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City asks for Corps review of Kids’ Kingdom location

Brookhaven officials will ask the U.S. Army Corps of Engineersfor solutions to Kids’ Kingdom flooding concerns that have slowedtheir willingness to assume oversight of the communityplayground.

The playground, which will celebrate its first birthdaySaturday, was one of several topics of discussion during a shortmeeting of the mayor and board of aldermen Tuesday.

Ward 4 Alderman Bob Massengill, a member of committee appointedto review Kids’ Kingdom options, said the committee had met and isrecommending the city contact the Corps. The board accepted therecommendation.

“We know how the children love it,” Massengill said about theplayground.

However, the primary concern with the playground, located offIndustrial Park Road, is flooding.

City Attorney Joe Fernald, also a committee member, said theplayground is in a flood plain and could be in the river bed of theEast Bogue Chitto River. He indicated the city would know moreabout the situation after the Corps review.

Ward 6 Alderman John E. “Buddy” Allen praised the communityspirit, cooperation and work that went into building theplayground. However, he alluded to potential future problems.

“We don’t want to take over something that’s going to be aburden to taxpayers from now on,” Allen said.

In other business Tuesday, aldermen gave tacit approval for aproperty tax break to a local businessman considering building anoffice complex and loft apartments in downtown. Formal tax breakapproval for John Lynch’s development at the corner of ChickasawStreet and South Railroad Avenue cannot be given until the buildingis completed.

“With the arts school coming in, I thought there might be a needfor studio apartments downtown,” Lynch said.

Fernald said a special state law allows for a tax abatement forup to 10 years on new developments or renovations to existingbuildings in cities’ central business districts. Lynch said hewanted to get a feeling from the board regarding whether aldermenwould grant the tax break if he pursues the project.

“Any time we can get someone to develop something downtown, weneed to encourage them to do that,” Massengill said.

Allen said he would like to look at tax breaks for renovationsto existing buildings. Fernald said the law grants that, but he hada question regarding whether all the property or just the renovatedportion would be eligible for the break.

Alderman-at-large Les Bumgarner said others may want to pursuedowntown development. He expressed a concern about the city notlosing any tax money.

“You’re going to have to treat everybody the same,” Bumgarnersaid.

Fernald said Lynch’s proposed site, on the old L&A AutoParts lot, is a “showplace corner.” He mentioned other possibledowntown development that could follow Lynch’s action.

“It might foster a sense of individual urban renewal,” Fernaldsaid.

Also Tuesday, Phillip O’Brien, with the Mississippi WarrantNetwork, spoke to the board about a plan to collect old courtfines.

O’Brien, who has also spoken with county supervisors about hisservice, said state law allows for a 25 percent penalty oncollection of in-state fines and 50 percent on out-of-state fines.The penalty is over and above the fine amount, and O’Brien said theagency is paid the penalty amount after the fine is paid.

“What we do is cause them to pay your clerk,” O’Brien told theboard.

O’Brien said the city expense would be zero.

City officials said several collection agencies had come to thecity to pursue old fines, but had produce little results. O’Briensaid that was not the case with his company.

“We’re not going to skim the milk and leave the cream in thebarrel,” he said.

Aldermen approved O’Brien working on collecting old fines andsaid he could start immediately.

“We’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain,” said Ward 5Alderman Tom Smith.