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Board balks on grant for chamber building

An application for a $250,000 small municipalities grant to helpfund chamber of commerce building repairs is on hold after MayorBill Godbold raised questions Tuesday about possibly developing toomuch meeting space in the community.

Chandler Russ, the chamber’s executive vice-president, asked theboard to apply for the grant to help the shore up the old city firedepartment area behind the chamber and and make the buildinghandicap accessible. The work is part of an estimated $800,000project to renovate the chamber building as a conferencecenter.

“The city has no matching requirement with the grant, but itwill be requested on behalf of the city,” said Russ, adding that hehad received verbal indications that the grant would beapproved.

When a motion to apply for the grant was made, Godbold suggestedthe issue be tabled to allow further discussion.

“I think we ought to talk this thing out before we make anymotions on it,’ the mayor said.

Godbold objected to the sudden nature of the request andquestioned why it could not have been brought up sooner. With thecity having no financial obligation, Russ said he did not think thegrant request would be an issue.

The grant application deadline is July 1. City officialsindicated they could study the request and make a decision at theirnext board meeting before the end of the month.

Referring to a previous administration’s action to turn the oldcity hall building over to the chamber, Godbold said it was hisunderstanding for the chamber to improve the building and not comeback on the city.

Godbold also raised an issue about the city possibly having “abunch of buildings” for meeting space. The mayor mentioned theMulti-Use Facility, plans for the intermodal facility and itsmeeting areas, and plans for a new city hall, which he hoped topursue next year.

“I wonder if we can get practical use out of all thesebuildings,” Godbold said.

Russ said the grant is only available to cities with populationsunder 10,000, which Brookhaven is because of declining censustotals. With annexation being considered, he said this was probablythe last time the funds would be available for Brookhaven.

Aldermen agreed to table the grant application request. Severalboard members also spoke about the chamber plans.

Ward 3 Alderman the Rev. Jerry L. Wilson said the board shouldhave more involvement in what happens with the chamber’s buildingplans. He also asked about a fee to use the facility once it iscompleted and Russ that was a possibility.

Referring to a industrial park engineer study decision in whichcity officials were not consulted, Ward 1 Alderman Dorsey Cameronsaid the city was not being informed on various matters.

“This is where you’re getting some of the hostility from,”Cameron said.

Earlier in the meeting, Russ explained plans for the grantfunds. He said the roof to the old fire department is in bad shapeand feared it could be lost if not repaired soon.

“The roof on there is pretty much non-existent,” Russ said.

Russ said the chamber is looking at a combination of othergrants and funding sources to do the rest of the conference centerproject. He touted its potential as a place for corporate-relatedsmall meetings and other community gatherings.

“There can be a whole host of activities in that facility,” Russsaid.


Also Tuesday, aldermen approved getting information andadvertising for two new garbage trucks. The trucks and necessaryother equipments were estimated to cost around $50,000 each.

Godbold suggested the city use part of the $1 million itreceived from Wal-Mart to pay for the trucks. He said the purchasewould allow a truck in each quadrant of the city and should improvegarbage services.

“I believe that would really help us out,” the mayor said.

Officials also discussed other garbage operation improvements,such as limiting the size of garbage piles and tree limbs that thecity will handle.

Chamber officials earlier asked the board to earmark the $1million for a new industrial park land purchase. City officialssaid, however, there were city needs and did not grant therequest.

Ward 4 Alderman Bob Massengill agreed that new garbage truckswere needed. He added that industrial park land will be needed downthe road and indicated concerns about spending the Wal-Martmoney.

“I hope we don’t spend too much of it,” Massengill said.


Also Tuesday, Alderman at large Les Bumgarner suggested the cityenact an ordinance requiring businesses that sell gasoline and beerto have public restrooms.

“Most of your customers are kind of expecting that,” Bumgarnersaid.

Ward 2 Alderman Terry Bates said he had supported such anordinance since he came on the board. He mentioned the need for itnot only for convenience stores but other businesses as well.

“We need to look into it and try to do something about it,”Bates said.

During a lengthy discussion, officials questioned whatpercentage of businesses don’t have public restrooms, whatbusinesses are required to have them and how the city could enforcean ordinance. Health department guidelines require public restroomsat sit-down eating establishments but not other places, said Ward 5Alderman Tom Smith.

City Attorney Joe Fernald mentioned the potential for theft andcleanliness problems with a public restroom ordinance. Wilsonsuggested people not patronize businesses if they are unhappy thatthe business lacks a public restroom.


Aldermen tabled a discussion about a requirement that all of thecity’s capital assets, such as roads, street signs and othermaterials, have assigned values.

Traffic Supervisor Jimmy Furlow said the values are needed inthe event of a disaster and for insurance purposes. He said allstreets would have to be measured, and he would need help if he ischosen to do the work.

“It’s going to be a major job,” said Furlow, adding that CityAccountant Verbalee Watts would like the information by the end ofthe year.

Aldermen elected to see how other cities have handled theinformation-gathering task. Fernald said an appraiser may be neededto do the job.

“That’s got to be done a certain way,” the attorney said.