as city officials consider a new southoverpass, Ward 3 Alderman the Rev. Jerry L. Wilson said Tuesdayduring the city board meeting.

“Traffic ain’t got nothing to do with it. We’re trying to fix abridge,” Wilson said in railing against recent questions about theproposed overpass to replace a closed Warren Avenue bridge.

Wilson said five bridges in the county and city were planned forimprovements, but only the Warren Avenue bridge has not been fixed.He said the money is available and the project should bepursued.

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According to City Engineer Carl Ray Furr’s statements at a boardmeeting last week, the county has funding to replace the bridge,but the city must buy any needed right of way. To meet engineeringrequirements, replacing the bridge at its Warren Avenue locationwould require the purchase of two homes.

With that in mind, city officials have started looking at otherpossible locations in the area for the bridge.

One location mentioned is at the intersection of Natchez Avenueand Jackson Street and would require the purchase of one home.Residents near the intersection have cited traffic and othersconcerns as reasons to not pursue the project there.

Wilson said traffic should not be an issue. He mentionedimproved access for emergency services as a benefit of a newoverpass.

Mayor Bill Godbold said the DAILY LEADER was “trying to kill”the south overpass by questioning it in a recent editorial. He alsoobjected to questions about a proposed intermodal transportationfacility and said the editorial did not mention a number of otherprojects such as Whitworth College, the library, the new NationalGuard armory and a planned trauma center at the hospital.

Wilson called for community unity as the city considers theoverpass.

“We’re going to have to work toward a common goal,” Wilsonsaid.

Wilson went on to protest the newspaper’s opinion poll questionregarding the impact of the closed Warren Avenue bridge. Thealderman also mentioned “certain people” trying to “dictate” citypolicy, although he did not identify anyone specifically.

“If certain people of this city are going to run this city, whydid they elect us aldermen?” Wilson asked.

Wilson acknowledged his statements would not be popular, but hewas willing to “get in trouble” over them.

“If they’re going to dictate, they need to be down here aroundthis board making decisions,” Wilson said.

Godbold said he, Furr and Traffic Supervisor Jimmy Furlow lookedat several possible locations for a new south overpass Monday. Heindicated a site decision had not been made.

“We looked at several sites for the new bridge,” Godbold saidafter the meeting. “We know it doesn’t belong where it is.”

The mayor said he would like to build where there are banks tohelp go over the railroad tracks so the project doesn’t have to be”all bridge.”

While there are several options, Godbold indicated coming offNatchez Avenue would be ideal because it would improve access atAlexander and Mullins schools. Also, mentioning Industrial ParkRoad and Monticello Street, the mayor said the overpass wouldprovide a “through street” in the southern part of the city.

In intermodal facility-related activity, Godbold and some othercity officials scheduled a trip to Washington April 20-24 todiscuss city projects with members of the state’s congressionaldelegation.

Officials were expected to go to Meridian and take a train toWashington. Aldermen were expected to inform Godbold in the nearfuture about who could make the trip.

Earlier trips to Washington have been successful in landingfunding for Whitworth College improvements and initial funding fortransportation facility. City officials are trying to secureanother $2 million and other funds for the facility.

Prior to the board meeting, Godbold distributed a letter he hadreceived from a former Brookhaven resident who complained aboutconditions around the depot while waiting for the train. Theletter, from Viola Robinson of Kalamazoo Mich., suggested morepeople would visit Brookhaven if facilities were better.

“She was very disappointed,” Godbold said, although the letterwas not discussed by the board.

In other issues raises Tuesday by aldermen, Ward 2 AldermanTerry Bates questioned the mayor’s recent letter declaring thatdriveway aprons and cattle gaps must be paid for by the homeowner.Godbold said the work was costing the city money and in some cases,paved aprons were being constructed where the driveway was not evenpaved.

“That’s silly,” Godbold said, speculating that the work wasbeing done for “buddies” at the residences.

Bates said the work was a way of helping taxpayers, and themayor’s action should have come before the board for a decision.City Attorney Joe Fernald said the aprons were the same as countysupervisors’ working on driveways, and state law prohibits work onprivate property.

Aldermen tabled the discussion until the next meeting.

Following a request from Ward 6 Alderman John E. “Buddy” Allen,the board approved having the fire department give aldermen a listof low-pressure fire hydrants in their wards. At the last boardmeeting, some Union Street residents expressed concerns about lowwater pressure after a fire destroyed a home in thatneighborhood.

Allen said the notices would give a paper trail in casesomething goes wrong.

Water Department Lanny Dickey said his department tries toaddress low pressure plugs when they’re detected. Fire Chief PaulCartwright added that some of the hydrants are over 20 years oldand could be subject to unexpected malfunctions.

“This way, we’ll know when something is wrong and when it gotfixed,” Allen said.